Law firms will pay for law school

Working for free?

Most federal states provide for a three-month compulsory internship for their law students. It means: look for suitable internship positions, write applications, check conditions. It is also important to find out about the tasks of an intern in the respective company - after all, you want to use the time sensibly. But the question of internship compensation is also appropriate. If you look at large law firms, some pay their interns a comparatively respectable salary: remuneration of 400 to 800 euros per month, sometimes even 250 euros per week, can be received there. The situation is often different in the case of smaller law firms that employ interns: it is not uncommon for you to work there without remuneration. One example is Voelker und Partner, a regional commercial law firm in Reutlingen. Once a year, she employs four students from the fourth semester for four weeks in a group internship. "We want to give the interns a comprehensive insight into the life of the law firm," explains partner Dr. Jan-David Jansing, who consistently organized the internship program a few years ago. It provides for all law firm members to be involved and the interns to be deployed with different lawyers. "This means that nobody has to get through the internship alone and everyone is more motivated," says Jansing's experience. The interns are assigned to real cases and are also given a long-term task with practical relevance. For example, the groups of four have already dealt with the VW emissions scandal or researched the effects of Brexit on British clients. There is no money for it: "For us, the internship has no economically feasible equivalent," Jansing explains the decision. "Our interns rather benefit from the experience they gain with us." Intern remuneration is also not an issue in job interviews or at career fairs, says the partner. The candidates who apply to his law firm are interested in the concept, even if it does not provide for any remuneration. So far there have been no problems reliably filling the four internship positions.

Legal industry pays rather little

Lawyer Christoph Scholze from the Aid24 law firm differentiates between compulsory and elective internships when it comes to money: "We do not remunerate compulsory internships, we often pay 10 euros gross per hour or more for optional internships," explains the firm's founder. Scholze prefers students from the second semester who want to work in the office for at least two months. For the optional internship, he prefers to take candidates whom he has already met during the mandatory internship: "Then I can better assess how much your work is worth for the firm." Scholze usually finds interns via the Internet, especially via the portal, on which students can also post reviews about the internship providers. The feedback for his law firm reads positively - the fact that there is no remuneration for compulsory internships does not seem to bother him. A study published by the online platform in 2014 also shows that law firms pay their interns nothing or not much. According to this, law firms from the legal and tax industry pay their interns at an average of 159 euros per month and are thus far below the cross-sector average of 400 euros per month. The satisfaction of the legal interns reached a high value of 77 percent despite the low remuneration.

2/2: Companies are desperately looking for interns

Internships in law firms are apparently quite popular even without remuneration. The situation is different in medium-sized companies that offer legal internships. They often have problems finding suitable interns - even though they usually pay for their work.

One example is Added Life Value AG, which offers its customers legal services and legal products via its online portals. "Our interns work at the interface between online marketing and law," explains Dr. rer. pole. Christopher Prüfer, who has two to five internship positions to fill every year. "We are looking for both students and applicants with the first or second state examination," says Prüfer, because some of the interns are later regularly taken on as employees. "But especially students are hard to come by." And this, although interns who are still studying can expect 800 to 1,000 euros per month, trainee lawyers receive over 1,500 euros. "We paid that even before the introduction of the minimum wage," explains Prüfer. He therefore suspects that his company is simply not well known enough in possible applications - or that law firms are more popular.

Remuneration plays a subordinate role

So it looks like employers in traditional legal professions enjoy priority with applicants and prospective lawyers apparently do not make their internship so much dependent on the amount of the remuneration. Other criteria such as the tasks to be completed, the learning curve and the employer’s climate probably play a bigger role after all. For short internships of a few weeks, unpaid work is also entirely acceptable.

However, anyone who works in a law firm for a longer period of time and also carries out demanding tasks there should not make themselves available free of charge. The law also stipulates that interns must receive the legally prescribed minimum wage. Prerequisite: It is a voluntary internship that lasts longer than three months. Compulsory internships do not fall under the minimum wage requirement.