What if I don’t like my clerkship?
So, through some slight exaggerations on your resume, a fluke or strange planetary alignment, you've landed a clerkship. Everyone congratulates you and tells you you'll love it. And while most people do enjoy their clerkship, what can you do if you don't?
It’s not forever
Firstly, time is on your side. Clerkships run for a few weeks or a few months at most, so consider it a learning experience. It can be useful when you're still deciding what your preferred areas of law are! If you've just had a few bad days, things always improve or the weekend will arrive again. Either way, it’s not forever.
It’s good experience
Although you might not be enjoying your clerkship, there's still no avoiding the fact that it's great experience and looks good on your resume. You'll still be learning some good legal and administrative skills which may help you to land future jobs. Work hard and it will be noticed. It can be difficult to stay positive when you're photocopying, but try to remember the long-term benefits of gaining experience.
Address any issues
If there's something or someone that you're specifically struggling with, talk to your supervisor or assigned mentor – they are there to assist you. Larger firms have an HR Department who are also there to help. You don't have to put up with a bad situation or suffer in silence; all firms value feedback from their clerks about their program and office environment.
Don't be afraid to ask for a different task; I was once given a task that was quite literally unachievable. I worked this out reasonably quickly and approached the partner with my thoughts. He smiled at me and told me not to worry as he thought the same thing.
If you feel like you're failing and getting nowhere, it's not always you. As the old expression goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Don't work for days on a task that you can't complete.
Look after yourself
Make the most of your lunch hour. Pack yourself delicious, interesting lunches if you want to eat in or make a point of visiting your favourite cafe and sitting outside if you can. Listen to music, read your favourite magazine, phone a friend for a quick chat or meet them for lunch, buy some chocolate or something shiny – you’ll feel a lot better in the afternoon.
Split up your day
I arrived at my clerkship at 8.30am for breakfast, had a 10.30 tea break, lunch at 12.30, another tea break at 3.30 and left at 5.30. I wasn't sitting down for more than two hours at a time and always had the next break (even if it was only a 5 minute ninja dash to the kitchenette) to look forward to.
Make post-work plans
Arrange to meet friends or family for after work drinks or an early-finishing movie. Although you might feel exhausted when you leave work, a couple of hours with your friends will improve your mood and give you something to look forward to that day.
On a personal note, I ended up doing my first clerkship purely for the experience. I knew I wasn't interested in the area and I was still recovering from a particularly nasty bout of African dysentery. Although I wasn’t in love with the work that I was doing, I took things one day at a time and survived to tell the tale. You will too.
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