In my penultimate year last year I discovered that there’s a lot of hype around clerkships. Despite having my heart set on various other areas of law, I succumbed to peer pressure and applied to several firms, but I wish I had someone tell me that it was okay if I didn’t apply, and that things would turn out just fine.
If you’re not 100 percent certain about what you want to do in your life after law school, a clerkship can be a great opportunity to get some work experience and try out areas of law that you’re interested in. A clerkship can also provide some post-uni job security, although it’s worth checking with the firms you’re applying to as to whether they’ll be offering graduate roles to clerks as some law firms guarantee their clerks a graduate position, but others don’t.
But there’s certainly a difference between not being sure about what type of law you want to practice, and (in my case) being definitely sure that you don’t want to practice commercial law. It was probably because of some form of divine intervention that I didn’t actually get a clerkship in the end.
While I have no intention of downplaying the very valuable role clerkships can play in training law students and preparing them for a legal career, what I learnt is that you need to do what is right for you. If that means applying to clerkship and pursuing a career in corporate law, kudos to you! It’s great that you know what you want to do and that you have a way of getting there. But if you are certain that the thought of contracts, commercial law, insolvency, tax and the like make you cringe, then it is more than fine to pursue another legal path.
The absolute worst reason to apply to a clerkship (or any job for that matter) is because you think that getting the role will validate your worth as a law student. I must confess that when I applied for clerkships I was definitely motivated by this.
If you’re seriously confused, I encourage you to really explore your passions and look at all of your work experience options, such as community legal centres, courts and government departments. Although the majority of clerkship opportunities are in commercial law, a small number of firms offer clerkships in areas such as family and immigration law.
I don’t think there’s anything worse than being stuck in a degree or a job that you don’t enjoy, so don’t be afraid to skip clerkships if you think it’s not for you. It really is okay if you don’t apply; things will turn out just fine, I promise. I would really encourage you to follow your heart and see where that takes you!