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Firms must exercise care in hiring unpaid interns (access required)

Summertime means vacations, dinner on the grill and summer interns at the office. Law firms may be looking to unpaid interns who are looking for resume enhancement. Lawyers also may need to advise their business clients who may be skittish about hiring and hope to take up the slack with unpaid interns. But beware. It’s not about ...

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One comment

  1. Thank Goodness Free Interns Weren’t Illegal When I was in Law School

    How un-American that an employer and an intern are, by law, not allowed to come to a voluntary agreement to the mutual benefit of both.

    Putting aside for a moment that this might be the ONLY way that some young folks would ever see the “inside” of a business in a tough economy and, thus, gain valuable experience, “enforcement” of the “you can’t have free interns” rule is an(other) improper intrusion of the government into private enterprise and the ability of people to make free choices as to how to spend their time and use their gifts. If I want to offer a free internship and/or pay below the minimum wage and someone wants to freely accept my offer, then it’s none of the government’s business.

    I went to a law school that was very young and not well-known at the time I attended. It’s huge and famous now (George Mason), but was a very minor player in the early 1980s. Tough to get a job inside a law office back then. So here’s what I did: I went to a young lawyer in town (Kevin Kelley, Annandale – to whom I am forever indebted for the opportunity) and I volunteered to work for him, free. During the summers, I worked for him for free while attending some classes at night. I followed him around. I sat in on client meetings. I did legal research on some (at that time) whiz-bang microfiche machine and typed pleadings and the results of my legal research on typewriters with carbon paper. I ran errands to the courthouse and while I was there I searched out the trials and spent hours watching the great Fairfax trial lawyers of the day try their cases in the old Fairfax Courthouse. I learned about lawsuits and wills and divorces and property rights and mortgages and felonies and misdemeanors in a way that could never be learned in a courtroom.

    In return for “working as an unpaid intern,” I GAINED a valuable and necessary education about the practice of law. I didn’t think twice about doing it and I NEVER expected the government to come to my RESCUE with a BAILOUT because somehow this arrangement was “unfair.” I thought it was terrific and I thought I was getting the better end of the deal (after all, Kevin was getting legal research from a kid who had only been in law school a year and had a lot of dumb questions that I kept bugging him with.)

    I was the winner.

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