What a wonderful time of year: it’s 2018/2019 clerkship season! Students wait anxiously, refreshing their emails, in the hope of receiving a (positive) response. That optimism is soon diminished when our inboxes become bombarded with the following generic email.
Thank you for your application for the 2018/2019 Melbourne Seasonal Clerk Program, unfortunately YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
But why did I get rejected?
I’ve killed myself to maintain a high 70 average. I’ve participated in 72 mooting competitions. I’ve interned within 13 different organisations. I completed the subject Global Lawyer. I’ve worked with the homeless. I went to a public school. I am from a single parent family. I have assisted refugees. I know multiple languages.
These are the qualities of my fellow peers. Yet, despite this we are all being told that this is not good enough.
Are we to blame?
It makes me wonder what an individual has to do to be shortlisted, to be given the opportunity to meet a firm in the hope of showing them an authentic version of ourselves,and what we have to offer - apart from a measly one-page cover letter.
Whilst we are not given the opportunity to have a firm get to know us, we are definitely given the opportunity to sit for 4 hours at a time to complete a bullshit intelligence test within absurd time limits. We are given the opportunity to complete a bullshit diversity questionnaire that actually does not give a shit about your background and INSTEAD is used artificially to show to the corporate world that they have ‘corporate responsibility' and a social conscience.
Whose fault is it then?
The law firms
Whilst you may say that I am a hater due to a lack of successful applications, this is not the case. I am actually writing this to stand up and say that, currently, there is a lack of transparency regarding the process whereby law firms choose their clerks for the season. Many firms in the 21st century pride themselves on looking beyond your WAM, but let’s not be fooled. Your experiences and real-world knowledge are NOTHING if they’re not partnered with a H1 average.
We have been working towards this for the last two 2 years. These firms claim that there are criteria that must be met. But even when these criteria are met, it isn’t good enough. I’m writing this to ask for more transparency…Why am I being rejected? What is the process that you, the law firms, go through to shortlist candidates? Are we playing Tic Tac Toe? How come students are receiving successful offers all at once, and rejection emails don’t arrive until a week later? While those around us are attending a cocktail evening, we are sitting and waiting to hear back from that same firm. For instance, Clayton Utz hosted their cocktail night on the same night I received my rejection email. Allens required me to fill out a diversity questionnaire that clearly shows I am unique and have come from a different path to your average student, but despite their emphasis on diversity, I was still rejected. Is the whole process merely an artifice?
Advice for the law firms
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am sure that students all over Victoria would actually like to know the true nature of the selection processes that are undertaken by the firms. Are we actually being individually considered by a human, or is it a computer that selects and identifies key terms and key grades? Law firms, could you please send me an exemplar application that you have accepted?
Advice to the Universities
During orientation week, university personnel told me that 70% of University of Melbourne graduates would find a job immediately after graduation. Thinking back to this now, it seems highly unlikely that these are the stats in reality.
People may say that there are PLENTY of other opportunities, and that clerkship rejections are not the end of the world. But where else would you like me to find a job? Especially when most of the LIV signatories don’t have opportunities beyond those who have been part of this clerkship program.
Additionally, the uni has convinced us to hand over three times more in fees than the average law student to get the "Melbourne name," as if it's a guaranteed route to any law firm in Melbourne. News flash: it's not. Melbourne spends so much money on advertising and marketing to reel in more students and climb up the higher education institution ranks - yet can't even do basic things like record lectures, give us appropriate study spaces without having to be at our own university before 8 am and most importantly a bloody microwave to warm up our food without waiting 35 mins for other non-law students.
My advice to the university is to tell us and stop feeding us this bullshit and actually give us the TRUTH AND REALITY OF THINGS. If I’d known about this when I first started, I wouldn’t have worked as hard. I wouldn’t have killed myself for the mere hope of a reward.
Advice to the first years?
Hello my clueless friends, here is my advice to you. ENJOY YOURSELVES. You’re probably thinking, “This person here has no idea what they are talking about. Unlike you, I am different and I will work hard and get a clerkship in the near future.” I am really sorry to break it you, but you are lying to yourself. There is no guarantee. There is no certainty. Did anyone tell you that the legal industry is dying? No matter what you do from now until you graduate, you will simply be JUDGED on an arbitrary basis. So, please enjoy yourselves and don’t work yourselves to death like we did.
Law firms care about grades, money and status.
May the odds be ever in your favour!