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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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My mobile’s bat­tery is flat, so to call my mum to pick me up from the sta­tion, I’ve turned on my work laptop, con­nec­ted to Tel­stra NextG, con­nec­ted to VPN using my secure token, logged into Cisco IP Com­mu­nic­ator (which emu­lates the IP phones we have on our desks at work) and then made a call using that. That’s pretty cool (but not quite as cool as this).

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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 site:.au. 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

Notes:
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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Red­fern. The name prob­ably evokes memory of the 2004 Red­fern riots and the Abori­ginal enclave in the Block. As with other uni stu­dents who use Red­fern sta­tion, I’m fairly famil­iar with the part to the west of the sta­tion. But what lies to the east? With a cam­era, I set out to investigate.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Do you have excel­lence with rap­port? If not, what <buzzword> with <buzzword> do you have?

29 Nov 2008 | 3 comments

Awww!

Thanks Dan!

And today, I accep­ted the sum­mer clerk­ship offer from Blake Dawson.

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