clerk­ship

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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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Gadens Law­yers have caught the atten­tion of many a law stu­dent with their out­rageous approaches to mar­ket­ing them­selves as an attract­ive, pro­gress­ive employ­er.

This year was no dif­fer­ent, and I couldn’t res­ist snatch­ing their advert from a law school notice­board (after the applic­a­tions have closed) to bring you a choice selec­tion of altern­at­ive applic­a­tion meth­ods. Sat­is­fy­ing any of the fol­low­ing would, appar­ently, “entitle you to an instant inter­view”:

  1. List the middle names of all the part­ners of Gadens Sydney as at 30 June 2008
  2. Draft your applic­a­tion entirely in prose, in the format of Dr Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”
  3. Accom­pany your applic­a­tion with an Elle Woods style applic­a­tion DVD.

The fli­er then says, “Attempt­ing to sat­is­fy all 3 cri­ter­ia is just plain show­ing off.”

I was actu­ally curi­ous enough to look into these three cri­ter­ia. First, the middle names: their web­site has a list of part­ners in Sydney, but I saw no middle names. I sus­pect you’d either have to be an insider or know an insider (in which case, you’re look­ing good any­way), or email each and every one of them and risk suf­fer­ing their wrath.

For the second one, I may just be a phil­istine, but I’ll admit that I had to look up the Green Eggs and Ham ref­er­ence.

Enoch I am
I am Enoch
I am Enoch
Enoch I am

That Enoch-I-am!
That Enoch-I-am!
I do not like
that Enoch-I-am!

Do you like
bor­ing old law firms?

I do not like them,
Enoch-I-am.
I do not like
bor­ing old law firms.

OK, I give up — espe­cially after find­ing out from Wiki­pe­dia that the entire book is writ­ten using only 50 dif­fer­ent words.

Finally, while I have observed that a num­ber of select indi­vidu­als at law school would fit right into the set of Leg­ally Blonde, I sus­pect they have at least some meas­ure of self-dig­nity. But law stu­dents prove me wrong all the time.

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