Summer Clerkships | Law

Summer Clerkships

Summer Clerkships are offered by law firms and some government departments for students to undertake summer vacation employment at the end of their penultimate year. These clerkships allow students to see what life is like working as a legal practitioner and to make informed decisions about future employment.

The Law Society of NSW coordinates the Summer Clerkship Program (open to students in their penultimate year) and the Graduate Employment Program (open to final year law students) on behalf of law schools and law firms in NSW.

Please see the 2017 guide of participating firms/contacts and more information (including key dates) for the Summer Clerkship Program and the Graduate Employment Program. To explore all these opportunities and more visit LegalVitae.

Alumni Story

Summer ClerkshipsDixon Song (BCom/LLB '17)

I completed a summer clerkship at Allens from Nov 2015 – Feb 2016 and will commence as a graduate in early 2017.

What did a typical day in the job involve for you? As a clerk, I did a fair amount of legal research (and some commercial research), drafted and reviewed transactional documents, attended meetings with colleagues and clients, spent time on some very interesting pro bono matters, and completed some other miscellaneous administrative tasks. Generally, firms aim to give clerks a small taste of what the work might be like as a full-time graduate lawyer. As any former clerk will attest to, clerkships are also social affairs, and amongst all the Christmas parties and inter-firm clerk events, it was also fairly common to spend time after work with my clerk group.

What route did you undertake to get this role? I had completed internships in another commercial law firm, an investment bank as well as a major accounting firm. Amongst this I also got involved in academic research in law and finance during the semesters. In terms of extracurricular activities, the most notable thing I did was spending some time volunteering overseas. I think the most important thing is that you are able to show that you have certain interests outside of your studies, and that you have pursued those interests - whether they be through your work experience, extracurricular activities or otherwise. While it’s cheesy and cliché to say this, I think that it is absolutely true that all employers (not just law firms) are looking for people who are genuinely interested in the world around them, and who are self-motivated enough to have explored those interests – be able to tell your story and what makes you unique!

How do you think your UNSW Law degree equipped you for your role? A UNSW Law degree helps firstly because it equips you with a broad, foundational understanding of the law and how to think as a lawyer. For example, subjects such as Business Associations are useful in helping you contextualise your work and giving you some background knowledge to prepare for work at a commercial law firm. It also goes without saying that understanding the basics of contract law is crucial given that you are spending most of your time wrestling with them. I think the other main point is that, because you are exposed to so many different areas of the law during your degree, it equips you with the invaluable ability to quickly form an understanding of a concept / an area of law that you previously had absolutely no idea about. This is an important skill if  you are tasked with researching and advising on an area of law that you have never studied or perhaps never even heard of before (which you inevitably will do even as a summer clerk).

What advice would you give to UNSW Law students who are hoping to pursue your chosen career path? Above all, if you are looking to apply for clerkships at commercial law firms, decide before you begin if working in a corporate/commercial environment is really for you and if you are genuinely interested in the work that they do (eg, helping large companies acquire one another, borrow money, litigate etc). Try not to fall into the trap of applying for clerkships simply because other people are doing it, because there is some so-called ‘glamour’ or ‘prestige’ associated with doing a clerkship, or simply because you ‘need a job’ and don’t know what else to do. The reality is that there are plenty of other jobs that are open to law students, many of which you may find a great deal more enjoyable and which will enable you to have equally (if not more) fulfilling careers. Everyone is different, and your goal should be to find a long-term career that genuinely matches your own interests and the lifestyle that you want to live in the future. This involves a lot of soul-searching, and is much easier said than done, but I think it is an important part of 'growing up' and it is something that you have to figure out sooner rather than later. Make sure you control your career and that it doesn’t control you!