Paralegal Internships

  • Internship Process

    All paralegal students are required to complete an internship prior to graduation. Below is the process you must follow to complete an internship. Make sure you attend an internship meeting before you get started on this process.

    Internship Meetings

  • It is the student’s responsibility to find an internship site. This will usually require the same steps as you might follow in obtaining a regular job, that is, preparing and sending resumes and letters, making telephone calls, being interviewed, etc. This is made a part of the internship to help prepare the student for job searches after graduation.

    The Paralegal Department maintains a list of firms and organizations, which have had MSUM paralegal interns in the past.If you do not have a particular office already in mind, you may wish to use this as a starting point in your search. There is no guarantee that the offices on the list will want an intern at the time you are seeking one, nor is your choice of an internship site limited to the offices on the list. A minimum requirement is that the place you intern must have at least one licensed attorney who will be ultimately responsible for the supervision of your work.

    It is usually best to start by mailing a cover letter and a resume to the firms you are interested in rather than making “cold calls” in person or by phone. Be clear in your cover letter that you are seeking an internship, not a permanent job. If you don’t receive a response within 10 days or two weeks, follow up with a phone call.

    A good, neat resume is essential. Take advantage of the free resume writing seminars, individual assistance, and materials offered by MSUM’s Career Development Center. There are also books available in the Paralegal Department offices, which contain sample resumes and application letters for paralegals.

    Some attorneys may be hesitant about taking on an intern if they haven’t done so before. You may wish to briefly explain in your cover letter the things you could do for the firm. Some students have included a copy of the Paralegal course descriptions sheet with their resume and checked off the courses they have already taken. The faculty internship coordinator has prepared a written explanation, which you may wish to give to a firm that hasn’t had one of our interns in the past.

    Internship Sites

    The attorney will usually want to have an interview with you before accepting you as an intern. The foremost rule to remember in an interview is to relax and be confident. Be a good communicator. Be open and assertive. MSUM’s Career Services office offers workshops on interviewing and job-seeking skills.

    This is a good opportunity for you to let the firm know that you are a capable knowledgeable person, even though you haven’t had actual job experience as a paralegal. Emphasize what you’ve learned in research and writing, interviewing, methods, and other relevant course projects. Take writing samples with you to the interview and offer them even if they are not requested. This may include memos and briefs you have done for the research sequence, for example.

    The interview is a good time for you to discuss specific tasks and projects you would have as an intern. If the attorney decides at the time of the interview to accept you, you may wish to complete the Paralegal Internship Agreement before leaving.

    This form is completed and signed by you, the supervising attorney, and the faculty internship coordinator. You will not be allowed to register for the internship until this form is completed and signed by all parties. The Paralegal Internship Agreement is to be completed and signed by you and your supervising attorney after you discuss your projected activities. This agreement must be submitted to the faculty internship coordinator prior to commencement of the internship. You will not be allowed to register for the internship, and you will not receive credit for work done, prior to approval of the agreement form by the coordinator. The liability insurance provided by MSUM for interns does not take effect unless there is a fully executed internship agreement in place.

    Be as detailed as possible when completing the agreement. The dates and times you’ll be at the internship site are important to the faculty internship coordinator when attempting to contact you and when scheduling the site visit. The section on proposed activities must contain specific plans that you and your internship supervisor have discussed. DO not leave that section blank.

    Paralegal Internship Agreement Form

    Registration for the internship is the same as for other courses, except that a course override must first be obtained from the faculty internship coordinator. You must register for a minimum of 4 credits, and you can register for a maximum of 12 credits. Any credits in excess of the minimum are applied as elective credits. One credit equals forty (40) hours of work at the internship site.

    Paralegal Program Policy: Enrollment in Para 469-Internship following an interruption in enrollment in Paralegal courses

    Para 469 Internship is designed as an academic opportunity to demonstrate and enhance skills developed after completing (at a minimum) the prerequisite courses. The internship experience requires that these skills be “fresh” so that the prospective intern is able to effectively participate in the internship. Delay between enrollment in Paralegal courses and the internship may result in the prospective intern lacking the necessary skills to meet the internship objectives.

    In the event that a student has had an interruption in enrollment in Paralegal courses for more than two consecutive semesters and is seeking enrollment in Para 469-Internship, that student will be subject to “Individual Review”.

    Individual Review: A student who has not been enrolled in Paralegal courses for two consecutive semesters and desires to enroll in Para 469 will not be automatically enrolled, even if the student has completed the necessary prerequisite courses. The Paralegal Program Coordinator and/or course instructor will assess the student’s readiness to enroll in Para 469 using the following criteria:

    1. Length of delay between enrollment in paralegal courses and the semester that the student seeks to enroll in Para 469;
    2. Law-related work experience completed during the period of delay; and
    3. Any other factor bearing on the student’s ability to participate in Para 469.

    In the event that it is determined that the student is not prepared to enroll in Para 469, remedial measures may be required of the student before the student is permitted to enroll in Para 469. An example of such remedial measures includes the requirement that the student take or re-take one or more Paralegal courses. The remedial measures are intended to insure that the student’s skills and knowledge base in ethics, legal research and writing, interviewing and other substantive skills are sufficiently developed and “fresh” to allow the student to effective participate in the internship experience.

    Any student seeking to enroll in Para 469 after an interruption in enrollment in Paralegal courses is encouraged to speak to the Program Coordinator as soon as possible to allow for completion of any required remedial measures.

    Above all else, remember that you are involved with a professional team delivering quality legal services to real people. The goal of the internship is to give you an orientation and exposure to how a law office operates. You should conduct yourself and dress professionally.

    Confidentiality cannot be overemphasized. As an intern, you are bound by this rule just as are the attorneys, paralegals, and other employees of the firm. Some firms require all employees and sometimes interns to sign a statement promising to maintain confidentiality. If asked, sign it willingly and eagerly.

    You should receive an orientation to the office so that you are comfortable being there. If this is not offered to you, politely ask for it. You should have a clear understanding of the lines of communication between yourself and others in the office, e.g., to whom you are accountable, from whom you will receive projects, where to go with your questions, etc.

    Initiative and self-starting are essential qualities for paralegals, but don’t be afraid to ask questions when necessary. Most attorney and paralegals enjoy the opportunity to “teach” you. They would prefer to answer questions about your assigned projects at the beginning or while it’s in progress, rather than to end up with an unsatisfactory work product, which in turn leads to frustration for the attorney and you, as well as reflecting negatively on our interns in general.

    Although initiative and self-starting are important, you must keep in mind at all times that everything you do in the office should have attorney approval and supervision. Thus, do not undertake tasks on your own without prior approval. Remember the prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law.

    Don’t expect to receive assignments or requests in writing from your supervisor, as you are used to written assignments in your classes. Most instructions are given orally; this will help your listening and communication skills.

    You should try to get experience in as many paralegal tasks as possible, but keep in mind that because your time is limited, you may not get to do everything you’d like to. If you feel you are not being given projects which you would like to do and which you feel would be more appropriate, you should discuss that with your supervisor or with the faculty internship coordinator.

    The firm and individuals who agree to have you as an intern are not compensated by us for their time in delegating and supervising your work. Your supervisors provide a valuable teaching service for you. (Of course, we believe they do receive valuable work from you in return.) Don’t forget to thank the attorneys and staff for giving you the opportunity to learn.

    If you're looking for a reference request from one of your professors, please fill out the Reference Request Form. In addition to completing the form, attach a current resume and submit to your professor.

    You must submit daily time sheets and narrative summaries each week throughout your internship. Failure to submit these reports on a weekly basis may result in no credit for the internship.

    The time sheets must be signed by your supervising attorney. Each time sheet allows you to account for an entire week. Good record keeping requires that your time be entered on a daily basis. Attempting to recall and reconstruct a whole week’s schedule is difficult and usually leads to very inaccurate reporting.

    For each time segment on the time sheet, place the appropriate activity code, followed by a brief description of the work performed. For example, if you did research on the dischargeability of Mary Jones’ student loans in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you night simply record: “R - - research bky. discharg if student loans.”

    Do not use client names or identifying information on your time sheets or any of your reports. Remember the rule on confidentiality. The faculty internship coordinator is not part of the legal team, and thus should not see or hear such information.

    The weekly narrative summaries do not have to be reviewed and approved by the supervising attorney.

    You should make a sufficient number of copies prior to using the forms for the first time. Retain a clean one as a master form which to make more copies as needed.

    Time Sheet [PDF]Weekly Activity Report

    The faculty internship coordinator will, at some point during the semester, visit with you and the intern supervisor at the job site in order to do an interim progress evaluation.

    A final written report must be submitted to the faculty internship supervisor within two weeks after completion of the internship. The report should be 4 to 6 pages and must be typed/word processed. The purposes of the report are to give you the chance to reflect on the experience, and to allow evaluation by the coordinator. The report will not be shared with the supervising attorney or with others at the internship site without your consent.

    The final report should be in narrative form and must include the points on the final internship report requirements, in addition to whatever else you’d like to say.

    Final Internship Report Requirements

    Grading is on the basis of “P” or “F”. In rare instances, the requirements for the internship will not be completed by the end of the semester, and a grade of “IP” (in progress) will be assigned. The grade will be changed after all reports and the final paper are submitted. This should be avoided and an "IP" grade will only be given with the prior approval of the internship coordinator. Otherwise, you may receive a grade of "F" if your materials are not in by the last day of the semester.