Clerkships are short internships with a law firm, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. They can be an essential step in eventually gaining a graduate legal job with a law firm.

Who can apply?

Usually, firms are looking for law students in their penultimate (second last) year of study. This way, if they are happy with the students’ performance, they will be offered a graduate job after completing their final year.

The Clerkship Process

The most common type of clerkship is a summer clerkship (over the summer holidays).

  1. Apply for a clerkship on the firm’s website. This is usually an online form (or you may be asked to apply via email). You will need to upload your resume/CV and a cover letter (detailing your interest in working for the firm and why). You may have to answer some questions and/or undertake tests (personality or psychometric).
  2. Applications are scrutinised by firms. Firms look at factors such as university marks (anyone on a credit or above is encouraged to apply, there’s nothing to lose!), extra-curricular activities, volunteering and various skills developed by the individual.
  3. Next, the remaining applicants are interviewed.
  4. Finally, based on those interviews, the successful applicants will be told that they have been chosen.

When to apply?

The application dates and the actual clerkship periods differ by state. In general, the dates for each state/territory are:

  • Apply in June/July of your penultimate year
  • Clerkship runs from late November to early December (10 weeks, with 2 week break at Christmas
  • Apply in June/July of your penultimate year
  • There are three different clerkship periods available, each lasting 3 weeks: November (penultimate year), February (final year) and June (final year).
  • Apply in February of your penultimate year.
  • There are three different clerkship periods available, each lasting 4 weeks: June (penultimate year), November (penultimate year) and January (final year).

Which firms to apply to?

Law firms are sorted into categories based on size and specialities:

Top-tier

These are the largest firms in Australia and have a global presence. They conduct services in all areas of law. The top six law firms which are usually categorised as top-tier are:

  • Allens Linklaters
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Ashurst
  • Minter Ellison
  • Clayton Utz

Mid-tier

These firms are still quite large. They may choose to only operate some legal services as opposed to covering all legal areas.

Boutique Law Firms

These firms tend to be smaller and operate in one specialised area of the law (e.g. technology law).

Small Suburban Firms

These are small firms that deal with general legal matters (e.g. criminal law, family law, commercial law) at a smaller scale.

Government Legal Work

You can be employed in various government departments in a legal capacity (e.g. Attorney-General’s Office, ATO, ASIC).

In-house Legal Work

More and more companies now have their own legal department within the company.

 

Learn more about these firms:

Go to the Inside Sherpa website for more information about some of these firms: https://www.insidesherpa.com/firms

Also don’t forget to check out the individual websites of the firms.

Inside Sherpa also offer ‘virtual internships’ which allow students to take a short internship online, by completing tasks that simulate work in a real law firm. These virtual internships allow students that are not in their penultimate year to gain an insight into work in a law firm. There are virtual law internships for: Minter Ellison, and King Wood & Mallesons. Find out more here: https://www.insidesherpa.com/