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. A link to the website can be found under Resources. The application period is open for approximately 7 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.
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 to successful applicants on 20 October 2021.
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. Try take an interest in the business news, keep up to date with developments in law and industry in these areas and try to demonstrate that you understand the strategic needs of a business.
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 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.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any further questions (whether to be put up here, or answered privately).