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I didn’t get a clerkship… now what?

businessman with question marks around his head

You studied law because you’re too clever and sexy to be a mere accountant. Or worse, auditor. And let’s not even get started on dentistry. Obviously, as a law student, you expect to inherit the world someday. If only someone, anyone, would just give you a job.

If you missed out on the golden ticket, the law clerkship, here’s what you can do next…

1. Persistence

Don’t have five years of legal work experience? Missing that little (Hons) on your academic transcript? Just remember that persistence trumps talent. Not my line. I borrowed it from the author of A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink, former speechwriter to Al Gore. Daniel Pink was also a law student, known more for graduating within the 10% of his group that kept the top 90% in their place.

There are lots of law graduates out there who scored their amazing jobs through sheer persistence. They developed their interview style and got work experience where they could. When they got rejected, they kept going. Keep at it and things will start going your way.

If your heart is set on a firm that declined your clerkship application, remember that there’s more than one path to getting your dream job, and taking the scenic route can bring valuable work (and life) experience.

2. But wait, there’s more!

You probably don’t want to draft another cover letter right now, but a few smaller firms are still accepting clerkship applications. Search for these opportunities in Survive Law’s clerkship guide.

If this doesn’t sound like you, there are plenty of other fantastic legal work experience opportunities. Check out our story about Clerkship Alternatives.

3. Plan Your Next Move

I know this sounds crazy, but graduate job applications aren’t too far away, with many government departments, law firms and legal teams at large corporations recruiting between about March and mid-year of your final year at uni.

Start planning early to tee up your post-uni employment options. Head to your local law students’ society website and download a copy of this year’s graduate/careers guide. The application dates will be different next year, but this is a good place to start exploring your options and to work out the attributes and experience employers are looking for. If there’s nothing on your LSS website, take a look at the graduate roles listed on Jobted.

If you can, speak to a firm that you applied to and ask for some feedback on your application. This will give you a better idea of how to approach your graduate applications and interviews. Failing that, talk to your friend who cleaned up on clerkship interviews and offers (everyone has one of these mates) and ask if they’ll take a look at your application or take you through some practice interview questions.

4. Make Influential Friends

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that while geniuses do get hired, it’s the schmoozers, the smooth operators, that make partner. The reason is clear: making partner is about bringing in business. It’s about entrepreneurialism as well as legal expertise.

If you’re more of a networker than a know-it-all, start making friends in the profession. Most lawyers are more than happy to share advice with baby lawyers. If you want to be a media lawyer, find out who the best practitioners in your city are and send them an email. Maybe they’ll give you some advice over coffee or even offer you work experience. You won’t know until you ask.

If you’re a bit nervous about networking, try the Friends, Family and Fools approach. Start with your law friends and lecturers – law is a surprisingly tight-knit industry and there may only be a few degrees of separation between you and your dream employer.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Anxiety, negative self-talk and unnecessary comparisons with others is never good news. If you find yourself going down a difficult path with your career, take a breather, a break and a bath and have a read of our articles about law student wellbeing.

6. Life after Law

So you missed the clerkship and really, you’re not that bummed because like studying law, you just thought it was something you probably should do to maybe have some direction, or whatever.

You’re more than just a law student, so consider your other interests. Maybe a part time job or internship in a non-legal capacity is just what you need. You may find that your calling is actually outside the law, or you may discover a niche area that needs more specialist lawyers. Try something different… you’ll be surprised by where it leads!

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 27 August 2012.

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