In a 2014 edition of Blackacre, the University of Sydney’s Law Student’s Society magazine, the summer clerkship process is described like a version of The Hunger Games. The competition is ruthless and the goals are almost impossible to achieve.
Many summer clerkship applicants would agree with the comparison. The process involves thousands of law students from universities across the country applying for a handful of summer clerkships at prestigious law firms and government divisions like the Attorney-General’s Department.
At private law firms, summer clerkships are usually followed by the offer of a graduate position at the firm. The application process is gruelling. It involves multiple interviews with law firm partners, solicitors and human resources managers. Potential clerks are also expected to attend law firm breakfasts and cocktail parties, so that the firm can get to know the applicants in a range of social contexts.
Given the level of competition for these positions and the historical dominance of the field by law students from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, there was a great deal of interest in how law students from ACU’s Thomas More Law School in Sydney would fare in the summer clerkship application process. From the small cohort of penultimate year students, two students applied for clerkships: Heidi Pfeiffer and Alessandre Alonso. Against the odds and to the School’s enormous delight, both received offers of clerkships.
Heidi received offers from three of the country’s leading law firms and selected Ashurst. Alessandre received offers from two of the country’s top firms and selected Clayton Utz. Ashurst and Clayton Utz are two of the ‘Big 6’ national law firms that dominate the world of corporate law.
Alessandre said of her clerkship experience: “I am surrounded by intelligent and hard-working colleagues, who are willing to teach and mentor me. I have already been exposed to a number of unique cases and clients. I have jumped from what is the small community of ACU law into a big firm environment, but I feel just as supported.”
Heidi said that she found the clerkship process challenging because of its intensity, but also found that it allowed her to get a much greater insight into various firms, as well as commercial law as a career.
Heid said: “Now more than ever, I am more driven to work towards change within my own community. I am fortunate enough to have new skills and knowledge to help me achieve this change. After all, everything must start small and I must start somewhere.”
Heidi and Alessandre’s success paves the way for future Thomas More Law School students and is a remarkable first step in their own careers.
Catherine Renshaw Deputy Head – Thomas More Law School