A corporate internship is similar to a clerkship in that it provides students with a taste of what it will be like working in a multi-disciplinary professional services organisation as a graduate lawyer. Law students can often find a broad range of work experience as an intern for an organisation, especially as internships provide students with a different outlook to legal work when compared to a clerkship. There is generally a much greater focus on internal work and client-relationship management because interns are focused on servicing the single client in-house. The culture of in-house practices is such that the single client takes over the entire workload and will often request an on-the-spot solution to most legal issues.
Organisations that offer in-house legal internships
Many large, corporate organisations have a formal internship program. The list of the types of organisations that provide internships include (but are not limited to):
- Banks and Financial Institutions
- Accounting Firms
- Consultancy Firms
- Telecommunications Companies
- Retail and Supermarket Chains
- Manufacturing Companies
- Recruitment Agencies
- Technology and Software Companies
It is also important to do your research into the organisations that offer legal internships and approach them directly with your expressions of interest, these are often less publicised than clerkships. On top of your academic history, you should showcase any experience gained at university through internships, co-curricular activities and any other legal experience from previous employment.
Length of the program
Many organisations offer a formal internship program that takes place over a period of time in the holidays between semesters. The length of internship programs depend on when they are held. Formal, structured internships are mostly held in the summer over a 10 week period, full-time on average, though they can range anywhere between 2-15 weeks. Winter internships are also fairly common among some of the organisations and will generally be shorter.
Internship Structure and Aims
Internships will aim to develop a number of areas, including:
- Receipt of general and department-specific training through each stream (in this case, legal)
- Development of skills necessary for professional growth and career advancement.
- The opportunity to connect with colleagues and superiors and build up a professional network
- The chance to receive formal evaluation from superiors and peers
- The opportunity to gain a graduate position
What work is on offer?
Companies often place emphasis on the fact that interns undergo an experience that encompasses what an actual role at the company would be like. The work is often varied and depends on the departments and stream that students choose. Types of work students may experience in the legal stream include (but are not limited to):
- Performing legal and factual research
- Drafting and summarising legal documents, checking for accuracy
- Preparing correspondence, written reports and perform records research
- Organising and tracking case files
- Recording client meetings and drafting daily correspondence such as letters and legal documents
- Negotiation and mediation
- Assisting general counsel and junior solicitors in additional legal matters
Details on Streams and Practice Areas
Usually there will be the chance to experience more than one area of the business. Internships will sometimes offer a choice of areas and will then rotate students. Students often have a chance to choose what streams they might like to try, while most law students will choose the legal stream, there are many other options law students may choose, including tax, finance and more. Final streams are allocated using a mix of choice, demand and company needs. Different organisations will have different streams, based on what departments they have. Within the legal stream, practice areas offered include (but are not limited to):
- Corporate advisory
- Tax Law
- Property, real estate and infrastructure
- Enterprise development
- Employment Relations
- Intellectual Property
Many internships are unpaid however there are a few that offer remuneration. When working for larger companies, often multinationals or banks, internships are paid. These are usually paid in wages, from $25-$28 per hour, though some amounts will sit outside these figures. A frequently quoted amount by Fusion Graduate Consultancy is that internships will pay around 70% of the graduate salary.