Speaking from experience, one of the advantages of a ‘Year Abroad’ is that you have better access to the legal market and, gaining an internship along the way. That is, if you wish to pursue one. Having said that, there is of course plenty of opportunity to pursue an internship abroad for any student. In this article, I will talk about my experiences of undertaking an internship in Germany and the opportunities that taking one can provide.
I did my year abroad in Berlin and I decided that once lectures and exams were over, it would be a good idea to seek an internship with a law firm. I secured three weeks working with a German lawyer on various civil legal matters which I would definitely recommend taking, if the opportunity allows it. A company called CRCC Asia allows a student to undertake an internship in a Chinese law firm. The opportunity to experience an internship in another country organised by a company tasked with organising internships is an opportunity to be grabbed with both hands.
With China as an emerging market, there is a need for those who are knowledgeable of English law to advise and work with Chinese investors. Past activities include researching a newsletter to be sent to foreign companies, whereby a person’s individual knowledge is going to be harnessed. When looking at the testimonials of people who are undertaking or have undertook an internship with the CRCC, there are only positives. People realise the need to gain other forms of experience not just at home, but also abroad. Having this organisation set up specific internships in China is of huge advantage to any prospective lawyer. Looking at the testimonials, those on an internship only speak highly of the experiences that the CRCC is able to provide them. One of the difficulties with trying to find an internship is the lack of contacts and the difficulty of approaching law firms, so, having an organisation which makes it easier to find an internship is something not to be missed.
Naturally as with most things, the experiences will be dependent upon the people you meet and work with. In Germany, it is common practice for many lawyers to work independently in their own offices and not in big firms like those in the UK may be used to. I worked with a German lawyer along with two other lawyers in their office. It was positive to see how the office functioned and other lawyers went about their daily business. The integration element of the internship went without a hitch. I had previously met my lawyer beforehand to discuss how the internship would work, as well as getting to know each other. As curiosity goes, the lawyer I worked with was very interested in understanding just how the legal system in England and Wales worked and the routes to becoming one of many qualified lawyers, operated in this country. When meeting the other lawyers who worked in the office, this again, went smoothly as a result of the culture of being relaxed, and welcoming whilst remaining professional.
Whilst undertaking the internship, I lent my hand to many a different thing. This ranged from researching claims for the lawyer and client, as well as writing case summaries relating to high profile judgements that had been passed down by various German courts. What was nice about my specific internship was that it also allowed me to experience the independence that lawyers have by working from home, when it was not imperative for me to be in the office. This in turn meant that I was able to demonstrate independent working as I was tasked with a job that needed doing and I was able to complete it whilst being in a from-home environment. This is something which is extremely important for the CV and a skill which is demonstrable based on a person’s experience.
An internship abroad can throw a person many different challenges. Those who undertake it in the language of the country are faced with getting used to very specific vocabulary which they may not have encountered previously. Even in a country where the main language of business will be English, there can still be issues of communication in the firm in which the internship is being under-taken. An internship in a foreign country is always a means of experiencing the ways of the legal profession in another country which has to be the biggest contributor to your repertoire of experience. Whilst the experience of an internship is to explore different avenues, make yourself stand out and boost your CV, the difference with an ordinary university setting is that the internship is not specific for a grade; the student is doing it out of self-interest rather than achieving a particularly good grade in a subject.
On a practical and often forgotten level, having an internship abroad extends beyond just undertaking the internship. It proves that a person has had the initiative to research and explore the opportunities out there – to experience the legal world in another country. The research, the organisation, the travel and the living arrangements out there all add to a person’s portfolio. They are talking points and conversation starters for possible employers. With an ever increasing, saturated legal market, credentials that make an individual stand out are only ever going to be a positive attribute. It allows people to see that you have been able to successfully adapt to a different working environment where those things that are familiar in the home country become those things which are foreign.
An internship abroad encompasses all of the positives that something like this could provide to a person. When it comes down to the very grassroots experiences of an internship abroad, it is about experiencing a different culture, a different way of working and even a different language. A person has had to adapt to varying situations which may not be common for them if, say, they were doing an internship in their home country. It adds another depth to a person’s legal experience, allows them to demonstrate a different and adaptable set of experiences because they have gone abroad and undertook a legal internship. It can also open up opportunities as having experienced the lifestyle abroad, a person is able to have a stepping stone to build upon the experience that they have gained.
With China being an ever-more emerging market for business and international relations, the opportunity to undertake an internship there is unmissable. An internship abroad allows an individual to experience and appreciate the different work environments not only within the legal profession, but also in different countries, something which is a talking point for the CV as well as something that is both interesting and beneficial for that individual. I would wholeheartedly recommend that if a person is able to have the chance to take an internship abroad, to do it. The positives of doing it are such that it will only ever come across as a positive thing. What better thing to have under your belt than an internship in a law firm in a foreign country?