In 2021, there will be approximately 30 law firms offering clerkships in line with the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) guidelines. You will hear many people say that with clerkship applications, quality trumps quantity, which I (Renee) whole-heartedly agree with. However, because of the sheer number of applicants, and the numerous firms eager for quality applicants, I will add that quantity is almost as important as quality. Therefore, you are best placed for success if you are able to submit a decent number of thoughtful, tailored and error-free applications.

There's no magic number to applications. Finding a 'decent' number depends on how much time and energy you can expend into the process, and truthfully, how much you can be bothered to. I have had friends who applied for between 5 to 20+. Personally, I went for the approximate middle ground and submitted roughly 15 applications.

Here are some considerations for you to think about:

Commercial or not?

Most of the clerkship signatory firms are commercial law firms. The other handful are boutique firms specialising in other areas of law such as personal injury, family, or criminal law. If you know for certain that commercial law is not for you, you will already be left with a smaller handful of firms (approximately 10). If you are eager to begin your career in commercial law, you will have more options to choose from.

If you are on the fence of whether commercial law is for you, I would highly recommend applying for commercial law clerkships anyway. There are several reasons for this:

1️⃣ Commercial law is a catch-all phrase for many types of law (litigation, technology, intellectual property, corporations law etc) and there is a reasonable chance that you will find an area within commercial law that appeals to you.

2️⃣ It is very difficult to know for sure whether you are interested in, or to rule out, a particular area of law whilst still in University.

3️⃣ Commercial law is generally a helpful pathway to start your career in, even if you decide further down the track that it is not for you. We have friends who began their careers in commercial law only to end up in completely different fields such as policy, consulting or banking several years later.

4️⃣ The very act of attempting clerkship applications forces you to seriously consider the type of law you might be interested in, which is helpful even if you eventually decide against commercial law, or are unsuccessful in your clerkship applications.

Size and type of firm

There are distinctions within the list of commercial law firms. See here for a (slightly dated, but still helpful) break-down of the different types of firms.

Take these questions out for a walk with you:

Having even tentative answers to these questions will be helpful in short-listing firms to apply for. Personally, I know many people who did not think too much about these questions, applying broadly across all tiers and types of firms, only to burn out towards the end of the process. A lack of strategy is also evident on the recruiter's end, as these types of applications tend to contain errors and a generic style of writing.

My own process was to divide firms into general categories: international, national, top-tier, specialised, mid-tier etc, and submit two or three quality applications within each category. This strategy worked for me because I wasn't sure what type of firm I was looking for. It ensured I could hit multiple bases whilst still be protected from exhaustion or burn-out.