The Negative Effect of Unpaid Internships

According to a recent “The Daily Beast” article, more college students assume that internships are mandatory for graduation because more employers expect to see internship experience on their resume. Because of the high demand for internships in the bad economy, many students take unpaid internships not only with non-profit organizations but also with for-profit organizations. Unpaid internships at for-profit organizations are legally allowed only when students receive academic credit. These internships place a financial burden on students because students have to pay tuition to obtain such credits while bearing additional living costs simultaneously.

This is not new to law school students. According to a recent article of Hampton Roads, the median starting salary for new law school graduates in 2010 fell 13 percent. The starting salary at private firms dropped 20 percent. One of the main reasons is because large firms cut back on hiring. As a result, many new law school graduates consider lower paying public sector jobs; however, it has become more competitive to find a job even in the public sector. It has also become more competitive to find a paid internship. Many paid internship positions have recently become unpaid internships. This is a problem because law school students’ debts have grown and the average student graduating from public law school in 2010 came out with nearly $69,000 in debt.

Unpaid internship experience still benefits law school students because their experience focus on marketable skills such as legal writing, trial experience rather than administrative work. It also works as an opportunity to build a network with practitioners and professionals. However, unpaid internship should not be a social norm so that more and more organizations, for-profits or non-profits, assumes that students will take internship opportunities without being paid to obtain experience, or, at least, to add a line to their resumes. It means more free labor. Free labor will encourage companies to be reluctant to create more paid position and hire more people. Also, it will decrease young people’s morale, which certainly does not help anyone.