Strong candidates for law school do not need internships related to law. On the contrary, law schools look for candidates with diverse backgrounds the will contribute their unique backgrounds to the classroom. We encourage students to pick internships in fields that they are passionate about and seek out internships in those fields as a way to see how a career in law might intersect. Law school will teach you law. Students should use internships as a way to explore what industries are a good match.
The first step in finding an internship is the same as any other student looking for an internship: Take a step back and think about what you are passionate about and what you value. Start to explore the fields and organizations that seek out candidates with similar interests. These organizations should become your target organizations. Start building an understanding of the potential job and internship titles. If you want to look into the legal departments of the companies you are interested in, this is a great start but not necessary.
Start looking at internship postings through your school-based career center and the USC Career Center.
Gaining hands-on experience is an important part of any well-designed career development strategy whether you wind up applying to law school or not. Now is the time to explore options to determine if a career in law is right for you. Engaging in internships and other experiential opportunities is a great way to help you make an informed decision regarding your future career path. Your internships do not need to be directly related to law!
We highly encourage you to focus on internships that will help you explore your areas of interest and broaden your experiences as a whole. Remember- law schools are looking for well-rounded candidates- every candidate should bring their unique qualifications when applying. Use internships and other experiential opportunities as tools to explore your interests while demonstrating your focus and determination.
RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOUR INTERNSHIP AND/OR JOB SEARCH:
Please reference your school-based career center website for internship postings and internship resources. School-based career centers
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Law Firms: Many law firms offer internships for pre-law students to assist with legal research, administrative tasks, and gain exposure to different practice areas. Websites for specific law firms can be found through online local searches or directories including the American Bar Association.
- Government Agencies: Interning with government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, district attorney’s offices, public defender’s offices, and other local, state, or federal agencies can provide valuable experience. USAJOBS is the official job site for federal government internships.
- Nonprofit Legal Organizations: Legal nonprofits and public interest organizations offer internships for pre-law students to work on advocacy, social justice, and public policy issues. We suggest starting your exploration with Idealist.org– they have a great search engine!
- Corporate Legal Departments: Large corporations with in-house legal teams sometimes offer internships for pre-law students to gain insight into corporate law and compliance. Networking and searching on corporate websites are helpful in finding such opportunities.
- Courts and Judicial Chambers: Interning with a court or a judge’s chambers can provide hands-on experience in the legal system. Local court websites may have internship listings.
- Legal Aid Societies: Local legal aid organizations provide legal services to individuals who cannot afford representation. For example, websites such as the Legal Services Corporation list internship opportunities.
- Law Libraries: Law libraries at law schools, universities, and legal institutions may offer part-time jobs for aspiring lawyers interested in legal research and information services.
- International Legal Organizations: Some pre-law students might seek internships with international organizations like the United Nations or international law firms with global practices.
SPECIFIC INTERNSHIP SITE SUGGESTIONS (not exhaustive!)
- American Bar Association
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Bet Tzedek
- California Department of Rehabilitation
- California Lawyers for the Arts
- Human Rights Campaign
- Immigration Equality
- International Law Institute
- Koch Internship Program
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
- FirstGEN Fellows Program
- LGBTQ+ Bar
- Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
- Los Angeles District of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office
- National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC)
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- San Francisco District Attorney
- Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO)
- State of California – Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General
- Superior Court of California, County of Orange
- United Nations
- US Department of Defense (for civilians)
- US Department of State
- US Supreme Court
- World Intellectual Property Organization
The Pre-Law Project is a program under JEP that is committed to providing all USC students interested in law careers with real legal experiences. The goal is to provide these opportunities so that students can explore the field of law before ever making the decision to apply to law school. By partnering with public interest law firms and civil rights organizations, students are able to secure legal internships of a variety of commitment levels. If you are interested, make sure to sign-up for JEP the first two weeks of the semester.
*The Pre-Law Project is very competitive and spots are not guaranteed*
Fellowships are another amazing way to get related work experience. Explore all the resources the USC Academic Honors and Fellowships Office has to offer!
Pathway and/or Pipeline Programs to Law School
Pathway and/or Pipeline Programs to Law School are designed to help undergraduate students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, prepare for and gain admission to law school. These programs offer various resources, including mentorship, LSAT preparation, and guidance on the law school application process.