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K&L Gates

4.0
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

10 Insider tips in how to stand out in a seasonal clerkship

Emily Thompson

Graduate at K&L Gates
Congratulations! You have conquered the clerkship application process. You are now at the next stage which is figuring out how to stand out in your clerkship. No need to stress - the following 10 tips will help you on your way.

Be true to yourself - It may sound obvious but people just want to see and get to know the real you. One caveat, of course, is that you should always demonstrate social awareness and adapt your behaviour, language and dress to the social setting. Otherwise, believe in you and trust that you have got this!

Be open-minded - Enter every experience willing and ready to learn. For example, if you do not receive your preferred practice group area, approach this different practice group with an open mind and you may end up loving it. If not, at least you have learned something new. 

Be a sponge - And no it is not what you are thinking, I do not mean that you have to clean the office, rather I mean that you should absorb everything! Entering into the corporate legal sphere may be a completely new experience for you, so really take this opportunity to learn and understand everything. Take the time to learn something new about the firm every day - whether it is an aspect of their culture, one of their committee groups or how to save a document to the online system (sometimes not as easy as it sounds).

Be helpful but honest - If you are asked to assist on a matter, always say "of course I can help… when would you like it by?" If you are swamped or already have several urgent tasks and you do not believe that you will be able to get it finished on time, be honest. Let the person know what you have got on and when you would likely be able to get it done by, but make sure you reassure them that you are keen to help. Also, do not forget to then keep that person updated if you do not think you will be able to make the deadline as previously discussed. Honesty is a very important trait to demonstrate.

Be proactive - If you find yourself in the position of not having any work, reach out to members of your team and ask if there is something you could assist with. Or if you are involved in meetings and there is consequential work to be done, offer if you can assist or complete a certain task. Take the initiative rather than wait to be asked. Also, reach out to members of your team and the firm generally to ask if they would have the time to meet for a coffee. Talking to others and listening to their experiences is the best way to learn and develop your skills.

Do not be afraid to seek help - It is likely that during your clerkship you will receive challenging tasks. The good news is that they do not expect you to know everything, rather it is more about understanding your work ethic and how you approach a new task. There are many resources available for you during your clerkship - your buddy, supervisors, legal secretaries, library assistants and HR. While no question is a silly question, your buddies will be your greatest asset for answering those small 'how-to' questions. Do not be afraid to reach out to any of these individuals if you need help. They want to help you.

Ask for feedback - Another great way to learn and develop your skills is through seeking feedback. When you submit a task, add a concluding sentence politely asking the person to pass on any feedback they may have on your work. Alternatively, (in a non-COVID-19 working from home period*) pop into your supervisor's office or schedule some time to seek some feedback.

Take a genuine interest - Show a genuine interest in the work and engage with people. Take the time to ask people about their work and how their day is going. It is the small things that will be remembered.

The other clerks are your allies not enemies - One aspect that really stands out from my clerkship with K&L Gates was the level of cooperation and friendship among the other clerks. This was not unnoticed by the firm and we were complimented for it as it demonstrated our ability to work together as a team. Plus, the legal industry is extremely small and you never know who you will work with again in the future.

Smile - Possibly another obvious one but a smile goes a long way, particularly coupled with enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

Above all, just enjoy the experience and be proud of yourself for getting to this stage!

* This article was written in May 2020, when K&L Gates was operating under mandatory work from home protocols. We have tried to give you the best indication of what a 'Day in the Life' is like at our firm, and have reflected on what a typical day looks like for our people when we are working from our offices.