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A M I C U S Clerkship Reflections Edition: August 2018

La Trobe Law Students’ Association


LA TROBE UNIVERSITY

LAW STUDENTS’ ASSOCIATION © La Trobe Law Students’ Association 2018 All materials contained in this guide are subject to copyright. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in its unaltered form only for personal and non-commercial purposes only. All rights are reserved apart from uses as permitted by the Copyright Act 1968. Contributed work may be subject to respective copyright. Please contact the author for permission to reproduce any material. DISCLAIMER. The views and opinions expressed within this publication are not necessarily reflective of those held by the La Trobe Law Students’ Association or its agents. The LSA has endeavoured to ensure that all information provided in this guide is correct at the time of publication and we take no responsibility for any misprints. We emphasize that it is the students’ responsibility to confirm the validity of any information provided including firm contact details, dates for applications and clerkship period.

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Past Student Reflection: Mariam Francis The clerkship process, albeit one of the most stressful processes I have ever gone through, has easily been the most rewarding and enjoyable experience. Being able to gain exposure into the legal industry – specifically the corporate world – is instrumental in helping you assess the path you want to take your career in. It is also a fantastic way of making invaluable contacts in the profession and getting your foot in the door. Even if your interests do not lie in commercial law, you should still consider applying. It is a common misconception that clerkships are only for work in the commercial sphere; but there are a number of other organisations and entities that offer clerkships. These include government organisations, criminal law firms and personal injury law firms. However, my main point as to why you should consider applying for clerkships is: why not? The process and what you experience can be very unexpected, so you never know what might happen! Before starting my applications, I began my research into all of the firms that interested me. My starting point for this was the LIV Guidelines signatories list, which contains most firms that offer clerkships. It is also important to note that there are some firms offering clerkships that are not signatories to the LIV Guidelines, so you should consult their websites to see the important dates for their clerkship processes. I first conducted research into all the firms, which included researching online and chatting to people about the prominent practice areas of the firm. From there I created a ‘yes’ and a ‘maybe’ list of firms. ‘Yes’, being the applications I would spend the most time on, and ‘maybe’ being the ones I would get to after I had submitted applications to my preferred firms. There is no right or wrong in terms of the number of firms to apply to. Many people take a fishnet approach and submit as many as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I definitely decided to take a more selective approach in fear of submitting generic applications. It is so important to submit tailored applications to each firm rather than

generic cover letters and answers. Each firm has particular areas of focus and it is important that you are able to tailor the way you discuss your experiences and interests depending on the firm you are applying to. The best piece of advice that I received for both the applications and interviews is to just be myself. As cliché as it sounds, it is the one thing that I never changed, and it was a mantra I kept repeating in my head. It is important that firms are able to get to know who you really are, your interests and your experiences. There’s no point pretending to be someone you’re not and then ending up at a firm which you will inevitably dislike working at. My final piece of advice is to try and look after yourself and your wellbeing during this time. It is a competitive and time-consuming process, so I would even suggest taking a lighter study load or working less during the application process. I also did receive multiple rejections, and chances are that most people applying will. Don’t let a fear of rejection stop you from applying! It is an inevitable part of the process and the industry that we are in. After all the cocktail nights, interviews, psychometric tests and assessment centres, I was lucky enough to receive multiple offers on offer day. I chose to clerk at three top tier firms that I believed would suit me best and each experience has been absolutely incredible. I have met so many great people, have made life-long friends and it has been a wonderful opportunity to dip my toes into the commercial world. I would highly recommend giving it a shot and wish you all the best!

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Past Student Reflection: Thomas Clark As a graduate-entry student I definitely felt that the whole clerkship process came out of nowhere. I had just begun to finally feel settled into life at law school, one and a half years in, when suddenly I had to seriously consider my life after study. Benefits of Clerkships So why apply for clerkships? While the process is undoubtedly stressful, and clerkships may not be for everyone, the positives cannot be overlooked. For many people the primary purpose of clerkships is that you have the opportunity to be selected for a priority offer for the firm’s graduate programs. Many firms that offer clerkships now recruit most, if not all of their graduates from their clerkship pool. This isn’t to say clerkships are in anyway the be all and end all, but they can offer a fast-track into certain firms and positions. Another key benefit of clerkships is that they enable you the opportunity to experience life in different types of law firms and in different areas of law without being committed long term. If you’re anything like me, before applying for clerkships I really had no idea of what type of firm I wanted to end up at, or what type of law I wanted to practice in. While the majority of clerkships are offered by large and medium commercially focused firms, if this isn’t really your thing, other clerkships opportunities are also out there such as with government and plaintiff firms. A further, often forgotten advantage of the clerkship process is that it is the perfect opportunity to work on your application and interview skills before final year graduate applications come. If you get nothing else from the process this alone is invaluable. Even where your application has been unsuccessful many firms are happy to give feedback letting you know where you can improve, and as with most things, your application writing and interviewing skills will only improve with practice.

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Application Process The application process itself can unfortunately be stressful, and very time consuming – but it gets better the more you do. You’ll get quicker and more comfortable refining your cover letters, answering application questions and completing online assessments. Also, keep in mind that everyone else is also struggling with fun questions like how to describe a time they demonstrated their ‘commerciality’ and ‘ability to meet numerous competing deadlines at once’ as much as you are. My first tip is to keep track of everything, I personally used a spreadsheet and calendar. Initially it all seems pretty easy with the application dates being set by the LIV – however things can pretty quickly escalate if your fortunate enough to have multiple invitations to complete further online assessments, interviews and cocktail nights. From experience I can tell you it’s not fun to be emailing HR about a deadline date for an assessment that you missed. Secondly, when writing your cover letters and resume (or even considering whether to apply at all) don’t discount your past experiences. Different firms and people place value on different things. We’re all still law students – most places don’t expect us to have 2 years of private practice experience. Experience in customer service roles such as hospitality and retail can be just as important. For one interviewer my past experience at an animal shelter was what stood out. Finally, keep an open mind. The clerkship process is just as much about you figuring out what firms are the best fit for you – as it is about firms figuring out who is the best fit for them. Best of luck to everyone!


Past Student Reflection: James Bergus The clerkship process; the dreaded hunger games to aspiring lawyers’ entry into commercial law that brings with it uncertainty and, at least for myself, the looming feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing. Every year, thousands of law students go through this stressful, time-consuming and emotional process. Through sharing my own clerkship experience I hope that I can provide some useful tips to help navigate the process and ease (at least some) of the unavoidable stress. Before commencing the application process, it is crucial to identify the law firms that you will be applying to. Many students take the strategy of only applying to a few selected firms and ‘handcrafting’ each cover letter. Although each firm cover letter must be tailored, there is no perfect formula; if there was, you would of heard about it by now. The current reality is that the legal graduate market is oversupplied and incredibly competitive. In my own experience, the best method is to apply as far and wide (even beyond LIV signatories) as you can to give yourself the greatest possible opportunity of securing a clerkship. Another tip, although somewhat generic, is to ensure that you standout from the countless other applicants. This is something that you should have been working on throughout your law degree. I would recommend trying to obtain as diverse a range of experiences (legal and non-legal) as you can. These could be volunteering, charity work, law school competitions, tutoring, the list goes on. Don’t be afraid to talk about something unique – this will only help you standout! These experiences will not only assist you in writing your cover letters but also allow you to demonstrate your diverse skillset. Firms are looking for well-rounded students who demonstrate a range of capabilities in addition to the conventional good grades.

genuinely interested in the work that they do and have a passion for the law. Each firm will be reviewing hundreds of applications and therefore it is crucial that you catch their attention with a unique and genuine answer. The key to achieving a unique and welltailored application is simply to prepare in advance. This allows you to seek feedback on your applications from friends, family and mentors as well as providing time to research each firm, which will strengthen your application and give you more information to draw upon in your interview. Once you have your foot in the door, the next step is interviews. Unfortunately, this is not an exact science. It is important at this stage that you research in greater detail why you’re interested in each particular firm and can articulate this clearly. You will find that each firm has a different style of interview – some very structured and others feeling like a casual conversation. I would recommend avoiding scripting any answers. For myself, I focused on my CV and ensured that I had a story for each point and could relate my experiences to key attributes e.g. teamwork, innovation, conflict, motivation. While you won’t be able to script answers to every single question, there are certainly themes. Common and expected questions include “why commercial law”, “why our firm”, and “what areas of law interest you and why”. Overall, I would highly recommend the clerkship process to all law students. The process, irrespective of the outcome, provides an opportunity for you to hone your application and interview skills, which will only serve you in the long run. Trust in your abilities, use them with all of the resources you have available and this will put you in the best possible position for the clerkship period. I wish you all the best of luck!

Most importantly, link the skills and interests that you have obtained to each of the firms. Firms are looking for candidates that are

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Acknowledgements With special thanks to: Mariam Francis Thomas Clark James Bergus La Trobe Law Students’ Association: Publications Officer , Matthew Dawson Director of Publications, Alec Deasey Graphic Designer, Patrick Wuong

Amicus 2018 - Clerkship Reflection Edition  

The LSA sends its best wishes to all penultimate year students who applied for seasonal clerkships over the last month. In the latest editio...

Amicus 2018 - Clerkship Reflection Edition  

The LSA sends its best wishes to all penultimate year students who applied for seasonal clerkships over the last month. In the latest editio...

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