In some careers, practice is just as important as theory. Take medical students as an example. Aspiring medics are generally required to apply what they’ve learnt from textbooks and lectures throughout clinical work, which is typically integrated into the program from their first year of study.
Similarly, it’s vital that law students get hands-on, real-world experience as early as possible. This can be done through externships, practicums, clinics, and other types of work experience placements.
There are several different kinds of work experience opportunities for law students. Some choose to enter the courtroom, shadowing a judge to gain a judicial perspective, while others opt to go pro bono for non-profits serving low-income communities.
Valuable hands-on learning
There are plenty of reasons why work experience opportunities are so beneficial for law students.
Firstly, it gives you a head-start on choosing which law career path you want to pursue – whether it’s arbitration, property law, corporate law, immigration law, and so on.
You’ll get the chance to see first-hand what the job entails long before you graduate, allowing you to be prepared when you enter the working world.
The field of law in the US is incredibly competitive, and having experience on your résumé will give future employers reassurance that you’ve ‘got your feet wet’, coming equipped with prior knowledge on the inner workings of law.
Plus, it also shows that you’ve got commitment and passion for the field, you’ve taken time to research, and you have a wider range of experience that helped you develop professional skills.
Getting practical work experience in law school will help you build and hone expertise you’ll need throughout working life, including communication skills, decision-making, teamwork, critical thinking and debating.
Finding the right practical opportunities
How do you go about finding work experience during your time at law school? A good way is to enroll in a program that incorporates practical learning in the curriculum.
For example, the University of Miami’s LL.M. graduate degrees offer extensive hands-on training for students, both local and international, providing pathways for their future careers.
As a ready-made laboratory for legal training in various fields, the School of Law at the University of Miami has a plethora of opportunities available for budding lawyers outside the classroom – so much so, they’ve appointed an Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Kele Stewart, who has expanded opportunities. Students have access to work with LL.M. directors, the career development office, faculty and clinical directors, all dedicated to helping you find the right hands-on experience.
Through practicums, law students get hands-on learning, working under the supervision of attorneys and professors in a non-lawyering role. The practicum courses offered at Miami Law are an integral part of many LL.M. programs and include the Affordable Housing Practicum, the International Arbitration Practicum, the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Practicum and more.
LL.M. in Entertainment Arts and Sports law student Maria Jose Rivera worked at NBC Universal Telemundo for her practicum and says, “The program has helped me get there by not only placing me into the real practice but by granting me the privilege to work with and learn from these role models I look up to professionally. I’m drafting and negotiating agreements for the first time while being challenged to develop the skills that are in demand when becoming an effective lawyer in the entertainment industries.”
Foreign-trained LL.M. students can work alongside experienced career advisor Yazmyne Eterovic, who is exclusively dedicated to foreign-trained law students and assists with finding externships and internships at the law school. Past and current students can attest to the world of opportunities externships opened up for them.
Mercedes Caycedo from Venezuela, a 2016 graduate of the LL.M. in International Law: US & Transnational Law for Foreign Lawyers, currently works as a Legal Affairs Support Specialist at LATAM Corporate for Microsoft in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, specializing in compliance investigations.
She says, “The LL.M. has been key in my professional development. I participated in the Externship Program. That experience strengthened my legal network and offered me the possibility of applying for a one-year internship at Microsoft Corporation. That was followed by an offer to become a full-time employee within the company.”
Aline Nogueira Schmiedt from Brazil now works as Legal Counsel at International Materials, Inc. When asked about Miami Law, she said that it “broadened my professional horizon” and that the career development was unparalleled.
“My LL.M. was a fundamental step to expand my career internationally. I participated in every networking opportunity, and they have incredible value, especially to foreign attorneys. Moreover, I’d say one of the highlights of my LL.M. year was the Legal Externship – the contacts I made opened the doors for other job opportunities for me.”
Daniella Salvatore, who received her J.D./LL.M. in Real Property Development, attests to the benefits of the Affordable Housing Practicum, “The skillset I acquired from this practicum has not only fully prepared me for the Real Property Development LL.M, it has helped me grasp essential concepts of real estate law.”
Ndifreke Uwem, Nigerian native and a current International Arbitration J.D./LL.M. student has received hands-on experience through summer internships and practicums. Last summer he spent in Washington, D.C., interning at ICSID – International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. He says that working at ICSID opened his eyes to the world of investment arbitration from the institutional perspective. “I have had the rare opportunity of experiencing every stage of the dispute settlement process – from reviewing Requests for Arbitration, drafting working papers for Procedural Orders, Decisions, and Awards, to performing conflict checks on potential arbitrators.
Uwem also experienced practical learning through an International Arbitration Practicum and as a research assistant. He says, “I am particularly appreciative of the opportunity to complete a practicum placement in Shutts & Bowen’s IDR practice. Also, I am grateful to have served as Research Assistant to the International Arbitration Institute on two cutting-edge projects, serve as Assistant Coach to the Vis Arbitration Moot Team, traveling to Paris and Vienna, and publish an article in Miami Law’s International and Comparative Law Review,” he adds.
“It all seemed very daunting at first, but in hindsight, I am very happy I chose this program because I probably wouldn’t have had these hands-on opportunities otherwise.”
Your successful career starts here, with Miami Law.
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