Updated 17 November 2022
What are law clerkships?
Clerkships are a way to gain hands on legal experience whilst studying and also the strongest pathway to a full time legal graduate position at most top and mid-tier law firms.
If you’re looking to build a career at the top end of the legal profession it is vital that you understand clerkships and make sure that you don’t miss the boat as the law industry does things slightly differently to the rest of the graduate jobs and internships out there.
Clerkships are a one of the best ways to gain real experience in the legal profession as you’ll be given a chance to work under the direct supervision of practicing lawyers and actively participate in a number of things such as:
- Supporting legal teams with their strategic and general decisions
- Undergoing legal research, interpretations and case analysis
- Preparing legal documentation, reports and research reports
- Co-ordinating legal stakeholders and clients within a firm
- Attending hearings and other court related proceedings
Why do I need to do a clerkship?
Many of the top and mid-tier law firms have a strong preference of completing a clerkship with them in order to be eligible for a graduate position offer.
- Priority of Offer – First offers will go to those who have completed a clerkship with the firm and have proven themselves in the workplace
- Open / Second Round Offers – Whilst priority offers will come first, it’s not to say that law firms don’t hire outside of their clerkship pool and after priority offers have been made. There are a number of other things that will factor into these offers with a preference going to those:
- Already working in the firm as a legal assistant or sometimes in the paralegal capacity
- Those who have completed a clerkship elsewhere at a reputable firm
- Those with other relevant legal experience like volunteering in community legal centre’s like RACS
When do clerkships open?
Top and mid-tier law firms in many cases will all open clerkship applications at the same time in accordance with their local law societies - typically in May, June or July. Check out this handy guide from Ashurst with all the clerkship applications deadlines for 2023.
Find the law society for your state:
- The Law Society of NSW
- Law Institute of Victoria
- Queensland Law Society
- The Law Society of Western Australia
- The Law Society of South Australia
- Law Society NT
- The Law Society of Tasmania
If I miss out on a law or legal clerkship, what are my options?
What other law graduate jobs are available outside of the clerkship employers?
- Legal Assistant and Paralegal Positions – These can still help with experience and put you above other people for market / second round graduate offers with preference going to law graduates who have held these positions
- Pro Bono & Volunteer Work – There are a number of community legal centres that take on law graduates and interns giving the opportunity to participate in real, meaningful cases as well as gaining access to established lawyers from a number of firms performing pro-bono work.
- Corporate - Many law graduates don’t always end up at traditional law firms with many large companies running in-house legal teams working on the forefront of business. These opportunities whilst offering careers don’t generally follow the clerkship pathway.
- Government – Similar to corporate opportunities many government agencies both state and federal also have a high demand for legal capability and also take on a number of law graduates in a more traditional recruitment method.
Looking for clerkships? See the open opportunities you can apply for now here.
Need some application advice? See our top tips on applying for law clerkships here.