Recently I’ve been having a back and fourth conversation with Zachary Janowski on twitter about unpaid internships. It was spurred from my comment on a tweet by Daniel Schwartz announcing the sixth circuit tossed out the Department of Labor’s internship test. 140 characters is cramping my style so I am expanding my thoughts in this blog post.
I have had both paid, underpaid, and unpaid internships in a variety of fields during my undergraduate years and now in law school. I have enjoyed and benefitted from all these experiences. I do not regret any of them and to the extent that I have been able to afford them I’d do it again.
In spite of this the Department of Labor headed in the right direction with its policy towards unpaid internships. I believe that generally unpaid internships are poor policy. Interns create value that corporations benefit from, lack of paying internships discourages talent from certain fields, and there is a lack of negotiating symmetry on the part of students and employers. However, I do not think unpaid internships should be outlawed or eliminated. Non-profits should certainly continue to be allowed to offer them. Corporations and government should offer them to the extent they serve as classes or are in partnership with the university where the primary oversight and control is by a professor. Otherwise corporations and governments should be required to pay interns at least minimum wage.