If you’re a high school student who’s interested in becoming a lawyer, you can actually start preparing for your future career now by participating in high school law internships and other law-focused programs.
High school law internships, summer programs, and law volunteer opportunities for high school students all allow you to explore legal careers before you ever even get to college. We’ll explain everything you need to know about these programs, including:
- The types of law programs available to high school students
- Real-life examples of law programs for high school students
- Tips for including your law experience on college applications
Keep reading to learn more!
What Programs and Law Internships for High School Students Are Out There?
When it comes to opportunities to explore the legal profession before college, there are four main areas to look at:
- Clubs and Classes
- Summer Programs
- Legal Internships for High School Students
- Law Firm Volunteer Opportunities for High School Students
Each of these possibilities has its own pros and cons, but the thing each has in common is that they can all get you ready for a career as a lawyer by teaching you skills you’ll need to succeed.
Below, we’ve included what you need to know about what each one offers. You can also use the links above to jump to the section that most interests you.
Legal Clubs and Classes
Clubs and student activities can teach you about the law and provide opportunities that can help you impress colleges.
While there aren’t a lot of clubs that focus directly on preparing you for a law career, you can join your school’s speech and debate team to practice your public speaking and argumentation skills. This is a fun option if you like the idea of going to tournaments and competing against students from other schools. Plus, debate requires you to do research and look at past precedents to make a case—something lawyers do regularly.
Running for a position in student government or taking part in model UN are also excellent options. Both involve public speaking, learning legal procedures, and solving problems to make positive changes. They also teach you valuable leadership skills, and taking part in activities like these demonstrates your willingness to challenge yourself and use your smarts to succeed.
But that’s not all colleges care about. Universities and law schools also want to see that you’re driven and focused on academic achievement. So don’t forget to take classes that can help you prepare for a legal career.
Here are a few examples of classes you might consider taking to help your applications stand out. Advanced English classes boost your reading comprehension and writing skills (both of which are extremely important skills for lawyers), and communication classes teach you rhetoric and public speaking. And if you’re looking to give yourself a strong knowledge base that relates to law, taking classes in history, civics, ethics, sociology, and psychology can give you an edge.
The biggest downside to these clubs and high school classes is that they aren’t specifically designed to train you for a law career. So while they’ll give you a good knowledge foundation, they don’t teach you what it’s like to be a lawyer. However, because these clubs and classes are either free or low-cost, it’s a good idea to take advantage of these opportunities!
Sure, summer road trips are fun. But if you want to be a lawyer, a summer law program can help you learn more about your future profession!
Summer Law Programs
Summer law programs are a great way to learn about your future profession. These are usually one- or two-week long learning experiences that focus on teaching students different aspects of the law. These programs also introduce participants to lawyers, politicians, and other experts who can show students what it’s really like to work in law. As an added bonus: these programs look great on a college application!
The type of law these programs introduce you to can vary. For example, the ACLU’s summer program focuses on legal issues and policy debates related to civil rights and liberties. One thing most of these programs have in common, however, is that they also teach the debating skills that are crucial in the legal field. In contrast, other summer programs offer more of a general overview of the legal field!
The downside to summer law programs is that they’re quite expensive—many cost between $2,000-$4,000 to attend. Additionally, they can be pretty competitive and hard to get accepted into. However, if you’re a strong candidate and can afford the tuition, you’ll get to explore what it’s really like to be a lawyer and get even more prepared for college in the process.
Law Firm Internships for High School Students
If you’re planning to become a lawyer in the future, you may have heard the advice that working as a legal intern maximizes your chances of getting accepted to law school. However, law internships for high school students are hard to find.
That’s because high school students are considered legal minors. That means lawyers have to be careful about the information they expose you to. This is especially true if the firm deals with high profile cases. Additionally, most of the year your school schedule will conflict with the hours that law firms are open, which limits your ability to work there.
That said, it’s not totally impossible to find a law internship. The key to finding internships at law firms for high school students is to look locally. Although there are a couple national internship programs available for future lawyers who aren’t in college yet, most of those programs require you to live in a specific state or city. That’s why it’s best to start your search in your own backyard…so to speak, of course!
Try doing an online search for something like “high school law internships” plus your state or town. You can also talk to local law firms to see if they accept interns who are still in high school on a case-by-case basis. And if you know someone who works in law, you can talk to them to see if they can connect you with a local internship!
Obviously the main con here is that it’s hard to find law internships for high school students—NYC, Washington D.C., and several cities in California have state-wide programs, but most states do not. That means you’ll have to reach out to law firms in your area one by one to see if they offer law internships for high school students.
Another potential issue is that most internships are fairly time-consuming and unpaid, so if you need to get a summer job to earn money, you may not be able to do an internship as well.
On the other hand, law internships give you a chance to get real work experience in a legal office. You’ll see what the day-to-day work of a lawyer really looks like, and you’ll probably get some great letters of recommendation for college!
A word of caution though: if you decide to look for an internship, make sure a parent or guardian knows what you’re doing and approves, just to be on the safe side.
Law Volunteer Opportunities for High School Students
As a volunteer at a law office you’ll likely do the same kinds of things that an intern would—mostly clerical work to assist lawyers and paralegals. Similar to law internships for high school students, volunteer opportunities at a law firm can be useful but hard to come by.
To try to find one, you’ll likely have to ask around. Talk to your counselors or teachers, and do some online research to see what might be available in your local area. You can also talk to your parents or guardians to see if they know any lawyers that might let you volunteer as part of their team. If you’re able to volunteer, you’ll get a chance to experience life in a law firm and see the judicial system in action.
But just like law internships, volunteer opportunities can be complicated for high school students since legal work is very sensitive. Since most high school students are minors, some law firms may not want, or be able to, involve them in their work.
That said, both internships and volunteer work during the summer are a good way to explore the many possible areas of law you could practice one day. However, don’t worry too much if you can’t find an internship or law firm to volunteer at while you’re still in high school—you’ll have more of these opportunities once you get to college!
These programs get five stars from us!
Our Favorite Law Programs for High School Students
The list below features some of the best programs for future lawyers. Since most volunteer opportunities and law internships for high school students are based locally, this list mostly features national summer programs that anyone can apply for.
So without further ado, here are our favorite law-based programs for those of you still in high school!
ACLU Summer Advocacy Program
- One week in-person program in Washington, D.C.
- Cost: $2,500 (covers food, lodging, and activities); scholarships are available
In this intensive program, students aged 15-18 learn about issue advocacy (particularly civil rights and liberties) and legal strategy from lawyers, lobbyists, and prominent activists and experts. Through classes, lectures, and policy debates you learn how to be an advocate for change in the real world.
One key feature of the program is a Day of Action, where students actually have the opportunity to make their voices heard in Washington! For example, past students have lobbied Congress in person, held rallies at the Capitol, and conducted writing campaigns. If you’re interested in law and social justice, this is a great option!
Cornell University International Summer Debate Camp
- Nine-day in-person program in Ithaca, NY
- Cost: $3,500 (covers food, lodging, and activities); scholarships are available
While this program doesn’t strictly focus on law, students work with Cornell faculty members to learn new debate skills and practice them with other students from around the world. You’ll hear lectures about social issues and contemporary political topics that then become topics for debate, and you’ll take part in a tournament at the end of the program. This is a great option for students who want to hone their argumentative skills.
DOI Pathways Program
- Timing and location vary
- Cost: None; this is a paid internship opportunity
This is one of the only national high school law internships available. If accepted to the program, the U.S. Department of the Interior will place students with an agency that matches their academic interests. You’ll work either full or part-time, and must complete 640 hours of work experience for full credit.
Keep in mind that while this opportunity is available to high school students, you’ll be competing with college and graduate students for positions. In addition, the workload could be prohibitive depending on your school schedule. That said, this program would give you excellent experience to put on college and job applications in the future!
Envision Law Program
- 10-day in-person program in Stanford, CA
- Cost: $4,095 (includes food, lodging, and activities)
This program allows students to immerse themselves in the theory and practice of law. You’ll learn legal rhetoric and ethics from law professors and legal experts, as well as how to make opening and closing arguments, how to cross examine witnesses, and how to manage a courtroom.
Best of all, you’ll get to take part in a mock trial simulation and attend skills workshops to hone your writing and speaking abilities.
And if you’re interested in spending more time working on your debate and public speaking skills, the Stanford National Forensic Institute also offers multiple summer programs for that!
National Student Leadership Conference Law and Advocacy
- Nine-day in-person program at either Duke, Georgetown, or Yale (your choice)
- Cost: $3,595 (includes food, lodging, and activities); check for scholarship availability
This NSLC program gives students a close-up look at what it means to be a lawyer. During the nine days you’re on campus you’ll be teamed up with other students to try a real case in a real courtroom! You’ll learn all about researching evidence, preparing witnesses, crafting arguments, making opening and closing arguments, and cross-examination.
You’ll also visit a law school to see what it’s like, attend lectures from forensic and legal experts from top law firms and the Department of Justice, and get hands-on leadership training. Past guest speakers have even included Supreme Court justices! You also have the option of enrolling in an additional course for college credit.
As a bonus: this program is offered at multiple different campuses and cities (and has multiple dates over the whole summer), so it’s accessible to more students.
School of the New York Times: Government/Law/Ethics
- Two-week in-person program in Washington D.C.
- Cost: $5,925 for the residential program; $5,325 for the day program
This program lets students explore how government, law, and ethics work to form the political and legal systems in the U.S. It focuses on how the idea of “the law” works in the real world to create the power structures in America.
You’ll go on site visits around D.C. to places like the Supreme Court building and the Capitol, hear lectures from experts in law and politics, and explore and analyze current political events.
The main benefit of this program is the focus on ethics. Government and the law function on rules and regulations, but ethical considerations play a role in guiding those as well. By learning about the interaction between law and ethics, you’ll get a leg up on your pre-law college competition.
Senate Page Program
- Length of time varies by term. Fall term is four months, Spring is five months, and the two summer terms are around two months each
- Cost: None; this is a paid internship
This prestigious program is another one of the few national law-related internships available for high school students, but is only available to juniors and seniors. If you’re one of the lucky 30 people who are accepted each term, you’ll get an experience that’s guaranteed to impress any college!
This internship is rigorous. If you’re accepted to the fall or spring terms, you’ll live in a dorm, go to school between 6:15-10:00 a.m., then work as a page in the Senate until 4 p.m. You can expect to be working and studying for 12 to 13 hours each day. (The summer terms don’t include classwork, so they’re a bit less intense.)
Page duties mostly include acting as a messenger, delivering correspondence and legislative materials in the Congressional complex, and preparing the chambers for Senate sessions.
In order to apply to the program, you have to be sponsored by a current senator (usually from your state, although some senators are willing to sponsor out-of-state candidates). The application materials you need vary by senator and state, so you’ll need to contact your senator’s office if you’re interested in this opportunity.
UCI High School Summer Institute in Law
- One-week in-person program in Irvine, CA
- Cost: $1,110 (covers food, lodging, and activities)
This program introduces students to the legal system and major areas of law, and focuses on teaching the skills needed for a legal career such as: analytical reasoning, public speaking and writing, persuasive techniques, and negotiation.
The great thing about this program is that even though it isn’t an internship, it still gives students exposure to the law field.
Wake Forest University Debate and Public Advocacy Institute
- One-week in-person program in Winston-Salem, NC
- Cost: Overnight $2,500, Day Camp $1,500 (covers food, lodging, and activities)
This program is focused primarily on debate and public speaking with the goal of helping students learn to advocate for themselves and others. You’ll learn about current social and environmental controversies, as well as rhetorical tricks and persuasive techniques that can help you develop your skills as a future lawyer.
If you’re looking to boost your persuasive speaking skills, this is a good choice.
Keep a journal while you’re doing your legal internship. Those details can come in handy when writing your admissions essays!
How to Impress Colleges With Your Skills and Legal Know-How
No matter what type of opportunity you choose to pursue to boost your skills and prepare for a career in the legal field, you can (and should!) use your experiences to your advantage when it comes to applying for colleges.
Below are a few tips on how you can let colleges know you’re committed to your future career.
Tip 1: Keep a Journal
Whether you’re taking advanced classes related to the skills you need to be a lawyer, joining a debate club or student government, attending a summer program, or doing an internship, you should record your experiences.
Write down the kinds of skills you’re learning—like public speaking techniques or ways to advocate effectively for others—and go into as much detail as possible. The point here is to give yourself a written record of your experiences so you can include them in your college applications.
Be sure to also include your personal impressions and ideas about your experiences. If you attend a summer program or internship, write down how the experience impacted your life and future goals. That way you can reflect on them during the college application process and in college, too!
Tip 2: Talk About the Experience in Your College Essay
Your college essay is one of the main ways that potential colleges get to know you. It’s your chance to really show them what you’re passionate about and why.
Take a look at your journal and pull out a few of the experiences and law-related skills that are most meaningful to you. You can use these details as a way to focus your essay on why you want to be a lawyer and how you’ve been preparing for both college and your career.
Schools want to accept driven students, so going into detail about your experiences in the clubs, classes, summer programs, or internships you’ve been involved in will show them how ready you are to excel at their school.
Tip 3: Make a High School Resume
A high school resume functions as a snapshot of your skills, coursework, accomplishments, activities, and work history.
Even if your college doesn’t ask you to send in a resume, having one on hand can help you out in a couple ways. First, a resume can help you prepare for a college interview—you can give it to your interviewer as a convenient reference, plus the act of writing it can help you find ways to talk about your skills briefly and effectively.
Second, you’ll definitely need letters of recommendation, and letters that discuss your interests and abilities specifically are more impressive. By giving a resume to your letter writers, you ensure that your teachers or counselors are able to write you a letter that really makes you (and your accomplishments) shine!
Looking for even more information on preparing for a career in the legal field? Check out our article on the five steps to becoming a lawyer to give you an idea of what you can do in high school to get your career journey started off right.
Next, take a look at this ultimate guide to pre-law to get an idea of what college majors are most impressive to law schools. Spoiler alert: you don’t have to major in pre-law to be a great law school candidate!
Finally, we’ve got a list of 11 colleges with great programs to prepare students for law school to help you decide where to go to college. Take some time and choose the best school for your future!
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