Melbourne University Law Students' Society

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we try to clear up some FAQs concerning the clerkship process.

What is a clerkship?
- A clerkship is an internship undertaken with a law firm during the holiday period by students in their penultimate year. It is a great opportunity to gain some insight into life as graduate lawyer.

When are the clerkships? What do they mean by Summer 1, 2 etc.?
- Generally, there are three clerkship periods - Nov/Dec (sometimes referred to as 'Summer 1'), Jan/Feb ('Summer 2'), and July ('Winter')
- However, these may vary between firms, therefore, it is important to consult each firm's website.

When do I apply?
- Most commercial firms are signatories to the LIV Guidelines, and thus open applications within a set time period (mid July to early August).
- For dates and firms that subscribe to these guidelines, please visit the LIV Website
- The application period is open for 3 weeks. Please use this time wisely - don’t try and submit all your applications at once.

How many applications do people usually submit?
- This entirely depends on you. Some people only submit one or two applications, while others submit one to every single firm offering a clerkship.
- Note: there is little point in submitting an application half-heartedly as firms will be able to tell if your application is disingenuous.

How does the application process work?
- The first stage is an online application. Every firm will want your CV, cover letter and academic transcript. You may also be asked some questions about yourself or the firm to which you’re applying.
- After applications close, the next stage is interviews. Some firms may begin to contact successful applicants within days; others may take weeks. Contact may be via email, phone, or even text. Interview offers may be sent out over the course of one, or even two, whole days. You may be asked to attend a cocktail night.
- Interviews differ across firms. They may be one-on-one with a partner, HR representatives, or involve 3-4 people interviewing you.
- Clerkship offers will be made successful applicants in October, after a date set by the LIV. If you receive more offers than you want to accept, you’ll have to make your decision within 24 hours.

What do firms ask in the application process?
- Some firms will ask you what are known as ‘behavioural’ questions (e.g. ‘what would you do if you realised you’d submitted something that had a mistake on it?’). Others will simply make your interview a relaxed chat between you and a partner.
- Remember, an interview is the firm’s chance to get to know you as a person.

Will meeting firm reps prior to submitting my application help my chances?
- Meeting firm reps may help in boosting your application - having a familiar name may help push your application over the edge.
- Avoid being too overbearing, however do not be shy, firm reps want to hear from students who demonstrate sincere interest.

Which firms are the ‘top-tier’ firms? What does that even mean?
- There are six firms which are generally considered to be ‘top-tier’: Allens, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, Herbert Smith Freehills, King & Wood Mallesons and Minter Ellison.
- ‘Top-tier’ means the firm is big - big in terms of number of partners, lawyers and offices. This does not necessarily mean that these firms are the best, though of course, top-tier firms are often very good at what they do.
- Legal 500 Australia and Chambers Rankings are great resources to research firm specialties. 

How do I develop commercial acumen?
- Most firms will expect a certain level of commercial awareness, or knowledge of business issues. This is to ensure students are genuinely interested in the work they are doing, which is inherently commercial.
- For ideas on how to develop commercial acumen, see this page for useful links.

What marks do I need?
- There is no universal ‘cut-off’ for clerkships. Higher marks are always preferable, however, plenty of people are successful in getting offers without stellar grades. The more you add to your resume outside of university, the less you have to rely on your marks.

Is it true that some firms only care about Contracts and Property?
- Yes and no. It is definitely favourable to have done well in subjects with direct commercial application like Contracts. That’s not to say that you’re automatically in trouble if this isn’t the case.

Is the process as stressful as it sounds?
- Short answer - yes. It’s really not a great process. Some people find it very competitive and a really difficult period. It’s important, then, to be respectful of those around you. Not everyone may be as successful as you, and not everyone may want to discuss how they are doing.

What is CVMail?
- An online Application Service Provider (ASP) used by most law firms. This means that you only need to upload your Personal/Education/Academic details once.
- Provides detailed information about each law firm using the service, allowing students to gather firm information and do pre-application research

Please email with any further questions (whether to be put up here, or answered privately).

Click here to access the 2018 Seasonal Clerkship Guide.


Please be advised that the information provided is merely advisory and should not be relied upon as fact or professional advice. Furthermore these do not necessarily constitute the views of the Directors or the Melbourne University Law Students' Society. This information is provided free of charge on the understanding that the authors, editors and any persons related to this information are not responsible for the results of their actions or omissions on the basis of any information provided. We encourage those applying for seasonal clerkships to obtain confirmation of all information through the firm itself.