Victorian clerkship season is here! Having gone through the process ourselves, we can attest to how challenging and stressful the process can be. We want to assist you through it. Together, we have collaborated to produce the ‘Clerkship Journey Map’, a start-to-finish guide designed to build employable, resilient, and self-aware clerkship applicants.
The guide contains nine short articles that include our first-hand insight to the process, strategies on how to manage and strengthen your applications, and what to do if you don’t receive an offer. We firmly believe that this guide will help you with your overall employability and serve you beyond Clerkship Offer Day.
In this article, we pull out some of our best tips from the Clerkship Journey Map.
1. Reflect on your motivations
Before you start your applications, answer the following questions:
- Why are you applying for clerkships?
- What kind of work do you enjoy doing?
- What subject at law school did you enjoy / dislike the most?
Are you applying for clerkships because it’s part of law school convention, or have you decided that law is the pathway you wish to pursue? Typically, law schools market clerkships with large commercial firms. Have you considered whether commercial law is something you would be interested in?
You don’t need a rock solid, immovable answer to this question. After all, career interests and passions change over time. However, you need to have at least reflected on why you are about to invest hours of your time into the process. Even having a tentative reason, like ‘I enjoy working in fast-paced environments, so think I might be interested in commercial law’ is a helpful starting point.
2. Know your strengths
Identify your strengths and the corresponding life experiences that have helped you develop those strengths. Are you known as a hardworking person? How did you gain this reputation? Did you have to work throughout University to support yourself? Consider positive attributes about yourself and the different contexts where you have demonstrated and strengthened these qualities.
After identifying these strengths and contexts, consider how you can use different aspects of the clerkship application process, like cover letter, resume, and interviews, to showcase them. Read our Clerkship Journey Map for a full break-down on when to merely highlight each attribute, and when to expand on them.
3. Pace yourself
The clerkship process is time-consuming and draining, so stay organised and pace yourself.
It is helpful to set a daily and weekly timeline. For example, having a set number of applications to complete by the end of the day or week can help you prioritise your time and ensure you are meeting your goals. An Excel spreadsheet is useful in helping you organise the troves of information you collect throughout the process, including key dates, the firms you have shortlisted, and the practice groups of interest within each firm.
On the flip side, recognise that this is a tiring process, and that you have a finite amount of time and energy. Therefore, don’t berate yourself if you fall off the wagon once in a while. Reflect on your capacity throughout the process. If it gets too overwhelming, re-set your expectations and workload, and start again.
Networking is important, and not as scary as you think. We provide tips on how to broaden and deepen your networks in the Clerkship Journey Map.
Brainstorm a list of everyone and anyone you know in the industry. This can include past law clerks, current graduates, lawyers, acquaintances, and friends of friends. We found reaching out via LinkedIn or email to be the most effective way to connect with these people. Articulate who you are, why you’re interested in their work, and humbly request some time to discuss those interests.
Remember, people are more willing to help than not! We both experienced an extremely high success rate of lawyers and firm representatives who were willing to give up their valuable time to speak to us and assist us throughout the process, even providing feedback on our cover letters.
5. Formulate a Plan B
We know this will not be the most popular tip, but we want to give it to you anyway!
Consider: What options do you have if you do not receive a clerkship offer?
Firstly, if you miss out on a clerkship during your penultimate year, remember that you still have your final year to apply for graduate roles at firms that go out to market. Additionally, many firms and businesses often advertise on job sites for paralegals, law clerks, legal research, or legal assistant positions. Starting off in these jobs will provide a solid base for legal practice and increase your chances of attaining a junior lawyer role if / when they come up.
Secondly, you can consider alternative career paths. For example, you might be open to working in-house, interning at a government department, working at a legal tech organisation, or undertaking Practical Legal Training (PLT) whilst you search for jobs. We both have friends who entered the law through a variety of pathways, not through clerkships, and with where they ended up.
Clerkships are but one way of gaining full-time employment. There are many viable pathways to end up in the firm or organisation you want to be in.
In our Clerkship Journey Map, we put these five tips (and more) into a helpful framework that will assist you throughout your clerkship journey. Our hope is that you reflect on your unique strengths, persevere through the process, and reap benefits that extend beyond Offer Day. You can read more about it, and find our contact details, here.