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lawyeredqueen

Volunteering at a Law Firm

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Just wondering on how to land a volunteer position at a law firm as an undergrad, I called a couple of firms but they don’t take volunteers or if they do it’s only if you’re trying to do pro-bono work. Have any of you volunteered at a law firm?

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Try a courthouse, law library or legal clinic instead.  They are often underfunded and could use some free labor. 

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I was able to do so by networking. My university had a job fair thing where people come in from different industries and set up booths. There was a lawyer there and I simply spoke to him and talked about law school, asked questions, etc. During our convo. I mentioned I was interested in volunteering. I got his contact info, then he reached out and I was given a volunteer role with a project he was working on. Then through him I met other lawyers, and one who eventually hired me as a volunteer. 

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To be perfectly honest I don't think it really boost your chance of going to law school. Sure it doesn't hurt, but there are tons of better options I think. 

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The real value in volunteering with a firm will be to get a sense of what lawyers and students do and therefore make a more informed decision as to whether you really want to be a lawyer. Don't do it simply to help with admission; I doubt it'll make much  of a difference.

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1 hour ago, Iheartcats said:

[...] legal clinic instead.  They are often underfunded and could use some free labor. 

This is probably only true if the volunteer was interested in doing purely administrative work. An undergrad likely lacks the skills to do intake. They can't really provide legal services, unless they are directly supervised by a lawyer who assumes full professional responsibility for their work. And, given that clinics are underfunded right now, the supervising lawyers and other staff don't have time to train and oversee people who might only be there for a few hours a week for a little while. You could probably scan, shred, copy, input information, but most clinics can't offer undergrads much substantive experience. 

Edited by realpseudonym
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3 minutes ago, spicyfoodftw said:

The real value in volunteering with a firm will be to get a sense of what lawyers and students do and therefore make a more informed decision as to whether you really want to be a lawyer. Don't do it simply to help with admission; I doubt it'll make much  of a difference.

That’s the only reason why I’m doing it since i

already have volunteer hours done in hospitals.

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Just now, lawyeredqueen said:

To find out what a day in the life at a firm is like.

You can ask them to have coffee. And a lawyer let me shadow him for a couple of days. 

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4 minutes ago, realpseudonym said:

This is probably only true if the volunteer was interested in doing purely administrative work. An undergrad likely lacks the skills to do intake. They can't really provide legal services, unless they are directly supervised by a lawyer who assumes full professional responsibility for their work. And, given that clinics are underfunded right now, the supervising lawyers and other staff don't have time to train and oversee people who might only be there for a few hours a week for a little while. You could probably scan, shred, copy, input information, but most clinics can't offer undergrads much substantive experience. 

Ya I was expecting that but most firms make the receptionist do all that work in the first place and don’t need volunteers.

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I'd also recommend speaking with articling students/juniors because their experiences will be more immediately relevant to you. The difference between the way a partner/senior associate operates is usually quite different than practicing as a student or junior.

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2 hours ago, lawyeredqueen said:

To find out what a day in the life at a firm is like.

You can ask people here?  They are real lawyers in real law firms doing real lawyer stuff. You can also use a search function and read past threads. I have learned a lot by doing that. If 'volunteering' is your goal you can volunteer at places in your community that need real volunteers, not at some law firm.....

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3 hours ago, lawyeredqueen said:

To find out what a day in the life at a firm is like.

At best it gives you a bit of insight into what it's like working at that particular firm. Firms can be very different, depending their size, the area of law they practice, location, and firm culture. Volunteering for a solo practioner gives you very little insight as to what it would be like working for Bennett Jones. If you really want to know what it's like to be a lawyer and make informed decisions about your future career path, then you are better off talking to lawyers from different firms. Also, no serious law firms would ever let an undergrad student handle any legal work (admin work at best). 

Volunteering means time commitment, time that you could spend doing other meaningful stuff, like starting a charity, helping prof with research or running a student club, things that might actually make a difference when it comes to applying for law school. 

 

Edited by Amorfati1

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3 hours ago, lawyeredqueen said:

To find out what a day in the life at a firm is like.

Why not just ask to spend the day shadowing? You should be in no rush to work in a law firm... especially unpaid. Time can be better spent elsewhere.

I am just a 1L student working summering at a firm, but what I can tell you is that I now appreciate my time outside of my law job more than ever. Friday is my last day and I can't wait to go back to being just a student. 

Edited by almondbutter

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4 hours ago, realpseudonym said:

This is probably only true if the volunteer was interested in doing purely administrative work. An undergrad likely lacks the skills to do intake. They can't really provide legal services, unless they are directly supervised by a lawyer who assumes full professional responsibility for their work. And, given that clinics are underfunded right now, the supervising lawyers and other staff don't have time to train and oversee people who might only be there for a few hours a week for a little while. You could probably scan, shred, copy, input information, but most clinics can't offer undergrads much substantive experience. 

I (maybe incorrectly?) made the assumption based on my own junior volunteer experiences that when you want to temporarily volunteer with an established business you will be doing throwaway work that requires little training effort.  

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For what it's worth, I've found intakes, closing letters, and most other legal things I've done this summer to be easier to learn how to do than the administrative work I had to do for a week.  I'm pretty confident I could've done all of this stuff, probably with the exception of interviews, as an undergrad.  Either way, the other posters are right in that you probably won't be able to volunteer at a clinic right now.  They're turning away law students and paralegals trying to volunteer, so I highly doubt they'd take an undergrad to do anything more than shred documents.   

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1 minute ago, Shankar said:

For what it's worth, I've found intakes, closing letters, and most other legal things I've done this summer to be easier to learn how to do than the administrative work I had to do for a week.  I'm pretty confident I could've done all of this stuff, probably with the exception of interviews, as an undergrad.  

You probably could. But, as you might be implying in the second half of your paragraph, it's not about ease or your ability, it's about licensees' compliance with their professional obligations. Legal work by a non-licensee must be reviewed by a lawyer or paralegal. Review takes time. Corrections take time. With less resources, lawyers have less time. And so there are fewer volunteer positions. 

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1 hour ago, realpseudonym said:

You probably could. But, as you might be implying in the second half of your paragraph, it's not about ease or your ability, it's about licensees' compliance with their professional obligations. Legal work by a non-licensee must be reviewed by a lawyer or paralegal. Review takes time. Corrections take time. With less resources, lawyers have less time. And so there are fewer volunteer positions. 

We’re on the same page. I probably could’ve just wrote the second half of what I posted because the part you quoted can be understood to say something I didn’t intend. What I meant by it is that I, as a law student, am not doing anything difficult or spectacular. An undergrad should expect even less, so their time would likely be better spent doing something else. 

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