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Law Firms Beware: Unpaid Internships May Violate Labor Law, Practitioners Say

Posted Jun 10, 2010 6:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a labor market glutted with would-be legal eagles, hiring a recent law graduate to work for free can be a tempting idea.

But law firms should beware of doing so, practitioners advise. If the intern is displacing a regular paid employee, chances are the arrangement is illegal, reports Lawyers USA (sub. req.).

“There are very few circumstances under which an unpaid intern can be used in a for-profit business,” says Paul DeCamp of Jackson Lewis. A partner in the Reston, Va., office of the national labor and employment firm, he heads the firm's wage and hour practice group.

Especially given the federal government's increasing enforcement focus on such violations, he recommends that law firms pay their interns, the article reports.

They won't have to worry about hearing from the U.S. Department of Labor and can legally bill clients for the workers' time, DeCamp points out. Thus, with luck, firms can expect to break even from the arrangement.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "As Feds Cast Wary Eye on Unpaid Interns, Positions Proliferate, Some Aimed at Law Grads"

ABAJournal.com: "Ever Had an Unpaid Law Internship? Hired an Unpaid Intern?"

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