Lawyers and attorneys use their knowledge of domestic and international law to advise clients, analyze cases, and advise on creating laws themselves. Practicing law can mean civil, criminal, or other forms of litigation. While most jobs in the legal field are in legal firms, others can be in a wide range of other industries including Finance, Technology, or PR. In addition, many corporations have an in-house legal team, called corporate or in-house counsels, and the non-profit sector employs public-interest lawyers.
A lawyer’s work can include drawing up legal documents, presenting cases to judges and juries, and negotiating settlements in civil cases. A profound knowledge of law and government, including laws, legal codes, court procedures, government regulations and the democratic political process is required. You also need strong language skills, an understanding of business and customer service, and good computer skills. Becoming a lawyer usually takes an undergraduate degree and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, followed by licensing exams, also called bar exams. Though modest employment growth in this field is expected to continue through 2029, there are currently more law graduates than available jobs.
Remote internships are a great way to help your future career prospects in this increasingly competitive field. They can shed light on what type of law you want to practice and may even lead to employment after graduation. Here we’ll explore what a remote law internship is, what you would be doing, where you might work, and the traits and interests best aligned with this career path. We’ll discuss what you need to do to get a remote internship and look at an example or two of current postings. Finally, we’ll briefly describe what the typical career trajectory looks like, and speculate on what the future might hold if you decide that the legal field isn’t for you.
What will I be Doing as an Intern?
Your remote law internship will help the team you join perform. You could be called upon to provide support in any number of ways, including research, administrative tasks, and dealing with clients. Tasks vary depending on the setting — a private firm versus a federal government office, for example — and the legal field within which your employer works. Some roles call for at least a year or a semester completed in an American Bar Association-accredited J.D. program, while others require more.
A remote law internship with a publishing company that compiles legal information for a research platform, for example, calls for plenty of research and writing. You would be asked to synthesize complex legal concepts for searchable materials. Writing means deadlines, so you would need to be able to meet those while working independently. This type of role would help the remote intern see whether or to what extent they enjoy the research aspect of law.
Remote internships at a non-profit that works to support immigrants would also involve research, along with other tasks. These might include preparing legal documents, interviewing prospective plaintiffs, and helping with case materials such as affidavits, reviews, and discovery. In this type of role, a second language is helpful. You would find out whether immigration law might interest you long-term.
Remote interns interested in environmental law may find themselves working for an NGO on international climate policy. Your role might include researching climate change policy, creating PowerPoint presentations for online events, fact-checking papers and book chapters, and assisting in logistical support. This type of remote internship would test your suitability for NGO work and your tolerance for being immersed in environmental issues.
If you are interested in tax law, a remote law internship at a major public accounting firm would involve pitching in to help clients analyze their tax obligations and reduce their overall tax rates. You could assist with strategic tax planning, draft technical memos, and help individuals and businesses with income tax returns. In this role, you would see whether tax law, and working for a really big company, feels right for you.
A remote intellectual property law internship, for example in the patent area, could find you assisting with the filing and prosecution of patent applications before the USPTO while analyzing recent regulatory developments and combination patents. Intellectual property laws also involve trademarks and copyrights, which apply to things like technology, fashion, movies, books, and music. You might find yourself drawn to entertainment law, or pharmaceutical patent law.
There are many other kinds of remote law internships, such as in family law, securities law, corporate law, criminal law, constitutional law and more. As for the tasks required, first year law students hired as remote interns may perform a variety of tasks:
Some students work in private firms conducting legal research and writing on private client matters in all practice areas. Others work for District Attorney’s offices, prosecutorial agencies and other governmental agencies again doing legal research and writing and possibly even appearing in court under a student practice order. Remote interns who work for judges may even draft opinions and orders for recommendation to the judges. Many students work in the non-profit legal sector doing direct client service for indigent persons and advocating for them in courts under practice orders. And others work in corporations reviewing contracts, intellectual property issues, and compliance matters.
With so many fields of practice to choose from, a remote internship is a good place to start narrowing down your path. There are remote law internship opportunities in different levels of government, at large and small companies throughout the economy, at private law firms, in schools and in hospitals. However, although there are many opportunities available, there can also be a lot of applicants, and you may be up against some competition.
Is this Industry Right for Me?
Entrance into law school begins with the LSAT, and your score counts for a lot in your law school application, so let’s consider what it takes to do well on it. The LSAT consists of a round of multiple-choice questions and a timed writing sample. The three areas of competency you need are reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
For reading comprehension, you’ll be presented with pieces of text, drawn from anywhere including the humanities, the social sciences, the biological and physical sciences, and areas related to the law. You will need to answer questions on some and draw comparisons between others. Analytical reasoning questions test for deductive reasoning skills. You’ll be presented with hypothetical situations and asked to identify possible solutions to the problem posed, things that are or could be true, and logical equivalence between statements.
For logical reasoning, you’ll be presented with a series of short arguments drawn from a range of popular or scholarly sources, each with a question or two. Your answers should demonstrate your grasp of the arguments’ logic. The writing sample is an essay. You would be expected to show your ability to construct a cogent argument. You can practice for the writing test and access other resources through LSAC (Law School Admission Council).
According to an LSAC survey of law school faculty, the top skills needed to do well on the LSAT are:
- Reading critically
- Applying a case, rule, principle or statute to a new or hypothetical set of facts
- Identifying the principle, rule of law, or statute operating in or applicable to a case or legal problem
- Identifying the key facts in a case
- Inductive reasoning
- Reading class materials
- Organizing evidence into argument
- Arguing logically and persuasively in writing
- Deductive reasoning
- Writing with good organizational structure
Law attracts people from a wide range of backgrounds, with top law schools accepting students with undergraduate degrees in everything from pure mathematics to classics. The law touches on virtually all aspects of society, so if you find a connection between an issue that is meaningful to you and the legal framework that informs it, you may be looking at a potential career path.
For instance, someone who loves animals but isn’t cut out for work as a trainer or veterinarian might be attracted to animal law. A remote internship and future career in this field could deal with animal advocacy on behalf of both captive animals and wildlife, including litigation, legislation, administrative practice, and policymaking.
Since laws serve as societal boundaries, a certain comfort level with matters of policy is needed. How do you feel about working closely with rules and regulations? Can you see yourself as an authority figure?
You would also need patience, a curious mind, and the ability to work extensively with language and writing. Writing is a major part of the job. Being a litigator can be a bit like writing a term paper every night, and all attorneys must write briefs, memos, contracts, letters, and drafting a ton of emails. And of course, you would need to do a lot of reading before doing the writing. Can you accept the certainty of spending many hours reading lengthy, and often somewhat dry, legal texts?
Your remote law internship would be a great way to find out. Even if you don’t become a lawyer in the end, it should provide at least a decent learning experience while adding interest to your resume.
How do I get one?
A good place to begin your search for a remote law internship is your school’s career center. Some schools have particular relationships with certain organizations, firms or government offices. Sometimes alumni actively seek out students at their alma mater to hire as remote interns. Ask your peers and professors for advice and guidance, and network with any lawyers you happen to meet.
If you are interested in the non-profit sector and public interest law, consider looking into NGOs. Many nonprofits and NGOs try to enact policy changes and would be a great way to get hands-on experience. You would be helping to provide direct legal services to people who normally don’t have access.
The basic skills you need for your remote law internship are the same as for the LSAT, except now that you’re a student, you’ll be expected to go a bit further. Legal research and writing legal documents will likely be a big part of the job. Beyond that, your role may call for familiarity with specific areas of law. For example, the Summer Law Intern Program at the US Department of Justice, which is for second and third-year students, looks for academic achievement, law review experience, moot court competition, legal aid and clinical experience, specialized academic studies (including undergraduate and post-graduate degrees), work experience and extracurricular activities that relate directly to the work of Justice.”
Of the 50 SLIP hires annually, some may work in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, while others work in components such as the Antitrust Division; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; the Office of the Solicitor General; and the U.S. Parole Commission. Each of these look for specific skills, interest or experience in the relevant areas of practice. Remote interns at the Federal Bureau of Prisons may work within the practice areas of “Commercial Law, Real Estate and Environment Law, Employment Law and Ethics, Legal Administration (e.g., FOIA & Privacy Law), Legislative and Correctional Issues, and Litigation.”
If you were interested in a remote internship with the Center for Constitutional Rights, your work would include assisting in legal research and writing; performing factual research and review; reviewing and indexing document productions; assisting in writing reports and engaging in advocacy; corresponding with clients and partners; and assisting with hearing preparation.
The skills you need for a remote law internship, then, are related to your interests. Show your employer that what they are working on excites you. Be real about what you have to offer and where you might want to go deeper in terms of your knowledge and experience. And do whatever you can, whether writing a paper that pushes the limits on a given issue or volunteering with an organization that aligns with your interests, to show employers and prove to yourself that you have what it takes to help.
Resume and Cover Letter
Use your resume and cover letter, and your writing samples, if requested, to provide as full a picture as possible. Like applying to law school, include any details from your experience that demonstrate that you can fulfill your duties as described
Remote law internship interview topics may range from the deceptively simple “tell me about yourself” to requests for complex information about your educational trajectory. Some of the trickier questions, like “How would you feel about representing an unpopular client,” would call for extremely well-thought-out answers. You could be asked to share your opinion of a particular figure, such as a judge or professor. As always, be tactful and try to avoid saying negative things in an interview. You will likely also be asked about which areas of practice interest you the most and why.
You should also come prepared with a few questions of your own about the internship and the organization. Don’t be afraid to push a little. For private firms, ask about management structure, criteria for advancement, and diversity policies, and specifics with regard to interns. You can also ask the interviewer about their role in the firm, what they do, and how they feel about working there.
For a remote law internship interview with a public service employer, ask about sources of funding, client selection criteria, and how remote interns will contribute to the work.
With the pandemic affecting all the ways people usually the network and job hunt, one interview question that will likely come your way will be “What did you do during the pandemic?” Your interviewer will look for indications of “how you have turned obstacles into opportunities and overcome challenges.” There are things you can do to help sustain your academic and professional development, as well as support your community and maintain your well-being. Actually doing some of them will help! Try expanding your knowledge through online resources such as podcasts and webinars. There are free programs offered online through the resources like the Practising Law Institute. This might be a good time to work on a paper about an issue that interests you or to get involved with related committees. You could volunteer to help out on pro bono work through a Nonprofit organization such as We the Action. Participating in a community-building activity such as a job search support group could also help.
In terms of personal development, interviewers will be interested in any positive activity you participated in, including hobbies, wellness and self-care. Community volunteer efforts such as helping to get PPE to people who need it, supporting a food bank, participating in social movements, or otherwise “being generous with your time and talent” will also reflect well on you.
Where to look?
For remote law internship job boards, check out the American Bar Association. In addition to ABA-sponsored internships, fellowships and clerkships, there is also a job board listing remote internship opportunities throughout the country, in all areas of practice. CareerUp will have listings as well. You can also check regular job sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed. Try to uncover opportunities by using your preferred area of practice as part of your search terms. You can also look into legal departments at organizations that interest you, and individual private firms.
The following examples are taken from actual remote law internship postings, active as of November 2020.
Company description: A leading multinational pharmaceutical company.
- Help attorneys with agreements concerning product development and related acquisition of products and services
- Assist with direct and indirect procurement functions and global real estate services
- Help support transactions, including due diligence activities, related to human health and animal health divisions, manufacturing, and vaccines
- Help draft and negotiate clinical trial, investigator/consultant, research collaboration, data/material transfer, non-disclosure, procurement, licensing and other agreements
- Help prepare governmental filings for competition law authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere
- Legal research
- Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
- Experience with or coursework in the scientific, business or compliance fields
- Personal character and ethics, with great communication and interpersonal skills
- Strong analytical ability
- A team player who can work independently
Legal Affairs Intern
Company description: An international organization dedicated to justice, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian aid.
- Review and summarize management evaluation recommendations for a new database
- Conduct legal research on issues related to international public administrative law and other areas
- Attend and take notes at meetings
- Demonstrated interest in international social justice
- Experience in preparing and drafting legal documents
- Fluency in English and at least one other language
- Works in a spirit of cooperation and open communication
What Happens after my Remote HR Internship?
Once you finish your student remote internships and your J.D. degree, the next steps are the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) and one or more bar exams. If you pass, you will then need to “be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others.” It’s a good idea to look into the ABA guide for bar admissions once you’re ready to sit the exams. If you wish to practice in more than one state, you will likely be required to pass the bar exam for each state. Mandatory CLE (continuing legal education) is required each year, or every 3 years, depending on the state.
The median annual salary for lawyers, as of May 2019, was $122,960, broken down as follows:
- Federal government: $144,300
- Private legal services: $123,620
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals: $95,870
- State government, excluding education and hospitals: $89, 090
What Happens if it Isn’t for Me?
If you decide that law isn’t the right career for you long-term, you will have gained a lot of skills through your education and remote internship that will serve you well in other functions. Use your analytical skills to consider jobs you hadn’t previously considered. Your understanding of the legal system will help you no matter what career path you choose instead. Start at the beginning and try to remember how you ended up in law school in the first place. What other options were you considering? Have you since encountered something new that you’d like to pursue instead? Leaving law might bring up resistance in the people around you, as it is a highly-respected profession, but the most important thing is to do what’s best for you. Trust your instincts, even if they direct you toward a new endeavor.