5 expert tips to ace your clerkship applications

Legal clerkships are a great way to gain practical experience while studying law. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in a law firm, completing a legal clerkship is a strong pathway into a graduate position at most top and mid-tier firms. 

With clerkship application season underway, your BEL Careers and Employability advisors have shared their top tips on how you can put your best applications forward.

1. Do your research on where to apply

Knowing where to apply and why can really help you prioritise your applications. Things you should research include:

  • a firm’s values and what they stand for
  • the areas of law they operate in
  • firm initiatives such as diversity and inclusion or pro bono work
  • who their client base are
  • news or recent events they were involved in.

Your research will not only give you information for your written application, but will also help you in an interview or at a networking event.

You can discover employers and find clerkship and graduate opportunities through the UQ Careers Directory. You can also get insights into different organisations and see reviews from graduates.

law students in the Walter Harrison Law Library

2. Take note of important dates

Be mindful of application open and close dates so you don’t miss any deadlines. Tools such as an Excel spreadsheet or Notion board are useful to help you stay organised and keep track of your applications.

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) sets clerkship and graduate recruitment dates that many firms follow. Check out the QLS website to see what firms are participating. You can also browse the jobs board on UQ StudentHub to find more work experience and job opportunities with other organisations who may not follow these timelines.

3. Focus on what you can control

The clerkship application process can be daunting and it’s easy to get lost in the many options available. Try to stay focused and concentrate on what you have control over – where you apply, the amount of time you spend on your applications and the quality of what you present.

Starting your preparation early on will ensure you have time to consider your options and can help you avoid that overwhelming feeling when clerkship applications open. Set aside some time each day to focus on preparing your applications well before clerkship application season so you’re not rushing to finish your applications at the last minute.

4. Tailor each application

First impressions count! Your written application is your chance to make a strong first impression and showcase what you could bring to the role. Every application you prepare needs to be tailored specifically to the firm you’re applying to. A recruiter can tell if the application is generic, and this could impact your chances of progressing to the next round.

Showcase your research and interest in an organisation by discussing a notable case the firm has undertaken or is involved in, or an insight into their work culture. A recruiter knows the firm, so instead of rehashing information from their website, delve a bit deeper into the reasons why you want to start your career with them.

Each application will take you between one to three hours, so prioritise the firms you’re most interested in and structure your time accordingly.

You can learn how to craft a resume and cover letter that highlight your strengths and address the requirements of a specific job through the BEL Careers and Employability online, self-paced Employability Essentials modules.

5. Check your application before submitting it

It’s important to be thorough. Always double check your application before submitting it. Read it aloud or use the “read aloud” function in Word to ensure your sentences flow and you haven’t missed anything crucial. Make sure you’ve saved your cover letter and resume with the correct firm name in the title and that it is addressed to the right contact person. The small details do matter and could set you apart from other candidates.

We recommend using VMock – the AI resume checker that gives you instant and personalised feedback and is now available free of charge for UQ law students. Register with your student email to get started with VMock.

Taking time for your clerkship applications, doing the research and paying attention to the important details will give you the best chance to stand out to recruiters and differentiate yourself from other candidates. Enjoy the process and focus on what is in your control.

Good luck!

Want more tips on legal clerkships?

speech bubbles in orange on purple background with works CareerHacks PodcastHear first-hand from three UQ law students who recently completed clerkships in our CareerHacks podcast episode ‘Legal Clerkships: What they don’t tell you.’ Listen here or search ‘CareerHacks’ on Spotify.

If you’d like one-on-one support with your applications, book in for a BEL Career Consult via StudentHub to sit down with one of your BEL Careers advisors.



Last updated:
15 June 2022