Students who are looking to improve their chances of securing graduate employment in the legal industry, particularly within private practice, should be looking to complete a clerkship in their penultimate year of study. Most mid to top-tier law firms require you to undertake their clerkship program if you want to work there as a graduate.
In a nutshell, a traditional clerkship is a summer program that gives you a taste of what it's like to work in a multi-disciplinary professional services firm. The majority of law firms offer a formal program that ranges from 4-15 weeks long.
What are the types of work you'll be doing?
Clerkship programs provide you with unlimited access to opportunities for learning, professional growth, and career advancement. You will also be exposed to formal training programs focussing on practice specific skills, general legal research skills and how to build your professional network. Every day as a clerk is an opportunity to make connections with colleagues, including your fellow clerks or your supervisors, which will provide you with a strong network to take with you into your legal career.
Some of the common work tasks include:
- Conducting legal research, interpretations and analysis
- Drafting and preparing legal documents
- Organising and tracking case files
- Writing client memos
- Attending meetings and court with lawyers
Even if you have performed highly in your law degree thus far, you are likely to be new to working within a large law firm. As such you will generally find that the expectations of your supervisors will be adjusted to take this into consideration. However, if you do ask for more challenging tasks you may be lucky enough to be assigned these tasks:
- Recording client meetings and drafting daily correspondence, including letters and legal document
- Co-ordinating legal stakeholders and clients within a firm
- Assisting with the preparation of matters for hearings
As a summer clerk, you will generally have the opportunity to rotate between different practice areas so that you get exposure to a variety of learning opportunities. These practices may include:
- Commercial disputes
- Dispute resolution
- Public Law
- Family law
- Employment, workplace and safety
- Banking and finance Financial services
- Corporate, mergers and acquisitions
- Construction, property, real estate and projects
- Environment and planning
- Intellectual property
- Technology, media and telecommunications
- Pro bono
How do they benefit you?
With intense competition in what is sometimes referred to as the 'law school hunger games', securing a clerkship will have a significant impact on your chances of securing graduate employment at a law firm. Here are just some of the added benefits:
- Exposure to real client work and a structured learning program
- Opportunity to meet people that are invested in helping you succeed and learn about their career journeys
- Helps you decide whether it is the right career for you
- Allows you to build networks and develop valuable skills
- Increases your chances of securing a graduate position