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Getting the Graduate Job if you Missed out on a Clerkship: Interview with An Vo

Lawyer, An Vo

When he applied for clerkships in his penultimate year of law school, An Vo, like many others, was unsuccessful. Now working as a lawyer in the banking team at Clayton Utz, Vo chatted with Survive Law about how missing out on a clerkship wasn’t the end of the world and explained how he scored his graduate job.

How did you feel when you missed out on a clerkship?

Admittedly, I wasn't too surprised. At the time I was still debating whether to pursue a career in economics instead of law. I'm sure I would cringe today if I re-read the applications I submitted.

What work did you do next?

Although I missed out on a coveted clerkship, I decided I still wanted to complete my PLT. This meant I needed to find a firm that was willing to sign off on and approve the practical experience component. Trawling through the UTS careers web page I found an opening for a paralegal role at Corrs Chambers Westgarth. This opportunity then led me to a very rewarding secondment to NBN Co Ltd soon after.

How did this lead to a graduate role for you?

Going on secondment to NBN Co Ltd was a great opportunity - I really enjoyed working with the team. The work varied but ultimately the people I met made the experience very worthwhile. At that time NBN Co Ltd was still very much a start-up company with a very small core legal team. As a result, the company hired a lot of secondees to get the company up and running. I ultimately met and worked alongside a number of Clayton Utz lawyers who supported me through the daunting task of applying for a graduate position at the firm.

What advice would you give to law students who miss out on a clerkship but still want to work at a commercial firm?

When I originally expressed my interest in the secondment opportunity, I had no idea what doors would open as a result but I decided to give it a chance anyway. I would encourage disappointed law students to go out there and try to gain as much experience in and exposure to the industry as possible.

If you're truly interested in a career in commercial law, get out there and give 100% to whatever job you have, even if it's as a volunteer in a law firm. If you can demonstrate that you're competent and pleasant to work with, there's a strong chance that you'll impress your supervisors who may then recommend you to others if they're unable to offer you a job themselves.

I can think of a few other junior lawyers who ultimately found work at the firm even though they had missed out on a clerkship. For some, personal/family reasons or travel commitments meant that they were unable to participate in the clerkship applicationprocess. For others, clerkships and commercial law just didn't seem that attractive at the time.

It's important to remember that clerkships are only one way to get into a top tier firm. With a lot of hard work, commitment and a bit of luck, anything is possible!

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