Clerkships or Legal Internships are something that young law students look forward to later in their degree, and here a lot about throughout our course. However, upon arriving at our penultimate year, we’re confronted with the reality that Clerkship applications are actually a hard-to-navigate nightmare that we never knew existed!
With the close of clerkship season for another year in Queensland, Australia, it’s time to reflect on what things to think about when applying for a clerkship or internship, what to include in your applications, and what not to.
After my years of observing clerkship applications and serving as Careers and Sponsorship Director for my university’s Law Student Association, I’ve been able to curate a shortlist of tips on how to master a clerkship application.
Start your applications early
By starting your applications early, you give yourself the time to research the firms you’re interested in, find where you fit and see if the culture of the firm suits you.
Starting early also gives you the chance to revise and adjust your application throughout the process to ensure you don’t have any careless mistakes! This includes making sure you have correct deadlines too…
Take care in your cover letter
Your application will be read by Graduate Recruiters that read countless applications each day, so you need something to make sure your cover letter doesn’t stand out for the wrong reasons:
• Check for careless typos or mistakes
• Make sure you have addressed the right person and mentioned the right firm
• Address the selection criteria
Remember your cover letter is your personal pitch to the recruiter on why they should hire you. So, use this opportunity to showcase your personal brand and why you would be an asset to their firm!
Remember that Graduate Recruiters can see up to 200+ applications a day! So you need to make sure you’re application isn’t one they forget:
• Highlight your achievements so they know why they should pick you for an interview over another student with the same grades
• Detail what makes you different, i.e. your passions, interests, hobbies. Law firms don’t want students who look good only on paper but have no substance to their personality because they don’t do anything but study. Listing your passions also gives the recruiter an idea of who you are as a person and may give you something a little extra to talk about in your interview! Listing things such as group sports that you play also lets the recruiter know that you’re good with teamwork and communication
• Emphasise any prior experience/overseas studies. Often legal experience or admission to overseas studies are highly competitive and hard to come by, so listing any prior experience you have (even volunteer work at a Community Legal Centre) will assist your application.
Effort goes a long way
Although applications are stressful and may be daunting, the effort that goes into them is demonstrated in the application. A recruiter can tell the difference between a thought-out application and a template, so put in the effort, and you’ll reap your rewards.
Update your resume
It’s a given to make sure your resume is up to date when applying for new jobs, but it should be checked to make sure your GPA and extracurriculars are up to date too. We also know that we should be catering our cover letter to each application; however, it’s sometimes forgotten that your resume should be updated for each application too! Depending on the firms you apply to and in which areas they specialise, it might be a good idea to highlight particular areas of your experience or interests. This will make it easier for recruiters to see how you’re a perfect fit for the firm when looking through applications.
Research the firm!
Recruiters and interviewers are going to expect you to know about the firm you’re applying for, so research their most notable cases, the sectors they specialise in, and the practice areas specialised at the office you’re applying to. A good way to learn and check these things is by meeting the firm at a careers fair or networking events, researching their website or speaking to alumni from your university who currently work there! Meeting these people and making these connections, you’ll be able to name-drop them in your application.
(Rule) Whenever namedropping someone, make sure you actually know them and that they know you as the recruiter will almost definitely ask this person about you, and if you’ve over-embellished how well you know this person, it won’t work in your favour.
Finally, this application is about you, so make it your own! These tips aren’t the be-all-end-all. And the same goes for clerkships. Clerkships are highly competitive, and there are thousands of applicants for only about eight positions, so if you don’t get the job, don’t stress. It doesn’t mean you won’t get any job or that you aren’t good enough. It just means you didn’t get this one and in no way reflects your applications for the future. So keep trying, keep applying and don’t let clerkship applications take over your life. A clerkship isn’t the only way into a firm. You’ll still find your way into the legal industry and become the lawyer you were meant to be!
Emma is a law student studying a Bachelor of Laws in Queensland, Australia. Emma runs an Instagram account documenting her journey studying law, where you can find more content like this. @emstudies.law.