By Amelia Patrick
Summer associates and summer interns from across the country joined our Intern Happy Hour on June 16, 2021, for a discussion of what to expect from their summer experience. Our expert panel of supervisors from the government, law firms, and legal service providers gave tips and advice on how to make a remote internship successful. These panelists included:
- Deborah Birnbaum, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
- Jodi Feldman, Managing Attorney for Legal Operations, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia
- Mark Kovner, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis
- Taryn Wilgus Null, Senior Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section
- Joseph Yarbough, Trial Attorney, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Their tips to make the most out of a virtual internship included:
- Be proactive in meeting individuals in the organization. Virtual coffee meet and greets are a great way to do this, and, by taking advantage of these quick-connection opportunities, you may even meet a broader range of people than you would have met in person.
- For any virtual interaction, be prepared, be confident, and have a few helpful conversation starters planned. Having these topics on hand will help you avoid awkward silences.
- As supervisors, our panelists noted that they are so busy that sometimes they forget about checking in on their interns, so it is important that interns are also proactive in their work assignments and in reaching out to their supervisors. Interns are not being rude when they ask questions about their work, to take part in a project, or for a writing opportunity. Help your boss help you by reaching out and vocalizing your needs.
- Summer internships fly by. Help your supervisors make the most of your experience by reminding them when your internship finishes. By doing so, you will get to experience and accomplish more things because the organization will want to fit in as much as they can before you leave.
- If you hear about an interesting project, you should ask your supervisor if it is something you can help with!
- Take advantage of multiple means of virtual communication. Establish what your organization and supervisors are comfortable communicating with and use those formats, which can include texting, calling, emailing, social media, the blog, and video conferences.
- However, be sure to always keep an air of professionalism because every interaction is an opportunity to make a good impression.
- Virtual meetings do not mean codes of professional conduct are relaxed. It is important for interns to remain professional in appearance, clothing, and background. Act professionally even if other members of the meeting are not – remember your role.
- Another way interns can take advantage of the digital format is by offering to help their organization with different technology if they are skilled to do so. Do not be afraid to offer to help!
- Being remote may allow you to multitask – i.e., work on your project while watching a virtual hearing or program. There are some upsides to this virtual world!
- Another upside to the virtual world is that internships are now more widely available for individuals across the country – which creates a lot of opportunities.
- One internship goal should always be to get a professional writing sample that you can use for future applications. Our panel gave some great advice on how to make sure you come out of your internship with a writing sample:
- Be bold and ask your supervisor for an opportunity to write something. If they have nothing in mind, offer your own idea.
- Realize that you are there to serve the organization but that the organization is also there to serve you. It is acceptable to ask for a writing opportunity and expect the organization to help identify one for you.
- When you are assigned a writing project, be clear about expectations. When your supervisor asks for a draft, that normally means you should turn in something that you would view as a final copy with the understanding that it will be edited. A draft does not mean a sloppy, unfinished piece of work.
- Also, follow directions! It will save both you and your supervisor time and energy if you complete the assignments on time and in the format that was requested.
Take advantage of your internship this summer by being proactive and working to get what you want out of the experience. Be professional, but also be yourself and realize that you can still learn so much in a virtual internship!
Amelia Patrick is the 2021 Washington Council of Lawyers summer intern.