Issue 12, Semester 2, 2019
This article is based on my experience clerking at an unsafe law firm, going to market and securing a grad role and summer work. Based on my experiences, I hope that the following advice might be helpful to anybody currently struggling with the clerkship process.
If you get a clerkship
Great! Enjoy it, and try your best to secure a graduate role. But, the law firm also needs to sell itself to you. If they don’t, they aren’t truly invested in their clerks. Try to meet a range of people and find out what the grad experience is really like.
A lot can go wrong during a clerkship — and I don’t just mean typos in your research memo. Here are a few of the kinds of issues I experienced.
I personally had to use all of these services during my clerkships!
If you can, leave other support services that you found useful during your clerkship in the comments, to help those who are about to start clerkships and promote safe work environments.
If you receive a priority offer that you want
Congratulations! Ensure that you have truly thought about your experiences, and if it is the right place for you. Don’t try to glamourise your experience, be clear on how you felt when you were working there. If it’s a good place for you — take it!
If you receive a priority offer you don’t want
Don’t take it! This may sound crazy, as I was told in almost every interview I did. However, I found a firm that was truly respectful of my decision, without knowing how bad my experience really was, and appreciated that I was making the right career decision for me. Everyone who knew of my experience told me to stay as far away from the firm as possible.
Turning down a priority offer was not easy. I can’t live at home and fully support myself, so I understood the financial pressures that came along with this experience. Because, if I didn’t have a job to start early next year — well, that just wasn’t financially an option for me. But you really should not work at a firm where you feel unsafe.
Keep networking! The legal industry is small — everyone knows everyone. It may sound corny, and may be awkward, but when you meet somebody interesting, be confident and ask to have coffee with them. I have emailed a number of partners out of the blue, and more often than not they want to meet students who take a genuine interest in their work. Ensure that you present well for all networking opportunities — every time you meet a partner it has the potential to lead to work. Don’t be afraid to ask if paralegal work is an option.
If you’re applying for a graduate market position
You’ve already been successful in the clerkship application process, you can do it again. Make sure you have a convincing reason as to why you didn’t accept a priority offer. I was asked this question six times in a row in one interview.
If you don’t receive a clerkship offer
There are many law firms that don’t do clerkships, yet offer graduate or paralegal work. This may require venturing beyond the CBD, but this won’t degrade the experience. If anything, I found working at a small law firm great and received great exposure to interesting legal work in a short period of time. Think outside the box for legal internships. Find somewhere that you are genuinely interested and passionate about. Avoid the competitiveness by forging your own path!
Not everything about clerking is great. You are still working in the legal industry which still has serious issues it needs to improve on in order to develop safe workplaces. There is a chance that you will see the issues that are spoken about at MLS in practice. Arm yourself with lots of support, and knowledge on how to access services before starting.
Take care xxx
Anonymous is a Third Year JD Student.