Summer clerkships offered in growing numbers
Although demand for clerkships continues to dramatically outstrip supply, figures supplied by the Law Society of NSW show there is an upward trend in the number of positions being offered in the state.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Law Society president Gary Ulman said the number of clerkship acceptances was higher in 2015 than in previous years.
In 2015 there were 325 clerkship acceptances, while in 2014 there were 269 and in 2013 there were 224.
“It does seem to me just from the raw figures and from my own firm's experience that the numbers are up, and anecdotally I think that's the same across the large law firms,” said Mr Ulman, who is also a partner at Minter Ellison.
Mr Ulman said these statistics probably reflect an increase in demand for graduate solicitors.
Last year, 32 law firms offered clerkships through the Law Society and seven offered graduate programs.
The small number of graduate programs organised through the Law Society is due to large firms recruiting via clerkships.
“But also there are many law firms, particularly the smaller law firms, that just don't participate in the program,” he said.
While clerkship acceptances have increased, the total number of applications has varied from year to year, according to Mr Ulman.
In 2015, 11,765 applications were made in total, compared with 10,565 in 2013 and 13,008 in 2013.
Mr Ulman warned these figures could be inflated as the individuals applied for multiple positions.
However, Mr Ulman said it was important to address the gap between the number of graduates coming out of universities and the number getting jobs in the legal profession.
“We are concerned about making sure, if we can, that every graduate that wants to do law is able to be employed,” he said.
“In an ideal world that is what we aim for. Now, realistically, that's not going to happen. But we want to see where possible as many as the graduates coming out of university getting jobs.
“The fact that 325 graduates in 2015 received summer clerkship offers doesn't mean everyone else missed out and was unemployed. I expect that they would eventually find employment.”
The Law Society is working with the universities to determine the reason for the publicity around law graduates being unable to find employment, according to Mr Ulman.
“It's not a project that is going to take six months,” he said. “It is a long-term project.”
While many law graduates are not interesting in pursuing careers as lawyers, Mr Ulman said it was important to understand the aspirations of graduates.
“We also want to survey the graduates that do come out and want to do law [and find out] what is actually happening to them,” he added.
“And we also want to engage more with the universities to ensure that graduates have a full appreciation of job prospects and that everything that can be done to assist them in finding positions will be done.”