You may have spent countless hours researching firms, writing cover letters, and being interviewed by firms. Perhaps the outcome is even looking promising, and you have clicked well with people at certain firms. However, acceptance into a clerkship is not guaranteed until the actual offer day. So, it'll be useful to have a back-up plan prior.
A Plan B can give you peace of mind that extends beyond offer day. It does so by diversifying your career alternatives, leaving you with many more options other than the traditional clerkship pathway. Let's talk through some of them:
If you have missed out on a clerkship, rest assured that you still have your final year to apply for law graduate positions. Every year, a handful of firms go out to market for graduate positions. In 2020, we noticed that approximately 15 commercial law firms did so. We acknowledge that this is a smaller pool of firms compared to those that offer clerkships. It should also be noted that prime candidates for these firms are those that have solid work experience; often those who succeed in attaining clerkships but not grad offers, existing paralegals of the firm and so on. However, this is still a legitimate pathway that we thought we should mention.
Throughout the year, many firms and businesses also often advertise on Seek and Indeed for paralegals, law clerks, legal research or legal administrative assistant positions. Although not a law graduate role per se, they often prefer people with legal backgrounds and you would be amongst the prime candidates. Starting off in these jobs will still provide a solid base for legal practice. Furthermore, working in these roles will increase your chances of attaining a junior lawyer role if/when they come up.
You would be eligible for PLT even if you're still in law school, provided that you have completed your core law units.
A benefit of undertaking PLT in your own time is that you tend to upskill quicker, by-passing the graduate year and becoming eligible for a wider range of roles, primarily junior lawyer ones. Many smaller firms and community legal centres are also willing for law students/graduates to undertake their PLT with them through a voluntary position.
However, a significant con is that you will have to either fund it yourself or put it on HECS to be paid back eventually. That being said, Renee and Jay both have friends who have opted for this pathway, loved the PLT process, and ended up finding full-time lawyer roles they are really happy with!
Clerkships are not the only type of practical placements that may potentially lead to a job after University. Most universities are getting better at offering placements with a diverse range of organisations. The legal placement program website for your university is the best starting point.
Some organisations that we have had friends intern at include the Environment Defenders' Office, with indigenous community legal centres through the Aurora Internship Program, with corporate in-house counsel, 'Big 4' consulting firms, legal technology companies, courts, etc. Some of these positions will also support your PLT. Even if they do not, they offer a breadth of experience and skills that will help you decide which pathway is most suitable for you.
Although clerkships are often marketed as the be-all and end-all of your law degree, we firmly believe this is not the case. We have friends that offer living proof to the variety of fulfilling job options available to you apart from the clerkship process. Be smart, be open-minded. Formulate a Plan B.