How to Build an Internship Program That Creates Great Employees

Feb 22, 2023 | Business

According to the National Survey of College Internships (NSCI) 2021 Report, one in four students (25%) reported having less than satisfactory internship experiences, highlighting that ample work remains to ensure that internships are a high-quality experience for participants. 

There are several classic problems, generally speaking, surrounding legal internships such as an overload of “busy work,” not enough direction being provided and interns not receiving enough feedback.

At Smith + Malek, we have designed our internship program to hold ourselves to a higher standard. 

Our law firm has the mission of making tomorrow better for our clients, each other and the communities in which we live, work and play. One fundamental way we successfully stay committed to this vision is through our internship program. 

In fact, we believe that employing a comprehensive internship program and mentorship model is a key strategy when it comes to creating a successful and thriving law practice. 

In that light, building an internship program that creates great employees is of the utmost importance for us at Smith + Malek. Here are three practices we follow to make this happen: 

1. Interns do more than get coffee: We involve our legal interns right from the get-go as members of the team, working on solving problems for our clients. On the day-to-day, interns at our firm will do everything from sitting in on a call with a client to conducting research to working on initial drafts of internal and client-facing memos and documents. 


2. Mentors matter: By prioritizing mentorship, interns are provided with unparalleled workplace learning opportunities and experiences. Our mentor attorneys follow a structured program to ensure that our interns are getting a diverse and rich experience. However, we understand that this is a two way street. Through our internship program, our seasoned attorneys stay on their toes while they mentor and coach the up-and-coming generation of legal professionals. We challenge traditional legal approaches too, since successful mentorship requires teamwork, partnership, and completely letting go of the typical “eat what you kill” model of law. Overall, mentorship within our firm creates a sense of collaboration that is reflected across our offices, delivering more strongly for our clients and helping our team feel happier and more productive.

3. We grow, collaborate, and learn from each other: One of the key characteristics we look for in potential interns is the ability and willingness to learn. We also make sure that a prospective intern will be a good cultural fit at our firm. There is no room for ego at any end of the spectrum at Smith + Malek, and we make sure everyone is on the same page of being committed to making the best work product possible. So, our work culture fosters collaborative thinking instead of competition. One analogy we like to use is that “the rising tide raises all ships.”  Once we accept someone into our internship program, we are committed to them and we want to make sure they feel at home with our team. Our interns drive our pipeline of young legal talent, and our team has to fit into our culture from day one of their internship through the day they retire as a Smith + Malek attorney. 

Our internship program is one of the most valuable assets to our firm, and it can be that way because our leadership and attorney teams are incredibly intentional with how we manage the program. It helps us build a working relationship with talented young attorneys at the time they are searching for employment opportunities. 

At the end of the day, interns truly are an investment for the firm, and we are proud of the internship program that we have developed that provides young professionals a boost in the law industry.