Should You Consider Hiring an Intern?

by Melanie Fischer on August 24, 2017

 Wouldn’t it be great to have a little bit of extra help around the office when things get busy? Of course it would! Just about anyone would like to pass busy work and mundane tasks to someone who is willing and eager to complete it.

If you have work that needs to be done, but you simply don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself, you might instinctually think that hiring a student or an intern is the answer. But before you go down the path of hiring someone who is enthusiastic about learning the ins and outs of the legal profession, make sure to consider the responsibilities of managing an intern.

Understand that interns are usually students. While it might seem obvious that interns are typically students looking for real-world experience and exposure to the legal profession, keep in mind that students typically don’t have a whole lot of practical familiarity with the legal profession or how a law firm operates. Students are in the leaning phase of their life, and they should not be expected to truly understand everything about working in a law firm or for a solo attorney.

In many cases, interns should be paid. Some people equate the term intern with the concept of free labor. However, it may not be quite that simple. Make sure to check with the Department of Labor and Employment in the state in which you conduct business, as well as with the United States Department of Labor. Depending on the type of internship you are offering, you might be required to pay a salary. If you cannot afford to pay a salary, financial assistance might be available. In Colorado, the Department of Labor and Employment offers grants for internships that fall under certain innovative employment categories.

Most interns need to be shown how to complete tasks. If you don’t want to spend time teaching your intern how to complete the work you want them to handle, hiring an intern might not be the best choice for you. If you do hire an intern, understand that you will spend time mentoring and teaching him or her. Because it can take time teaching an intern how to complete work, your intern might cause you to spend more hours, not fewer hours, in the office.

Interns usually have a lot of questions. When someone is learning something new, there are often quite a few questions – and sometimes the same question is asked more than once. When you hire an intern, you can expect to be asked many questions. Don’t let this frustrate you. Interns are trying to learn something new – and the topic might be complex. They want to get things right.

Interns want to be kept busy. As a solo attorney, your work load might be sporadic – sometimes you’re incredibly busy, and other times you might not have enough work to keep yourself (let alone an intern) occupied. If you elect to hire an intern, just make sure you will be able to provide a steady stream of work. Nobody likes to be bored – especially while trying to gain valuable experience during an internship.

If you want to hire an intern, it should be for genuine reasons. Students and young professionals seek internship positions because they want to learn. They also want to be mentored by the person who hires them. If you are willing and able to provide this service to someone who wants to eventually work as a solo attorney or as an attorney at a larger law firm, then hiring an intern can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.



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