Learn something practical in your externship

Whether you’re an intern or a first-year associate, chances are it’s important to you to have meaningful assignments—many career counselors have commented on the importance that this generation of new lawyers assign to professional development and meaningful work.

First things first, you should understand that you most likely won’t get the kind of work you’ve always dreamed about when you’re first hired as an intern, summer associate, or new grad. Remember that each assignment, though, is a learning opportunity. You may be working on projects that are widely considered to be “grudge work,” but you’re still learning practical application and adding practical experience to your resume. So, approach each assignment with a positive attitude, no matter how meaningless it may seem to you at the time. Sometimes, energy, enthusiasm – and, of course, doing good work – are all it takes to get noticed and receive more meaningful assignments on the job.

You should also be very clear about the process of receiving, working on and completing your assignments. For example, you should know whom you might turn to for guidance or answers to your questions, as well as what types of formal and informal training you may expect to have before you undertake certain types of assignments. You should also know whom to turn your assignments in to, who’s responsible for overseeing your work, and where you can get constructive feedback.

Finally, remember that when you’re looking for additional work assignments, sometimes all you have to do is ask! But rather than talking about why you want to take on the new assignment, propose the assignment or project with the employer in mind. For example, use terms such as: “the project will benefit the client by…” or “the project will increase the firm’s visibility by…” to show the benefit to your employer in allowing you to work on the proposed project.