I just got an unpaid internship at a law firm. It is somewhat helpful for what I want to do with my career but it was not my first choice. I have been there less then a week and when I applied the job description said the internship was a minimum of 3 months. Today I got an email from a government agency that is everything I need for my career. If I did not sign a contract and I am not paid, can I get in any serious trouble by quitting my internship early? Is it possible they would not let me leave?

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    Please tell us what country/state you are in. – DJClayworth Jan 19 at 17:48
  • Even with paid positions, the first few months are usually probationary (in most countries at least), i.e. you can leave or be let go without a grace period. Sure, you might burn bridges but for an unpaid position that is not even that beneficial to your career I'd say just quit and don't worry about it. – Peter Jan 19 at 19:00
  • state your country if possible – Fattie Jan 19 at 19:46
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    Voting to close this until you specify at least your country. Asking "Is it possible they would not let me leave?" makes me think you are in a jurisdiction/country unlike most we are used to. – nvoigt Jan 20 at 11:19

This is general internship advice. I know nothing about law firms specifically.

It would generally be bad form, and the company may hold it against you.

But you're also an unpaid intern. Less than a week into said internship. If you quit gracefully then they probably won't hold it against you, and will have forgotten all about you within a couple of weeks.

If you quit tomorrow, it may even be early enough for them to offer a place to someone who didn't initially make the cut (assuming you went through some kind of selection process to get this internship in the first place).

Just make sure you actually have a job offer, contract-in-hand, from this agency before you quit.

I've seen more than a few questions about government hiring where the timespan between "we want to hire you" and actually arriving for your first day is longer than your entire internship would be.

Alternatively, they may be open to you starting in 11 weeks rather than today. It probably won't hurt to ask.

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    This question is specifically about the legal field. – Fattie Jan 19 at 23:53
  • @Fattie You make a good point – Kaz Jan 20 at 9:55

In most countries, this is completely OK and normal in the legal field - they expect it.

They will be happy for you. Alert them immediately. Enjoy.

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    That seems to be a sweeping generalization. I have not heard of it in my countries legal field (though I'm not in that field myself, it's just my friends bubble). Maybe you can add a few countries as examples where you are certain it's okay and normal? – nvoigt Jan 20 at 11:18

Quitting an unpaid internship early shouldn't damage your career in any way, and will probably never be brought up again.

I would strongly advise you have signed the contract with the government job first though. You do not want to quit and then end up with nothing.


Not sure about law firms specifically, but IMHO leaving unpaid internship is not an issue.

One thing thou, i wouldn`t suggest disclosing the specific reason for leaving, state a generic one as vague as possibly acceptable

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