Students at NUS/SMU are encouraged to take up internships. Especially for SMU students, there is a mandatory internship to be completed.
Internships are a very valuable time to learn, but also vital for your CV and to get a valuable training contract. Let's explore the ways in which you should maximize your internship.
1. Exploring Career Paths
The first thing you should do to maximize your internship is to apply for as many "different types" as possible. This not only includes different areas of law, this also means different types of firms (small, boutique, medium, large etc.) and even alternative places such as NGOs, or governments.
Even if you have your heart set on criminal law in a specific firm, you should still try to explore other options.
This is because early on as a student, you often don't know the full range of options available - and whether you'll really like it.
So if time permits, apply and schedule more internships within your holiday break(s). Even a 2-week internship can be extremely valuable!
Also within the law firm, there are definitely several practice groups, so try to explore the others while you are there too! Be proactive and volunteer for work, or at least try to understand the nature of work by speaking to your colleagues.
With real experience comes real knowledge, this will then help to narrow down your career ambitions when you want to secure a TC or job offer.
2. Finding Good Mentors
Another extremely valuable experience from internships is the potential network. Obviously, meeting partners and future bosses is an amazing time to impress.
But also importantly, by connecting with your seniors at work. Don't bother them unnecessarily and expect them to help you out, but instead position yourself as a helpful and trustworthy aide. Feel free to ask them for career advice, they will often be able to give you the most realistic advice as they have been in your shoes not too long ago.
Finally, networking among your peers is also useful. Don't just try to outshine others and cultivate a bad reputation. The legal circle is very small, and having friends is very important. You are very likely to meet them again as colleagues, or opposing counsel.
3. The Importance of Work Experience on your CV
While grades and accolades (prizes, mooting competitions etc.) are valuable on your CV, work experience is an equally important component to a killer CV.
In fact, employers value internships greatly. Even if you did not intern at the same law firm you are applying for a job, previous work experience still matters.
During your internship, make sure to maximize your opportunity. Don't just wait passively for work, ask them how you can assist, or even just to shadow a lawyer to a meeting or court.
Take notes (and do them well!). By completing small tasks well, your mentors will notice you, and give you more responsibility and/or more exciting opportunites (as they know you can be trusted!).
4. Securing a Competitive Training Contract (TC)
With the above in mind, you can set your mind to securing a TC at the firm and practice area you really want.
You have built some connections, and also have a better understanding of what the work entails. All of these will help you get much further in the selection + interview process.
You can talk about your work experiences and what you learnt in a convincing manner, in your cover letter + during the interview, making you a stand-out candidate among your peers.
Check out our Guide to Training Contracts in Singapore!
Submit your CV and Cover Letter for a Review to maximize your chances of being hired!