find the latest legal job
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
Academic Dean and Head of School of the TC Beirne School of Law
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· An outstanding opportunity · Provide educational, research and organisational leadership
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: Arncliffe NSW 2205
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: Sydney NSW 2000
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Exclusive: Law firms let down clerks

Exclusive: Law firms let down clerks

The majority of Melbourne law students who recently completed clerkships at some of the nation’s top firms have been denied a graduate position.

Lawyers Weekly has exclusively obtained information on the clerk-to-graduate ratio at the Melbourne offices of eight top and mid-tier firms. All of the firms have hired less than half, and in some cases less than a quarter, of the clerks that were vying for a 2014 graduate position.

Herbert Smith Freehills took in the most clerks (86) in its Melbourne office of all firms over the 2012 to 2013 seasonal intakes and offered 34 clerks a graduate position.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Andrea Bell, HSF’s people and development director, said the firm could reduce its clerk intake in coming years in order to “strike the balance between being commercial and running a profitable business ... and keeping a pipeline of the most talented graduates coming through”.

Bell also admitted that a graduate intake that is proportional to the number of clerkships is “important for the integrity of our brand”.

“We know it’s an important decision for people to make at this point in their careers and we want to make sure we help them manage their expectations and the options they want to keep available to them,” she added.

King & Wood Mallesons had the second highest number of clerks (78) and offered 20 of them a position at the firm, with one deferral to 2015.

Of the 64 students who recently clerked at Allens, just 13 – or around 20 per cent – will take a graduate role in 2014. The firm pointed out that offers were made to a further five clerks who have deferred until 2015.

Allens declined an interview but offered the following statement: “Our acceptance rates in Melbourne remain high and we are very pleased with the outcome of our clerkship recruitment.”

Slater & Gordon, which released healthy FY13 financials this week, told Lawyers Weekly that it does not reveal graduate intake numbers but could confirm that between five and 10 clerks have been hired by the firm, “which is not significantly less than previous years”.

Cath Harris, general manager of HR at Slater & Gordon, said in a statement: “While we do provide many opportunities for young graduate lawyers to join the firm, we see our high staff retention rates as the real measure of our success in this area ... 89 per cent of all lawyers employed under the graduate intake scheme since 2007 are still working at Slater & Gordon.”

Corrs Chambers Westgarth recruited a little under a quarter of its clerk cohort this year, offering positions to nine out of 39 clerks. The firm also said that a further two clerks who had deferred from the previous year will be joining the firm in 2014.

Meanwhile, Lander & Rogers hired 10 graduates from a pool of 33 clerks; while Baker & McKenzie offered a graduate role to six of its 13 clerks.

Bakers’ national talent management director, Kate Muir, told Lawyers Weekly that the firm has not taken on fewer clerks compared to the previous year. Muir also claimed that clerkship applicants are informed early on of how many graduate offers the firm is likely to make.

“We always try to ensure that the number of graduate offers we make are consistent with our business needs, and that we can ensure that our graduates get a good experience through their rotation program,” she added.

Lawyers Weekly repeatedly requested confirmation from K&L Gates on figures we obtained regarding the firm’s graduate intake for 2014 but did not receive a response prior to publication.

War stories

A Melbourne law student, who has asked to remain anonymous, told Lawyers Weekly that while he has been offered a graduate position at a top-tier firm, many of his classmates with CVs that are “in good shape”, and who have achieved mid-to-high distinction averages, are scrambling to find work following the recent round of graduate job offers.

“It’s surprising – these are high-achieving students being rejected ... they’re the complete package,” he said.

Like Bell, the student believes firm brands will be impacted. He warned that poor graduate intake compared to clerk numbers will result in “war stories” being passed on from one student year to the next, deterring some of the brightest law students from applying to offending firms.

“The legal community in Melbourne is small, word does travel fast ... if you want to protect your brand, be responsible about the clerk-to-grad ratio,” he warned.

He also argued that firms should, at the very least, inform clerks who are unlikely to be hired that their chances of landing a graduate position are slim in order to allow them enough time to organise an alternative.

The student did not, however, blame firms alone for this year’s disappointing clerk-to-graduate figures. He said the clerkship system is flawed generally.

“Universities should shoulder some blame for this ... [they] are pumping out law students at an unsustainable rate,” he said.

“It’s an arms race each year,” he added.

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

Exclusive: Law firms let down clerks
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Gavel, legal book, criminal lawyers
Three criminal lawyers named NSW magistrates
The NSW Attorney-General has announced the appointment of three new local court magistrates. ...
Jan 18 2018
Lawyer highlights ‘unintended consequences’ on SSM estate planning
A succession lawyer has warned that the right for same-sex couples to legally marry could have a sub...
drug rehabilitation services available in rural and remote communities
Jan 18 2018
ALS survey shines spotlight on insufficient rehabilitation services
A new survey posted by the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) has revealed an alarming insight into ...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...