Sunday, December 27, 2009

Internships, Internships Everywhere

Now, I work in a business where people generally start out by having internships. Most of them are unpaid. Some people wail & moan about this in the entertainment business.

BUT....consider these facts:

1. TONS of people want to work in the entertainment field.
2. There aren't enough jobs for that kind of demand.
3. No entertainment internship I've ever known of required someone to work even 30 hours a week. Most have a 10 hour minimum.
4. All the entertainment internships I've known of had flexible hours + would adjust one's schedule around that person's paid employment.
5. Everyone I've ever worked with knew that paid work came first & respected it.
6. You can wear whatever you want w/in the basic bounds of taste & cleanliness. No business suits or business casual wear necessary.
7. Finally, everyone I've known who's had an internship in NYC in the past few years was treated w/respect.

Since the downturn of the economy, it seems EVERY SINGLE industry on the planet (at least the ones I'd see Craig's List ads for) is offering an internship. Law firms, legal recruiting offices. I just saw an ad today for an intern for a "wedding officiant."

Now, why does this bother me? Let's consider law firms hiring lawyers as "interns."

1. To become a lawyer, you have to spend a LOT (and I do mean a LOT) of money. It costs money to go to school, take bar review courses, take the bar exam, send in paperwork to the character & fitness committee, take mandatory CLE courses, pay dues & in some states, the "attorney occupation tax." In CT, this tax was recently raised from $450 a year to $565.
It doesn't matter if you don't have the money for this stuff or didn't make enough to pay for it. There's largely NO FINANCIAL AID in schools if you are poor so you either have to take out lots of $ in loans or become a drug dealer/stripper/hooker/illegal occupation of choice that pays a lot of $ in a short time. Six-figure debt is the norm.
And when/if you are admitted, you're paying a lot of $ JUST to stay admitted. Let's just say when it comes to dues or the attorney occupation tax, the states are the Mafia; to quote a line in Casino, it's "Fuck you, pay me!"
2. Business suits aren't cheap. Many of these law firms require their lawyers to wear them & even if they don't, suits are mandatory in court. This is at least $100 PER SUIT. If you're hard to fit, suits are even more expensive.
3. Part time hours for a law firm are FULL time hours for everyone else (40 hours a week).
4. Some lawyers DO have internships from law school & prior law firm work on their resumes. I did; in fact, I left a job in a law firm to attend law school.

So after you've gotten into six figure loan debt, you now have nothing but unpaid "internships" if you're just starting out?!?!?!??!?!?! If you fit #4, there's no reason you should be taking unpaid internships; it's a waste of time. Knowing the law firm culture, I don't see them accommodating to paid employment, having minimal hours or letting interns wear anything they want. In fact, I know of a story where some law firm partner got mad b/c one of the support staff was moonlighting as a waitress. Had that been me, my response would be "Give me a raise or keep your nose out of my private business."

Why, oh WHY, would any lawyer take an unpaid "internship?" What law firm is stupid enough to think a lawyer would do that? The one that really took the cake for me was one firm offering an unpaid internship for 3 MONTHS. Then, they offer the whopping salary of $25K a YEAR after that period of non-payment. Whoopee, I made that salary BEFORE going to law school; why would I give a damn about it at some private firm in Manhattan? This wasn't even a public interest job & it was in Manhattan. If you can afford office space in Manhattan, you can afford to pay a LAWYER, all right?

As for the wedding officiant intern, you DO know that any knucklehead can get licensed as one for far less than $100, right? You don't have to be a minister & you don't need special training.

Yep, I've told some of these people off & they deserved it. Quit w/the blatant cheapskate attitude & maybe you'd get some quality workers who LIKED working for you.


  1. Nice blog! Check out my blog at

  2. Hello. I like the tone of this blog. Do you tell prospective law students about this terrible industry, face to face? I have had some success with that tactic.


  3. Nando, my blog is simply my place to rant where the fact that I'm a lawyer w/a very unusual & downright lucky career path comes into play at times.

    I don't regret going to law school per se since it WAS my ticket out of the South (grew up in NC, went to undergrad in Atlanta). Seriously almost everyone in the South is married and/or has kids by the time they're 22; many of these mothers go to community college if they ever get degrees. I worked too hard in school to let that happen to me.

    If I hadn't gotten into law school, I was going to save $10K from my law firm job in Atlanta then take my car & some stuff to move to NYC and try breaking into the entertainment business (I have an acting/singing background & have been told by industry people that I ought to be modeling). Not leaving the South would have led to my massive depression & a career as a vigilante; being there more than 2 weeks starts to get to me + I'd want revenge for being lied to about having a future away from a trailer park w/an alcoholic spouse where everything's a struggle. This is what happened to my mom & she could have gone to college back in the day but didn't, partially b/c of cost.

    Once I got to CT, I started to meet people & eventually had enough resources to avoid EVER having to go back to NC. I found my soul mate & got married but I've really had no choice but to succeed. I wasn't actually in law school for the BigLaw pony show or selling my soul for a salary but didn't know entertainment was an option until later on.

    I'm not happy about the debt but I grew up poor so I know all about it. I also still find the classism of the state admission process disgusting. My eyes were 100% wide open when I went.

    That being said, I have personally cautioned against law school unless someone REALLY wants to be a lawyer & goes in w/their eyes open. I mention the horrid entry-level market, my career path being so uncommon & that no one's going to hand you anything.

    I'm not about to kill someone's dreams but I will fill people in on what to expect (if I don't hate them, at least) so they don't get the rude shocks I got.

  4. Very good - you seem to be able to provide a nice, balanced, infomative view of this complicated issue.

    I'm impressed after most of the things I've read elsewhere.