'Victorian Clerkship Basics' Series #3: Cover Letters and Short Answers

This is the third article in our four-part series, 'Victorian Clerkship Basics'.

Cover letters

Cover letters can easily be produced in advance of the clerkship season. You can create a template with the elements you would like to include in all cover letters, such as a paragraph on yourself, the firm values and the practice areas of interest. These are all things you can create in advance, as this information is readily available on firm websites. As part of the drafting process, ensure you send one cover letter to your network to seek feedback. Once returned, tweak your template from the redline to create your final template. If you are writing multiple applications, it is suggested you write one or two cover letters per week to ensure consistency and quality. You also need tailor each cover letter for every firm: no two firms have the same practice areas or values, so ensure you do your research and amend as appropriate. If you have contacts on the inside of particular firms, send them a final draft and ask for feedback. They may be able to provide insights that are not readily available on the website. Once you have completed each firm’s cover letter, proof, proof and PROOF your work! Ensure there are zero mistakes as this is often the first thing HR read from your application and one error can put you out of the running. Madeleine Klaic, HR Advisor at Mills Oakley advocates that “a cover letter is a fantastic means to showcase your personality and passion for law. The best are always well researched and demonstrate why the Firm appeals to you. Remember to address your cover letter to the right person – your attention to detail will set you apart.”

LinkedIn and Updating Privacy on Social Media

LinkedIn is a crucial networking tool. It is highly recommended that you create a page well in advance of your clerkship so you have time to build it and add connections. A LinkedIn page is essentially putting your CV on display for all to see, with the added ability to connect with people, keep up with their activities and post your own, as well as having your skills and experiences endorsed by colleagues. It is suggested that you also check the privacy settings of your social media accounts well in advance of your clerkship applications. An easy to check of how watertight your security settings are is to go “incognito mode” in Google Chrome and search your name in Google. If you can easily access your Facebook profile, Instagram or Twitter, it is suggested you make these private or change your name to something less easily searchable (for example, your first name and middle name). Why should you do this? HR do check social media and if they happen to see something they deem unprofessional, it may affect your application. It is better to be safe than sorry and put barriers in place to ensure that your social media accounts do no prohibit your application success.

Short Answer & Submit

Once the clerkship applications open in July, you can then tackle the short answer questions that accompany most applications. Having done your CV and cover letters in advance leaves you with the entire month to prepare these answers thoughtfully and free of errors. Ensure you read the questions carefully and create meaningful and relevant answers. Don’t feel obliged to use all of the word allowance for your answers: so long as you are succinct and answer all elements of the question, you have completed the task. Set yourself paced deadlines in the month to work through every firms’ application. Once you have proofread each application (again, on hard copy), submit your work, mark it as complete in your spreadsheet and work your way to the next application. Keep in mind, if you submit applications on a rolling basis you may be invited to compete psychometric and aptitude testing which often has a 48 or 72-hour deadline, which you will need to account for in your timeline.

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