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How do you gain experience in the legal field as a high school student?

I've been interested in pursuing a career as a lawyer for a while now, but given that it is a fairly expensive and lengthy process, I want to gain exposure to the field to ensure that it is actually something I'm committed to pursuing. I'm especially interested in becoming a public interest lawyer or a litigation lawyer. Most internships available in my area (Houston) are reserved for law students who have completed their first or second year. Any recommendations? I have already contacted the D.A.'s office and the local Bar Association. #law #lawyer #career #internships #criminal-justice #attorney #public-interest-law

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Subject: Career question for you

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Sarah’s Answer

Hi Nahla,

I am in my third year of law school at Emory but I remember being in your shoes. What helped me was sending an email with a resume to local firms in my hometown and asking if I could shadow any of their attorneys for a week or two. I would suggest picking multiple firms that handle different kinds of cases, for instance, I would pick a firm that does family law, a firm that does corporate work, a firm that does criminal law, etc. and see which experience you like the most.

If you or anyone you know has any connections to lawyers in your hometown this will also help! Express that you are interested in a career in law and would like to see if it is the right fit for you. Many attorneys will be flattered to have you shadow them and will be willing to do so because we were all in your shoes at one point!
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FEDERICO’s Answer

Hi, in my two last high school years, i searched, and found, two law firms where I could work for a month in the summer. I started with making photocopies and really anything that was needed. At that time, it was more important to learn how to work, regardless of what I was doing. Also, in the meantime, I was watching the lawyers and what they were doing, asking many questions.

Once I graduated from law school and went to do practice in a law firm, I could tell among my young colleagues those who had never worked and those who did. My two summers at those two law firms helped me a lot and made me stand out among the others.

So short working periods in law firm who would be beneficial, almost regardless of what you do there, as long as you manage to make yourself useful.

All the Best.
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Hanleigh’s Answer

Hi!

As a high school student, you can utilize the network to see if they can connect you to different opportunities. Ask your church members, parents, teacher, counselors, and friends to connect with different opportunities. Seek out any internships. Reach out to different professionals at local law firms, courthouses, state offices, or anything dealing law/law-enforcement for shadowing opportunities. Also, look for summer programs at different universities or organizations that are specific to law.
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Traci’s Answer

Nahla,
My step son had an interest in becoming a lawyer while in high school. During his Sophomore year, he reached out to several law firms in town and inquired about a summer internship or any opportunities to volunteer. He went through several disappointing "No's" but then, one firm was interested. He had an interview with the firm and explain his interest in learning and observing in a real work environment to better gage if this was a field that he would enjoy and succeed in.

The firm hired him for the summer. While most of his duties were clerical, he was able to interact with the Partners, whom one of which took him under their wing and allowed him to shadow him with some of his work. He continued an internship with the same law firm the following summer.
My step son really enjoyed the experience and plans to pursue his interest in law. This experience will also be valuable on his college applications.

I wish you the best in your pursuit.
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Kim’s Answer

Hi Nahla - that is great you are being so thoughtful about getting into law. When I was in high school, I got a job as a runner in a very small law firm. I learned about it by asking around at my church. Once there, I started volunteering to help on anything I could and before long, they hired another runner so I could do more substantive projects. It wasn't in the field I was interested in, but it was still very good experience learning about being a lawyer and building a good background for my law school application. So my advice is to ask around with anyone you know, don't limit yourself to a particular type of firm or practice, get your foot in the door, and then ask for additional work or shadowing opportunities. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much Kim! This is great advice and I'll certainly keep my eyes out for these kinds of opportunities! Nahla
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Nancy’s Answer

Spend some time on the American Bar Association's website. If you search high school students, there are resources for those who are thinking of entering a career in the law: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/publications/newsletters_periodicals/YourLaw/lawcareers/
On May 1 of every year, the ABA and other local bars and organizations celebrate Law Day. You should think about taking part in Law Day in some form, next year.

Likewise, check out your state bar's website for the same type of resources.

Speak to your school's counseling office to learn if you can participate in an internship at a law firm for class credit. If you are not familiar with a law firm, your school counselor may be able to assist.

To the extent you can gain access to online job postings in your counseling office, for local colleges or local law schools, you may find an administrative type position at a law firm that would give you a view into what it is like to work in a law office.


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Kim’s Answer

Nahla,

I tried this once and my answer was booted out. Let me try again.

I recommend you do a little bit of reading about "Discovery." That is the process by which, in a civil lawsuit, each side asks the other to produce various documents/evidence. It is a tedious process, with everything having to be numbered ("Bates Stamped"), and careful records maintained.

In such cases, if one side is financially well-off, they may employ the services of a Litigation Support Services firm. If they are not well-off, the law firms do the work themselves. There is a large company in Houston, LORR - Law and Order Record Retrieval. Discovery is a HUGE part of civil cases, as very few cases go to trial.

Also research Depositions. That is where each side gets to take sworn statements from the key players on the other side. It is much like a court proceeding, with the exception that no judge is present!

Additionally, there is an attorney there in Houston whose work I am familiar with, as he is part of the Nat'l Police Accountability Project. This is a group of attorneys who share their work product in police misconduct cases. I highly doubt he would give you an internship, as I imagine the law students intern with him. However, it could be he would let you shadow someone in his office, or even assist an intern? Maybe. Are you willing to volunteer? It's worth a try. He also does lots of other cases, esp. Civil Rights cases. Google him. Randall Kallinen. If you are going to contact him, first make sure you understand what his office does. Present yourself professionally in your writing and personal appearance.

Let me know if I can be of further help!
Kim
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, this is incredibly helpful! I think a volunteer or shadow experience with a legal professional would be an amazing opportunity. I will make sure to read up on Discovery and Deposition, as well as the National Police Accountability Project before contacting Mr.Kallinen. Nahla
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