Getting Firm-Fit at Law Boot Camp

What you can expect from a McLaughlin & Associates internship

Many, especially clients, might be surprised to know that most students graduate law school without ever having stepped inside a law office, at least as a practitioner, and many have only a minimal understanding at best of exactly how a real law firm operates.

With this information as our driver and as part of our contribution to the community, we set about developing an internship program designed for law students, who may not otherwise have had such an opportunity to acquire actual experience.

At McLaughlin & Associates we are very big on community, especially giving back to the community that has given so much to us, has been so supportive over the years and has helped us attain our significant level of success.

This mindset was forged during my ten years on the board of Logan Community Bank branch of Bendigo Bank, where our strategies were heavily focused on our region and especially in giving back to the local community

The major objective of our McLaughlin & Associates internship program and its ultimate goal is to see interns successfully progress through our program and leave having secured a full-time position in the legal profession. Our program is designed to provide the experience of working in a law office and to experience what it is like to be treated as a working member of a team.

From Ad Hoc to Planned Pathway

Understanding how our program developed, places it in perspective.

Over the years I had regularly been approached by clients and friends asking if I would give their son or daughter, work experience during their school or university vacation.

Invariably I would say ‘yes’ and the student would attend our office for a week or two where they would basically sit and observe what went on in our legal office.

In the early days, it was a very ad hoc type of operation – a request would come out of the blue and we would do our best to accommodate them.

In hindsight, I question just how valuable the time was to the student and how much value and experience they actually derived from the experience. We didn’t and still don’t perceive that possible outcome as our fault or that of the student. It was simply the way it was –then.

However, in looking around I think that is still how most law firms treat interns but definitely not our approach – now.

To put our approach in perspective, it is worth appreciating that in many firms interns are viewed as an inconvenience and an impost on already overworked and overburdened staff. The last thing they really want to do is to be babysitting a student for two weeks.

I reflected on this and identified that neither party was getting much out such the situation and if my firm was going to offer such a service, then we would need to formalise and standardise the process.

The program needed to become more structured and systemised, both to minimise the inconvenience to our firm and my staff and at the same time maximise the value, meaning and benefit to the student.

And so the McLaughlin & Associates internship program came into being.

Internship at Work

We have worked diligently on systemising the internship process to the point where it has become an accepted and welcome part of our firm’s everyday life.

We continually devise improvements and fine tune our program so it is always a work-in-progress and continues evolving to meet the changing environment. For the past three years, we have been hugely successful in having our interns take the next step to full-time paid employment.

Interested students must first undergo an interview process, in which we ensure they are a good fit for our firm and that our program is in line with their career aspirations.

On acceptance into our program, students are offered a six-month internship which, if mutually agreeable can be extended to 12 months.  Students then undertake an induction where they are explained their obligations and responsibilities and the program outlined to them.

Students are given a code of conduct form which they must read and sign.

Interns are then placed on a one-month probation.  If completed successfully, they then go on to serve the remainder of their internship.  At the end of the six months upon completion of the program, they will receive a written reference from myself, as Principal of the firm.

As the principal of a law firm, I know that such a reference and completion of such a program is a positive inclusion on a CV.

Beyond Boot Camp

In addition to our internship program, we also provide additional educational opportunities as part of our contribution to the community.

Through my involvement with Bendigo Bank, we developed close ties with Griffith University and have sponsored scholarships for local students to attend Griffith University.

During that time, I learned a very important fact of life. That is, that many of the students we sponsored were the first members of their family to undertake tertiary studies. As such, they did not have that network of family and friends who are already involved in or associated with the legal profession to assist with furthering their career after graduation.

We are very proud of our internship program and look forward to welcoming our next intake of students to our law boot camp and getting them fit to take on great roles in top firms.

By John McLaughlin
Principal, McLaughlin & Associates Lawyers