Virtual Legal Internship: The New Landscape?

Law internships have traditionally been placed within the physical confines of law firms. Legal internships help students understand the nature of law practice and functioning of law firms. With the changing landscape of the world and the bloom of globalisation, now law firms have paved another way to increase participation. With the current pandemic situation, virtual internships are a welcome addition and step as students can utilise their time to gain professional legal experience. The development of information technology has also spiked the interest of employers and students in virtual internships. Students who undertake these internships are given tasks to complete remotely, attend online seminars and conferences, and some law firms also provide online tutoring support.

Types of Legal Experience
There are various types of legal experiences provided through virtual internships. They are either seminar-based where employers host presentations and insights about the working environment of law firms or where the internships are task-based. After providing sample tasks, there are tasks assigned to the interns. After successful and valuable evaluation of such assignments, the internship is completed. 
Benefits of Virtual Legal Internship
  • An insight to fieldwork
The internships developed by  firms provide an insight into the primary activities that an entry-level lawyer undertakes and a typical day in a law firm. Some internships also set specific tasks mandatory for the successful completion of the interview. These tasks or projects resemble a low-level work that a junior associate may have to undertake in the firm to give interns an idea of what kind of work is expected. Some typical projects assigned to interns are fact-checking of documents, writing client counselling notes, providing legal advice on facts presented, drafting reports, and researching. For smaller law firms that are underfunded to run full-time legal internships, virtual internships make it easier for them to hire students on a remote basis.
  • Skill development
Most virtual internships are structured to enhance the skills needed for a flourishing legal career. Many students enter the firm, unaware of the need and importance of skill sets apart from the legal knowledge required to be successful lawyers. Virtual internships attempt to introduce those skills in the interns, including legal research and writing, due diligence, legal drafting and proofreading, client counseling, and firm administration.
  • Flexibility
The design of a virtual internship is to accommodate the busy life of law students. The opportunities available on-site are often during business hours that could tend to clash with the college hours of the students. On the other hand, most virtual internships can be completed self-paced with guidance and easy to balance with a law student's demanding academic life.
  • CV
Virtual internships show employers that applicants were keen to learn and gain experience in whichever way possible and that they’ve had a “taste” of what law practice entails. Under current circumstances, they have not led the lockdown, and work restrictions demotivate them to learn. It is an excellent addition to a law student’s CV.
  • Larger intakes
With no restriction to accommodate everyone physically in the office and mostly no stipend provided at the end of the internship, law firms are more receptive to virtual internship applications. There are no challenging assessments or interviews. The eligibility criteria and requirements to secure a virtual internship are lower than those required to secure a summer placement as those intakes are often very limited. With a large number of intakes, it is easier to ensure a place in a virtual internship.
  • Efficient
Virtual legal experiences open wide doors for local and international applicants as they do not have to invest their time and money in travelling and relocating for the internship. The students living on a limited budget find virtual internships more accessible and beneficial.
 
Conclusion and Personal Note
While virtual internships cannot act as a replacement for full-time legal internships, they have stood out to quickly become a part of a student’s busy life and academics. It also shows eagerness and interest in working towards the long-term goals of a career in law. I have recently completed Bright Network’s Commercial Law UK internship experience and Leo Cusson’s Human Rights Internship on InsideSherpa. It was quite an exciting and engaging experience. While the Bright Internship was a live programme for three days, the InsideSherpa’s internship programmes are self-paced and provide excellent exposure to their tasks.
 
Written by Prerna Deep
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