Clerkships - How to Tackle the Application Process


We'd like to start by saying that Summer Clerkships represent ONLY ONE pathway to a career in the legal profession. There are a multitude of other options (so please don't stress)! 

That said, Summer Clerkship programs are the preferred hiring method of Top and Mid Tier corporate law firms, and we've prepared a few tips to help you get through the process. No promises about any potential outcome in terms of the success of your application, but these tips will hopefully help you keep your head in what can be a daunting process.

1. Narrow your field

You've already made the decision to apply for clerkships, so now it's time to decide exactly where you should apply. You might think applying for all participating firms is a good idea, but all this does is encourage you to half-do applications for a number of places. This is the worst way for you to engage with a potential employer!

The first step is to do some serious googling, look up a firm's website, read about some interesting things they've been involved with, check out their LinkedIn, and if you know anyone who works there, ask them if they might be able to spare some of their time to have a quick chat. Find the firms that you relate with most and are genuinely interested in working at, try and narrow it down to around 5. Your interest and authenticity will shine through in your application!

2. Do your research

It's time to do some digging and to find out what the application process at your chosen firms actually looks like. It might seem trivial but building a firm profile before you apply can help you really focus on what a specific firm is looking for. 

You should be looking for key words that keep popping up (they'll tell you a lot about what that firm is looking for), and finding out about the general structure of the process (does it involve a cover letter, questions psychometric testing etc) as well as who you should be addressing your application to. Find the exact careers portal that you will apply through (and save the link!). This research stage is crucial and will let you hone in on what boxes you really need to be ticking for a potential employer.

3. Plan your approach

This means writing a list, creating a spreadsheet, drawing a mind-map (whatever works) and really thinking about how you should tackle this. It's so important to structure your application process (set yourself goals and deadlines), you need to give yourself time to draft your cover letters and answers and time to read them, edit and hopefully get someone else to do the same for you!

Planning means you won't be leaving anything till the end of the month long application window and you'll have the best chance of success.

4. Prepare your application

Your whole application will involve a few different things, and you need to get them all sorted before you're ready to log on and fill in an application for any firm. There's some obvious things you need to consider like writing your CV and Cover Letter(s) and asking the appropriate people to be referees.

But don't forget the little things that are a bit less obvious. A lot of firms will require an official Academic Transcript as part of your application, this is something that you need to order in advance and physically pick up so get it sorted as soon as possible. Some firms will even go as far as requesting your ATAR and HSC results, so make sure you have them handy as well!

5. Time to apply

If you've followed these tips then hopefully you've eased the burden a bit and now you're at the easy part. You get to log on to the appropriate applications portal and fill in all your details (it might take a while the first time, but cvMail and similar sites will save your information, so it will get easier).

The most important thing is that you give yourself time to make your application perfect. Perfect means your application should be the perfect reflection of you, who you are and what you can offer. Don't worry about other people's applications (there will be lots of them), give your potential employer the best chance to see what kind of candidate you are!


Happy applying, for more tips check out the NDSLS Careers Guide and the Clerkship Hub!