The Clerkship Application
By Madeleine Matkowsky
Director of Publications
For any student who is interested in pursuing a career in commercial law, the clerkship is the clearest pathway to securing your graduate role. A seasonal clerkship is a three or four week placement at a commercial law firm within one of their practice groups. Clerkships are usually completed by students who are in their penultimate year of study, however, may be completed by final year students depending on the firms specific requirements.
Many firms only hire graduates from their clerk pool, meaning that if you haven’t completed a clerkship at your firm of choice, it may be very difficult to complete your graduate year there. This is one of the reasons why clerkships are a competitive endeavour. There is no blueprint for success, as different firms look for different qualities and may value different experiences over others. Therefore, it is best to apply widely, be honest about who you are, and do your research into each specific firm you are apply for. Completing a cover letter or key selection criteria in general terms will be the fastest way for not securing an interview.
Clerkship applications will open on Monday, 8th July 2019 in line with the LIV Signatory guidelines. The first step of completing your application involves visiting the website of the relevant firm you’re applying for and setting up a online profile in their careers portal. Most firms are using an online application portal called ‘cvMail’. cvMail is an online portal that will only require you to enter your personal and academic details once. It will also include the key selection criteria questions through the portal which you can answer. For firms who do not use cvMail a similar system is available through their online application system.
Below is a detailed discussion of each requirement of your clerkship application. Please note that this is a guide only and each firm will require different things however this is the general formula for clerkship applications.
The cover letter is key to any strong clerkship application. It is usually a one page letter detailing who you are, why you are interested in joining that specific firm, and what you can bring to the firm. There are many different ways to go about drafting your cover letter however the key things that you should focus on include:
- Why you are interested in joining the firm. Here is your opportunity to discuss the research that you have conducted into the firm. Some students also use this as a chance to include details of recent mergers the firm has undergone, key cases that the firm is known for or recent awards in specific practice areas that may be of relevance.
- Details about your experience. The cover letter is an opportunity to expand on what your experience is. Although this is included in your curriculum vitae you have the opportunity here to really explain the details of your experience, and why that makes you a strong candidate for the firm.
- Why you should be selected. A good cover letter will merge the above elements into a discussion of why you are a good fit for them. This is something that will help set you apart from other applicants. Consider things like the firms values, do you have experience that allows you to demonstrate you possess each of these values? If yes, utilise this to your advantage!
All clerkship applications require you to upload your academic transcript. It has to be your most recent transcript. Most firms will also require you include your ‘Law WAM’ this is important as it does not include your results from your other degree (if you are completing a double degree).
When attaching your transcript remember that whilst grades are vital to a strong application, they are not everything. Firms have moved to a more inclusive approach in hiring processes and are now looking for well-rounded applicants. So if you feel your grades are not as strong as your friends, remember that you might have other experiences that will balance it out.
Your curriculum vitae (‘CV’) is another vital step to obtaining a clerkship. Although each CV is different it is important to keep it to two pages, detail all relevant experience and education that you think will make you a strong applicant. Another trend in CV’s at the moment is detailing your ‘personal interests’ this will allow firms to see what activities you are involved in outside your degree and will also help set you apart from the other applicants.
Key selection criteria
When completing your online application it is vital to understand the beauty of the ‘save and exit’ button. Many students will login and enter all the relevant details until they get to the key selection criteria section.
The key selection criteria includes questions that applicants are required to answer which may be specific to the job, the legal industry or the applicant. Most key selection criteria questions are approximately 300 words in length. Although each firm will specify the length their questions are required to be. It is very important to do your research at this stage too as some firms will require details of a current legal issue effecting the industry or your favourite case.
Psychometric and personality testing
A recent trend in human resources hiring practices is the psychometric testing model. A psychometric test is an online test that challenges a range of skills in order to demonstrate the way you process and respond to information. The aim is to learn some more information about you prior to interviewing and is designed to test your capacity for pattern recognition, numeracy, abstract thinking, problem solving and personality.
Psychometric testing is difficult to prepare for as each firm may have a different system or requirement. However, if you are required to complete a test you will be given the opportunity to complete example questions prior to completion.
Some other key tips for success include: completing the test in an environment where you won’t be interrupted, ensuring you have a pen, paper and calculator on you and using the example practices to your advantage. Further, if you are completing a personality test, make sure you chose the answer that represents your personality most accurately, do not chose answers that you think firms want to hear!
The Weekly LSA is proudly sponsored by Leo Cussen Centre for Law