Life as a Summer Seasonal Clerk with Cornwalls: Tips and Tricks
Welcome to this blog post from the 2019 Summer Seasonal Clerk group. There are currently four of us working at the Melbourne office – Raymond, Benjamin, Vincent and Demosthenes.
We thought it would be beneficial to compose a short list of tips and tricks that we found to be useful during our time at the firm, with the aim of helping future seasonal clerks at Cornwalls.
Tip 1 – Embrace the challenge
As seasonal clerks, you will be exposed to practice groups and areas of law that you may never have worked in previously or even studied at university. Our advice is to keep calm and embrace the challenges that come with navigating an unfamiliar field. We’ve found that the best way to learn is by doing, so don’t be scared to jump in the deep end and tackle challenges head-on. Everything is new the first time you do it, so try to get as many ‘firsts’ under your belt while you have the firm-wide support given to you as a seasonal clerk.
In our time at Cornwalls, we have been exposed to some interesting and demanding work that law school simply does not prepare you for. Whether it be helping to draft a statement of claim for a recoveries matter (Banking & Finance), drafting a research memo on the new construction cladding laws (Corporate & Commercial), reviewing amendments to e-filing laws (Property), drafting alerts on recent legal developments for the Cornwalls website or assisting with a full-day court hearing, our advice is to give everything a go: this is the best way to learn.
Tip 2 – Don’t be shy
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed during the first few days of a new practice group rotation. There are a lot of new faces and names to remember. We have found that Cornwalls has a friendly culture, and everyone is willing to assist and support the seasonal clerks.
Our advice to future clerks is to introduce yourself to as many people as you can, especially the people in your practice group. Not only will everyone appreciate you taking the time to introduce yourself, but we have found that this is also the best way to source work during your rotations. Rest assured that the culture at Cornwalls is friendly, open and nurturing, which means that your time at the firm will be enjoyable and rewarding.
Finally, treat your clerkship at Cornwalls as a journey in personal development. You’ll learn how to network effectively and build lifelong connections (in case you haven’t already had the opportunity to develop these skills). While clerks often place unnecessary pressures on themselves to excel at all that they do, don’t overdo it. Enjoy the process and take time out to appreciate the people you are working with; you never know what you’ll learn, even through the briefest of interactions. This will also help to ease the stress of work a little.
Tip 3 – The LAs and support staff should be your first point of contact
As an eager seasonal clerk, it can be tempting to focus your attention on senior associates and partners. However, don’t forget the LAs (legal assistants) and other support staff. They are often the first point of contact for most questions or issues you may have. We have found that they know more about the firm, its processes and sometimes even the law than we do as seasonal clerks.
Whether it be the correct way to format a document for a lawyer, where to locate a precedent, where to save a file or even where to find the best place to grab a coffee in the morning (we’re in Melbourne after all), the LAs and support staff should be your first point of contact.
Tip 4 – Take a notepad with you EVERYWHERE
On one of our first days at Cornwalls, someone joked that as seasonal clerks, we should take a notepad with us everywhere – even to the restroom. While they were joking to a point, the principle stands true. Our advice is to take a notepad with you every time you step away from your desk. The reason for this is straightforward: so you can record any instructions you receive from a supervisor. There’s nothing worse than forgetting an instruction because you didn’t write it down, which means you’re then required to go back and ask them to repeat themselves.
Always take a record of a supervisor’s instructions during a meeting or catch up with them, and before leaving, repeat their instructions back to them. This will help ensure that the right instructions were given to you and that you have understood them correctly. If you get stuck later on, you can always refer to your notes.
Tip 5 – Enjoy the festivities
As a seasonal clerk, you will find there are plenty of things going on at Cornwalls due to the end of year break. You may be invited to festive or team-bonding events such as the Christmas and farewell lunches – so go ahead, join in and enjoy yourself while you can.
At the same time, everyone is still busy with work because clients and staff alike want to settle as many files as possible before the New Year. Our advice is to go with the flow and enjoy the festivities. This is a great way to get to know everyone at Cornwalls and develop a strong network.
Hopefully this short blog post has given you a taste of what it is like to work at Cornwalls, and has made you eager to experience working at the firm yourself.