Judge’s Associate/Tipstaff | Law

Judge’s Associate/Tipstaff

Judges' Associateship Program

The Judges’ Associateship Program led by Professor Rosalind Dixon is a unique opportunity for UNSW Law students to gain exclusive insight to the associate and tipstaff application process. The Hon. Justice Keith Mason will provide individual mentoring as well as expert advice and application tips for a select cohort of law students committed to the application process. This will be conducted in a one-on-one interview.

The Judges' Associateship Program was launched in October 2013, please click here to view UNSWTV video footage. 

Role of the Associate or Tipstaff 

A judge's associate or tipstaff assists the judge in conducting legal research and preparing judgements.  They also perform a range of court-related duties in Chambers and in-court duties during proceedings. The appointment is generally a year-long contract. It is also worth noting that some courts and tribunals offer research positions. Please see 'When to Apply' for further information on when and how to apply to the different courts in NSW/Australia. 

What are the benefits?

An associate/tipstaff at the High Court, Federal Court and Court of Appeal level offers an exclusive opportunity to watch and learn about the country's most complex legal issues from the finest appellate lawyers, and to witness advocacy in action.  At the Supreme Court, associates gain similar experience, but also learn practical litigation skills related to the conduct of trials.

Prerequisites

Appointments to such roles are highly sought after. For instance, the High Court of Australia generally requires students to have graduated with First Class Honours.  Prerequisites, however, will vary by Court and we would recommend that you read, understand and consider the selection criteria to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements of the associate or tipstaff role for the Court.

Vacancies

Associate or tipstaff vacancies notified to UNSW Law will be advertised via the UNSW Law Jobs Board. Please see 'Vacancies' for Judges who accept applications on a rolling basis. 

Tips

Recent UNSW Law alumna, Stella Kim (BCom (Dist)/LLB (Hons) '14) discovers some tips and highlights for aspiring tipstaves and associates

Alumni Story

Judge’s Associate/TipstaffSarah-Jane Frydman (BSc (Hons)/LLB (Hons) '15)

I have been appointed Tipstaff to the Hon. Justice Ward of the NSW Court of Appeal for 2016.

What does a typical day in the job involve for you? Daily tasks as a tipstaff are buzzy and unpredictable – providing research assistance to the Judge on a tricky point of law, proofreading a complex judgment and drafting its catchwords and headnote, liaising with the profession on behalf of the Judge, sitting in an appeal hearing and forming your own views on Counsels’ submissions and style, and preparing for the next day’s matter.

What route did you undertake to get this role? I tried to get as much exposure as possible to litigation and dispute resolution, advocacy and court processes while I was studying. I was involved in mooting and negotiations competitions and later interned at the Federal Court and undertook a clerkship at a law firm, rotating through a litigation team. I also gained some experience in a research-focussed role working for the Judicial Commission of New South Wales. These different experiences combined to give me a clear direction and set my heart on pursuing an advocacy- or litigation-based role.

How do you think your UNSW Law degree has equipped you for your role? UNSW Law taught me not only how to read law but how to think critically about it. Nothing will seem more valuable than those first year Legal Research classes when your Judge is taking your research on board, or giving ear to your opinion on the matter you just heard. But more than that – I think that my UNSW Law degree prepared me for this role not only from the black letter law perspective, but also through the skills and experience I gained from the experiential learning programs on offer. The tipstaff role is not a small cog in the large wheel of an organisation; it is intimate and often involves a hefty amount of responsibility. Transitioning from university to sitting in the front row of an appeal that is the culmination of months of work, with the responsibility of making sure everything goes smoothly for the Judge, would have been far more daunting without the benefit of the experiential learning courses I undertook at UNSW.

What advice would you give to UNSW Law students who are hoping to pursue your chosen career path? The best advice I can give is to talk to as many members of the profession as you can about their experiences, particularly current or past tippies. Know the differences between trial and appellate work, and why you want exposure to one over the other. From this you can decide which court you wish to apply for and, more specifically, which judge. Research his or her legal and other interests and see whether they fit with yours – don’t forget that during your tipstaff year, your Judge will spend more time working with you than with anyone else. Tipstaff roles are mysterious, so gaining a precise idea of what the job involves will put you in the best position to get there – and it will be one of the most valuable things you do! 

For Further Information

Please contact Joanne Glanz, Manager, Careers Service at joanne.glanz@unsw.edu.au or on (02) 9385 9479.

Related links