‘I keep making mistakes. Should I quit my internship?’

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By Legal Cheek on


One solicitor hopeful requires readers’ reassurance

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a disheartened rookie questions whether they can finish their internship. 

“I’ve been at an internship in a huge law firm for a few weeks. I’ve made some mistakes, nothing major but one situation was a bit serious. We (interns) were given some protocols/rules but they can’t tell us everything under the sun so there are things we learn every day. I know my supervisors feel bad having to ‘tell me off’ even when they have a tone but it’s so disheartening. How do people deal with making mistakes? I have another month and honestly don’t know if I can take it anymore.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.


FutureCityTrainee who has no idea

Nobody is perfect. If you take it in your stride and learn from them and do not make the same mistake twice you’ll be fine. If you want to be in this career long-term you have to improve your mentality. You’ve hit a rough patch and all it sounds like you can think of is giving up. If you really want to be in this profession that’s going to have to change…


Absolutely this. Adding a bit of extra advice to the above, try to emphasise that you are taking on board the mistakes/learning what to do for next time and then you will be able to say in a later feedback meeting/chat (schedule one eventually if this isn’t likely to occur by itself) that “yes I made [x] mistake but I have learned not to do that again” and maybe have an example of where you did it right.

Everyone makes mistakes, you make a huge amount of them when you’re most junior. It’ll get better and you’ll laugh about this soon! I have a good chuckle when I remember how bad I was when I started, but within a year I had enough confidence to be training others and catching those types of mistakes at a review level. I particularly agonised over my mistakes at the time, which is something that can be useful in terms of avoiding a repetition of that mistake but overall just damages your confidence over time and can hinder you overall. Stay calm.


How long is the internship? If you quit early it could take some explaining in future.

I would hang on in there and see if it improves. However, if you are really not enjoying it you may want to consider if the law or a large firm are for you.

Remember that there are many different types of legal practice. You may be suited to somewhere different. An internship can be as valuable for discovering what you don’t like as what you do.

Ca ni mao

No interviewer, and I mean no interviewer, will ever be the slightest bit interested in why you left an internship early. Besides, if the information isn’t volunteered, how would they know?


It is impossible to do this job without making mistakes, almost every day when you start out. A training contract is called that for a reason – it is priced in to the expectations of trainees and frankly, you can’t make a lawyer without breaking a few eggs.

In terms of dealing with making mistakes, always remember that:

1. The vast majority of mistakes you make, nobody will ever discover, because you’ll learn to notice and correct them yourself;
2. The vast majority of mistakes that are discovered are utterly inconsequential to anybody and cause no harm, they are just things to learn from;
3. The vast majority of discovered mistakes that are consequential are picked up and resolved by somebody more experienced who you are working with – that is, after all, a large part of their job; and
4. When all else fails, the buck stops with the partners – provided that you have been honest and transparent about what you’re doing, and seeking appropriate support, they are ultimately responsible for what goes out of the door, and you are there to learn.

I tell all of my trainees on Day 1 that they need to immediately make their peace with making mistakes and getting things wrong (not something that a lot of City law firm grads have had to experience much in their past lives, typically!) because that will happen, and frankly, that is literally the point of the exercise – you are hired to learn how to do a job that you don’t know how to do. If that is something which gives you major cause for stress that you don’t think you can overcome, I would genuinely and sincerely advise having a think about whether this is the gig for you.


I’m guessing you’ve only recently left university and you may not be used to criticism. If you want to succeed not just in law but in any high-performance environment, or even remain in gainful employment in whatever capacity anywhere ever, you will need to accept the reality that:

1) there are objective standards of performance to which you will be expected to adhere
2) inevitably, on occasion, you will fail to meet those standards
3) that failure will entail consequences, if only a stern word.

Within the goldfish bowl of commercial law small mistakes feel bigger and grander than they really are. Lawyers are typically risk-averse insecure over-achievers with psychologically destructive habits, like proofing emails after sending them so they can torture themselves over minor grammatical errors. Try to be better than this.

I don’t know what the ‘serious’ mistake you made was but these things are never so important as they seem beneath the glare of your monitor at 1AM. Go outside, take your shoes off, feel the grass poking beneath your bare toes. When your children are weeping at your funeral no one will remember the time you sent the wrong draft to a client.


Internship are intended as a learning experience only.

You should:
1. Be paid
2. Not be asked to do anything which isn’t a purely learning exercise with an experienced lawyer re-doing/fully double checking everything you do.

If a firm is making you do actual work with real world consequences I would probably question whether to continue.

If you’re doing supervised tasks for your own learning then this is exactly the time to be making mistakes. Much better you make your mistakes now as an intern than later when you’re a trainee or associate.




Remember the following:

1) career success is largely luck
2) many solicitors are dim
3) many are negligent on a regular basis
4) most are faking it til they make it
5) the firms will take you for everything you’ve got
6) to survive, you’ve also gotta fake it til you make it, and take ‘em for everything they’ve got in the meantime

With all that in mind, smile, nod, chill out, complete your internship you naive young thing

Been there, done that

As my grandfather used to say to me, “a man who never made a mistake never made anything.”

Ask any lawyer how they faired during their training contracts; you’re guaranteed to hear some war stories of when they made such a massive mess-up they were convinced they’d get fired, and yet they survived and went on to do great things. If your colleagues are making you feel bad for making mistakes, either they have forgotten their own humble career beginnings and/or they are not being fair to you or considering your circumstances — at such an early stage in your career, you’re bound to make mistakes.

Try to accept the fact you’ll make mistakes. It’s inevitable. How you deal with those mistakes, though, is what will shape the future of your career. Is there something you could have learned from the experience? Maybe ask feedback/guidance from trusted colleagues on how to handle that kind of situation in future?

Good luck, and don’t let it get you down.


Do. Not. Quit.

Here is how it will play out:

(1) You quit. You will not be permitted to put that internship on your CV, if you do, you’re lying. It will be time wasted and if you do quit, you can kiss that firm goodbye;

(2) You don’t quit. You ride the storm. Get told off a few times. You get to put it on your CV and talk about what you learned at any interview.

You get absolutely no where quitting in this game. Toughen-up, learn, persevere.

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