Prairie State's Summer Internship Program Offers Students Real-World Experience

June 13, 2022

From Bloomington to Waukegan, and Rock Island to Kankakee, rising second and third year law students—serving as Prairie State Legal Services (PSLS) interns—will spend their summer immersing themselves in the amazing public service PSLS does for its clients.

PSLS welcomes 16 interns: three in our Bloomington office, one in our Kankakee and Peoria offices, two in our Rock Island and Rockford offices, three in our Waukegan and West Suburban offices, and one in our Woodstock office. Of the 16 students, two are returning as rising third year students, one is a rising second year law student, one is an undergraduate intern, and the remaining are rising second year law students.

With few exceptions, Prairie State requires a minimum of 300 hours for its summer internship program, which translates into eight or 10 weeks of work, or 4 or 5 full days a week, respectively. Not all offices will have interns this year, which Prairie State Internship Coordinator Sally Steele said is a result of space availability and applicant location preferences.

“Our interns are exposed to all aspects of PSLS’ work, and take on multifaceted tasks essential to our services, ranging from researching important legal issues, to interviewing clients, and assisting at hearings and trials,” Steele said. “With a 711 license, some interns are even able to render legal services directly to clients under the supervision of their mentor. Each intern is assigned to a mentor, who helps assign, guide, discuss, and provide a great summer experience for the intern.”

Since each office differs in size and may or may not have attorneys focused on a specific area of law, students may or may not be assigned to a mentor that focuses on a student’s area of interest. According to Steele, when possible, interns may be able work with other attorneys in their office who specialize in other areas of law, exposing them to the range of services that PSLS provides. She said even if there is not another attorney in the office focused on an area the intern is interested in, mentors will certainly try to provide experiences relevant to the intern’s interest area and expose them to many areas of civil litigation and the multi-level process it takes to get from the inception of a client seeking services through resolution of a case.

Students are eager to gain real-world experience right off the bat. “Most are excited about interacting with clients and the court,” Steele said. “This might mean they sit in on client interviews, and eventually conduct them with their mentor’s supervision, spotting legal issues the client is facing. We have a training coming up for students about that very skill. Legal research for their mentors and other attorneys in the office, reviewing discovery, and writing memorandums also are common tasks. Many students practice legal drafting, and would like to end the summer with a solid writing sample for future jobs and endeavors. They may even go to court administrative hearings with their mentor or other attorneys in their office, and help them prepare for trial. Each internship is unique and we encourage the students to express their interests and goals with their mentors throughout the summer.”

“Many students have a vague idea of what interests them when they begin law school, but an internship may either reinforce or change the vision,” Steele concludes. “Experiencing an internship with PSLS will hopefully leave students with not only extremely useful practical experience, learning from the brightest and kindest mentors, but also alert or reinvigorate the students to the need of using their legal minds toward the betterment of clients in need of public service. Some of our interns go on to have careers in public interest, either with PSLS or another legal aid organization. Others go on to volunteer as pro bono attorneys once they are licensed, or become donors and supporters of PSLS’ mission.”