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This art­icle was ori­gin­ally pre­pared for The Gavel, with Tommy Chen con­trib­ut­ing.

A sum­mer clerk­ship. Many see it as a tick­et to the job they’ve always wanted. Here are some tips that might help you along.

Applying for a clerkship

Tip #1: Focus on around half a dozen firms. You might apply for slightly more or slightly less, but you must be the wager­ing kind if you only apply for one or two, and the weight of cock­tail nights and oth­er events will kill you if you apply for a dozen or more (and you get them all). Qual­ity is bet­ter than quant­ity: spend time on each of your applic­a­tions instead of spread­ing out your time like pea­nut but­ter. If you think a large firm is for you, maybe pick one or two smal­ler ones (and vice versa): you might like what you see!

Tip #2: Don’t do it at the last minute. If you’re the kind who leaves your assign­ment till the last minute (like me!), be warned.

Tip #3: Make your applic­a­tion com­pel­ling. Per­son­al­ise each applic­a­tion for each firm, focus­ing on why that firm is the firm for you — even if you say that to every firm. Is there a reas­on why you’re apply­ing to them, apart from the fact that you’ve heard of their name before and you think they’re big? Com­mon dif­fer­ences between firms include the loc­a­tions in which they prac­tice and the areas of law they focus on. The law firm pro­files in the careers guides will often state selec­tion cri­ter­ia, per­haps impli­citly; try and address each and every one of those cri­ter­ia in your cov­er let­ter.

Tip #4: These are com­mer­cial law firms. Sure you might be attrac­ted to their pro bono prac­tices or their work-life bal­ance or what not, but don’t for­get you are apply­ing to a com­mer­cial law firm. These places do such inter­est­ing things as write con­tracts, sue oth­er people who break those con­tracts and give advice at the whim of their cli­ents. So what attracts you to a com­mer­cial law firm? Is it the fact that you find a buzz from work­ing on Big Import­ant Deals with Big Import­ant Cli­ents? Or is it because you find the prac­tic­al aspect of the law com­pel­ling?

Tip #5: Reflect. In the inter­view, you may be asked to explain some­thing you’ve writ­ten on your CV. Noth­ing sells bet­ter than a coher­ent, com­pel­ling story that shows a bit of you and what skills you pos­sess.

Tip #6: First impres­sions mat­ter. There’s no need to sculpt your hair like a work of art, but make sure you look neat, pro­fes­sion­al and awake.

Tip #7: Con­sult the CLSS Careers Guide. We wrote it just for you. Find it at www​.usydclss​.com/​C​a​r​e​e​r​s​_​G​u​i​d​e​_​2​009.

The offer

Con­grat­u­la­tions, you’ve got a couple of offers. How do you pick?

Tip #1: Keep ask­ing ques­tions. The food and drink are usu­ally good at cock­tail nights, but they’re there for you to ask lots of ques­tions. What kind of work will clerks be expec­ted to do? What kind of work is involved in that par­tic­u­lar area of law, as a law­yer or a part­ner even? As an example, I did com­puter sci­ence as my first degree: I had no idea what IT law­yers do, so I grilled away until I was sat­is­fied I under­stood what they did. Ask about some of the big mat­ters that they’ve worked on. Would you be inter­ested to take part in that? You might also want to ask about their train­ing, or over­seas oppor­tun­it­ies if that floats your boat, or you could per­haps even ask the law­yers what they like about their cur­rent firm.

Tip #2: The people. I’m sure every firm says they’re the best for “people” — but their sort of people might not be the kind of people you like to be around. So even if you have an offer from a Big Import­ant Firm with Big Import­ant Cli­ents, what good is that if you can’t stand the people at work? Can you strike a con­ver­sa­tion with them? Do you like them? You’ll also prob­ably see oth­er stu­dents from the same uni­ver­sity as you: what does the selec­tion of can­did­ates tell you about the firm? You may also know some people in the year above you who did a clerk­ship in the last sum­mer: what did they think of the exper­i­ence?

Enoch Lau was a 2008-09 sum­mer clerk at Blake Dawson. Tommy Chen is cur­rently a gradu­ate at UBS.

(Update: Tommy wrote a fol­low-up blog post on clerk­ships.)

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Philip Ruddock's wet dream

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Cat­egor­isa­tion of prop­erty in the com­mon law can be quite com­plex, so here’s a dia­gram to illus­trate the dif­fer­ent types of prop­erty that can exist:

Property in the common law

Each set of sub­cat­egor­ies in the dia­gram above is an exhaust­ive divi­sion of its par­ent cat­egory. All prop­erty is either real or per­son­al prop­erty. Per­son­al prop­erty con­sists of chat­tels real (which includes lease­holds) and chat­tels per­son­al. Chat­tels per­son­al can be divided into choses in pos­ses­sion (such as pens and cars) and choses in action (such as copy­right and a debt).

The dia­gram cap­tures the main divi­sions, but it is pos­sible to fur­ther sub­cat­egor­ise: for example, choses in action can be divided into leg­al and equit­able choses in action. For some areas of the law, oth­er cat­egor­isa­tions might take centre stage, such as the dis­tinc­tion between cor­por­eal and incor­por­eal prop­erty, and move­able and immove­able prop­erty.


In Aus­tralia, for pub­lished works where the author is iden­ti­fi­able, the dur­a­tion of copy­right is 70 years from the death of the author. This applies even if it is work per­formed under employ­ment for a com­pany; even if the com­pany ulti­mately owns the copy­right, the length of copy­right pro­tec­tion is meas­ured by ref­er­ence to the human author’s lifespan.

This can seem rather counter-intu­it­ive for the unini­ti­ated, and for many “com­pany-pro­duced” works, like com­mer­cial soft­ware, it is quite dif­fi­cult to determ­ine the authors of that work, and hence when it will fall into the pub­lic domain.

On the oth­er hand, United States copy­right law has a notion of cor­por­ate author­ship: copy­right expires 70 years after the death of the author (as in Aus­tralia), but for works of cor­por­ate author­ship, copy­right expires 120 years after cre­ation or 95 years after pub­lic­a­tion, whichever is earli­er.

120 years does sound quite extreme, and the U.S. Act that exten­ded pro­tec­tion to this extent has been, per­haps right­fully, chided as the “Mickey Mouse Pro­tec­tion Act” — how­ever, the Aus­trali­an Act isn’t really much bet­ter. If you assume that the aver­age author is 40 years old and dies at 75 years, and cor­por­ate works are pub­lished not long after they are cre­ated, that’s 105 years of copy­right pro­tec­tion on aver­age. And since the dur­a­tion of copy­right of works of joint author­ship (as would be many cor­por­ate works) extends to 70 years after the death of the last sur­viv­ing author, the U.S. Act could, in many cases, res­ult in a short­er copy­right term than under the Aus­trali­an Act. How­ever, if the authors of the work can­not be ascer­tained by reas­on­able inquiry (i.e. for anonym­ous or pseud­onym­ous works, a cat­egory that some cor­por­ate works might fall into), then copy­right only extends to 70 years after pub­lic­a­tion in Aus­tralia.

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I don't think it's time for me to give up my day job yet.

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On 22 April 2009, the High Court of Aus­tralia handed down the decision of IceTV v Nine Net­work Aus­tralia [2009] HCA 14, in which IceTV was held not to have infringed Nine’s copy­right in its weekly sched­ule of pro­grammes, when it used data from them to pop­u­late its elec­tron­ic pro­gramme guides for use on digit­al tele­vi­sions. It was an eagerly awaited decision, as it was expec­ted to cla­ri­fy the extent of the mono­poly that copy­right hold­ers have over their com­pil­a­tions of fac­tu­al data, an issue of import­ance in our data-driv­en eco­nomy.


Nine exec­ut­ives cre­ate a “Weekly Sched­ule” for each week, show­ing the order of pro­grammes on each day (amongst oth­er things), and these sched­ules are sent to the “Aggreg­at­ors”, who pro­duce tele­vi­sion guides for use by the pub­lic. IceTV makes an elec­tron­ic pro­gramme guide called Ice­Guide, but unlike the Aggreg­at­ors, they have no licence from Nine to do so. Instead, to cre­ate their Ice­Guide, an IceTV employ­ee watched lots of tele­vi­sion to cre­ate tem­plates for each sta­tion (pos­sible because tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming tend to be reg­u­lar and pre­dict­able), and week by week vari­ations would then be cor­rec­ted by ref­er­ence to the pub­lic Aggreg­ated Guides. IceTV took time and title inform­a­tion from the Aggreg­ated Guides, as there would have been no oth­er way that they could have found these out before the shows actu­ally screened.

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IceTV won today in its appeal to the High Court over the use of Chan­nel Nine’s TV sched­ules in its elec­tron­ic pro­gram guide product.

Update @ 12:15 PM: See IceTV’s vic­tory blog post, and freshly released, the High Court judg­ment (only 49 pages!).

Update: See my case note and ana­lys­is here.

22 Apr 2009 | 4 comments

The Hong Kong Law Fair will be com­ing to the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney this year, and it’s being coordin­ated by the Chinese Law Stu­dents Soci­ety. Register now to attend, and spread the word!

04 Mar 2009 | No comments

If you’ve ever been to the old law school build­ing in the city at St James, you’ll prob­ably agree that while it may have had great loc­a­tion, loc­a­tion, loc­a­tion, it was most def­in­itely a renovator’s choice find. Cock­roaches, tem­per­at­ure vari­ations nev­er thought pos­sible on plan­et Earth and utterly-frus­trat­ing swiv­el chairs will thank­fully be a thing of the past (mostly any­way — some classes will still be taught at St James). So rejoice, and explore the new law build­ing with me.

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These rank­ings have been updated for 2011!

Oth­er law firm rank­ings go by rev­en­ue, the num­ber of part­ners, or some oth­er meas­ure of big­ness. But in this Web 2.0 world, shouldn’t we be look­ing at what the unwashed masses have to say? In that vein, I am proud to present the 2009 nointrigue​.com Aus­trali­an Law Firm Rank­ings.

The basic idea is that the bet­ter the law firm, the more art­icles there should be on the Inter­net that refer to them. This is sim­il­ar to the idea behind PageR­ank, although I can only find out the PageR­ank of a firm’s web­site to the nearest integer, which is insuf­fi­ciently fine-grained.

I put each of the law firms’ full names through Google in the fol­low­ing format: "law firm name" AND law The name is com­bined with the word law because firms like Gadens have rather com­mon names that could be used in oth­er con­texts.1 The search is restric­ted to Aus­trali­an sites, because inter­na­tion­al firms like Baker & McK­en­zie would be unfairly advant­aged — these rank­ings are meant to be for the Aus­trali­an mar­ket.

Rank­ing Law Firm Page Count Part­ners2
1 Free­hills (*) 20,000 214
2 Mal­lesons Steph­en Jaques (*) 19,600 197
3 Allens Arthur Robin­son (*) 19,500 197
4 Minter Ellis­on (*) 18,600 286
5 Dea­cons3 18,200 133
6 Clayton Utz (*) 17,300 223
7 Hunt & Hunt 15,200 56
8 Blake Dawson4 (*) 14,800 182
9 Corrs Cham­bers West­garth 9,700 120
10 DLA Phil­lips Fox 8,010 164
11 Gadens 6,210 109
12 Mad­docks 6,160 53
13 Baker & McK­en­zie 5,950 91
14 Hold­ing Red­lich 5,720 49
15 Gil­bert + Tobin 4,830 54
16 Sparke Hel­more 4,760 57
17 Middletons 4,260 64
18 Dibbs Abbott Still­man 3,330 68
19 McCul­lough Robertson 3,300 39
20 Arnold Bloch Lei­bler 3,260 28
21 Piper Alder­man 3,080 56
22 Henry Dav­is York 2,510 50
23 TressCox 2,170 48
24 Dav­ies Col­lis­on Cave 1,800 34
25 Her­bert Geer 1,530 47
26 Lander & Rogers 1,400 42
27 HWL Ebsworth 1,310 99
28 Hall & Wil­cox 1,290 27
29 Moray & Agnew 910 53
30 Thom­son Play­ford Cut­lers 335 37
31 Kennedy Strang 252 95

1 This is very rough and some irrel­ev­ant hits might still be returned. How­ever, it appears to be “good enough” via inspec­tion of some of the hits found.
2 The num­ber of the part­ners is stated at 2 Janu­ary 2009, and sourced from the Aus­trali­an Fin­an­cial Review, 12 Decem­ber 2008, page 46.
3 “Dea­con” is a com­mon word and the search with this law firm’s name was par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­at­ic with many irrel­ev­ant hits; the page count is there­fore prob­ably high­er than what it should be.
4 Full dis­clos­ure: I cur­rently work at Blake Dawson as a sum­mer clerk.
* The firms with an aster­isk are the Big Six law firms.

For com­par­is­on, I used the same meth­od­o­logy on UK firms, this time switch­ing the domain to .uk. Clif­ford Chance, with 236 part­ners in the UK, returned 19,000 hits. Link­laters, with 227 part­ners, was second, with 12,800 hits. Thirdly, Fresh­fields Bruck­haus Deringer scored 12,500 hits; it has 219 part­ners and coun­sels, roughly coun­ted from their web­site. Inter­est­ingly, this is the same order as repor­ted by The Law­yer Glob­al 100 2008, which ranks law firms by total rev­en­ue!

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