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On the Legality of Unpaid Internships
(And: ATL seeks a paid intern.)

I recently participated in a Room for Debate forum for the New York Times on the controversial subject of unpaid internships. Critics of these positions argue that such exploitative arrangements contribute to “constricted social and professional mobility, growing inequality, and an economy whose top tier is becoming less and less diverse” (in the words of Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy).

In my contribution, I offer a measured defense of unpaid internships — of the non-abusive variety, in which the intern receives a valuable learning experience (and doesn’t just do scut work) — and also a defense of the status quo (under which most unpaid internships are technically illegal, but enforcement isn’t super-vigorous). You can read my NYT piece here (or on page 9 of yesterday’s Sunday Review section, if you’re a print person). You can also read a piece by Camille Olson, a labor and employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw, over here (focusing on the legal aspects of unpaid internships, and offering general guidelines to companies considering them).

Speaking of interns, Above the Law is looking for one — a paid intern, for the record. Details appear below, along with general information about our hiring needs, and our policy on guest posts or outside contributions….

Here’s the internship information. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY.

We are seeking an intern to work with us here in our New York office, starting this spring or this summer (or perhaps working during both the spring and the summer; there is some flexibility). Working with us is possibly more fun than working for the New York Times, and definitely more fun than working for a law firm (even if we won’t get you drunk and take you to a strip club).

Our internships are educational experiences and would be excellent for journalism students, undergraduate or graduate, who are interested in blogging, new media, or legal journalism. There could be byline opportunities for aspiring writers. The position is paid, albeit modestly (think minimum wage). We are probably looking for no more than 15 hours per week (i.e., this is not a full-time position, and it does not come with benefits — unless you consider listening to Elie rant about law schools while he munches on a Five Guys burger to be a “benefit”).

The internship may involve research, writing, editing, social media, and database work — and, to be honest, some of this work will be less than thrilling (i.e., administrative or menial in nature). Please note that this internship is a media internship, not a legal internship. The position is therefore not ideal for law students, since the intern won’t be doing substantive legal work. Law students can certainly apply — here at ATL, three out of our four full-time writers have law degrees, so we don’t take a “lawyers need not apply” approach — but we are, to be completely honest, more interested in working with (and mentoring) aspiring journalists.

(We do take a “thin-skinned people need not apply” approach. If having mean things said about you in the ATL comments would hurt your feelings, then this might not be the job for you.)

If you’re interested, please email us, subject line “Internship Application.” Please include (1) a short explanation of your interest in the position, (2) a current résumé, and (3) some clips or writing samples, if available (as either links or attachments).

UPDATE (5 PM): Yes, there is an application deadline. Please apply no later than Monday, February 20th, at 11:59 PM Eastern time (two weeks from now).

While we have your attention, and while we’re on the subject of personnel matters, please note: (1) we are not currently seeking new writers, and (2) we are not interested in guest posts or outside contributions. Please do not send such inquiries our way. If you do send such messages our way, they may (and most likely will) go unacknowledged. When we have specific needs, we post about them, as we’re doing now. If you’re interested in working with us, please read us constantly and keep an eye out for such postings. If you want to send us a news tip or story idea, we welcome them, at our usual address.

One final note: we don’t send emails confirming receipt of applications, and we don’t send rejection emails. If you haven’t heard from us by March 1, you can assume we’ve gone in a different direction.

So we thank you in advance for your interest and your application. We look forward to hearing from you!

Why Mess With a Win-Win Situation? [Room for Debate / New York Times]
Do Unpaid Internships Exploit College Students? [Room for Debate / New York Times]
Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy [Amazon (affiliate link)]

Earlier: Blind Item: Law Firm Cutting Costs With Undergraduate Slave Labor?
Firms Now Looking for Unpaid Summer Associates
Career Alternatives: Internship Market Maker

(hidden for your protection)

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