Posts Tagged ‘vacation scheme’

University of Sydney Hong Kong Law Fair 2012

March 8th, 2012 No comments

The Hong Kong Law Fair at the University of Sydney is on again for 2012! A must-see event for any law student aspiring to an international career:, and here’s the Facebook event page:


Update: added link to event page on CLSS website

Clerkship season – my thoughts

August 9th, 2009 6 comments

The long climb up? - Sydney Law SchoolEnoch has kindly credited me in his excellent article about the clerkships process – I must admit that my contribution to that article consisted of about 5 words and one set of parentheses.

(For those not familiar with the context, the vacation clerkship program, run every summer, is the primary route of recruitment for mid-to-large-sized law firms in Sydney.)

These are excellent tips, though, and it’s recommended reading for all the keen baby lawyers out there. I thought, however, that I’ll also share a few of my thoughts on the clerkships process.

#1: Take it seriously, but not too seriously. Some would see the clerkships process as a single, crowded drawbridge across the chasm between struggling law student and high-flying corporate lawyer. Others don’t seem fussed about it at all. It’s important to have a realistic sense of how important the process is.

The clerkship process is important. For those whose parents are not judges or an important client of a major law firm, it is the best and – despite the many hurdles set in the path – the easiest path to a job at a commercial law firm. Unfortunately, the profession in Sydney places far too great a significance on a start at a commercial law firm. In some respects, a clerkship becomes a badge rather than what it should be – a chance to find out whether you and commercial law make a good couple. As a result, though there are many paths forward, and many paths to commercial law, if your interests swing that way, the clerkship is significant for a law student because it is the easiest way to earn that badge. If you do not put your best – and smartest – effort into the clerkships process, you may end up spending twice or three times the effort to score a graduate job – efforts subject to all the vicissitudes of the market. So start preparing early (ideally, a year early), talk to everyone, read everything, and carefully think through every decision you make in this process.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that a clerkship is not the be-all and end-all of starting your career. There are many other paths to commercial law: as a graduate, after a further degree, as a qualified lawyer, or as a foreign lawyer. Remember, also, that commercial law is not for everyone. It is neither particularly remunerative in the first few years, nor does it offer work life balance as a matter of course. Does working on internationally significant commercial transactions for large corporations float your boat? If it doesn’t, happiness might be just an application (to the public or community sector) away. So don’t fret if the clerkships process and the competition seem a little daunting – there could well be a better path out there.

#2: A successful clerkship application must be balanced but stand out in some way. What does it take to get a clerkship offer? Some firms are rumoured to look only at marks; others supposedly only hire law society executives. In truth, all firms look for a combination of things. For the majority, being well-balanced is key. Academic results, work experience, extracurricular activities, quality of writing (in the application form and in the cover letter), as well as maintaining a good impression in the interview – all combine to make a successful application. To ensure an offer, however, an applicant should be stand-out in at least one area – some quality or experience that helps you to make it past the “maybe” pile into the “yes” pile. For those who are organised, it may be worthwhile cultivating that stand-out quality in the months or year before the clerkship process.

#3: Focus on a few firms, and try as many paths as possible. The clerkship application process is stressful, intense, and time-consuming; a quality application takes a lot of effort and time to perfect. It is prudent to apply for a good number of firms, but anything more than half a dozen will probably be a serious strain on your life. Anything more than a dozen is not for the faint-hearted. Applying for too many firms not only means more applications to draft, check, and customise – it also means that you may find it difficult to remember all the facts about each firm when you front up for the interview. A cover letter carrying the wrong firm’s name is almost certainly the biggest no-no. While not as dramatic, a bland, generic application does not impress the reader, either.

The second part of this item is that it’s a good idea to try as many things as possible. As Enoch mentioned, while a giant law firm might seem the perfect, glamorous workplace, it is not ideal for everyone – indeed, it is not ideal for most people. On the other hand, while a small firm might advertise its great atmosphere and work-life balance, you may find its work a little, well, less than exciting. The clerkship process is a chance to check out the options on offer, and you never know what you might find.

#4 Talk to as many people as possible. Before and during the clerkship process, talking to those who have gone before is a good way of avoiding pitfalls that others have encountered. During the clerkship process, talking to others can shed light on the realities of life and work with your potential employer. All the marketing talk thrown at you during the process are also best read when filtered through a competitor’s interpretation. Firm-organised cocktail parties and other events are a good chance to meet and talk to the lawyers in the flesh – they are primarily for the applicant’s benefit, and only secondarily for the firm to spot outstanding candidates. While it may seem an elusive prospect while you are stressed by the interview process, this information will come in handy when you do need to choose between competing offers. Talking to many people also has benefits beyond the process – whether or not you choose the particular firm in the end, the relationships you forge through the interview process can build or extend your network in the profession.

Finally – this is not strictly speaking a tip – keep track of which firm is offering the best food during the process. It’s something fun to focus on when your mind needs a break from the stress of the process!


Tommy completed vacation clerkships at two law firms in London and an Australian law firm in Melbourne, and completed his practical legal training at a community legal centre and a corporate general counsel’s office in Sydney. No, he doesn’t talk about himself in the third person as a matter of habit.

March 5th, 2009 No comments

Clerkships – Training contracts – Vacation schemes – Jobs

The Hong Kong Law Fair will be coming to the University of Sydney this year, and it’s being coordinated by the Chinese Law Students Society. Register now to attend!

(Free plug =D i’m serving on the Old Men Committee for the fair.)