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Six insider tips for getting a graduate law job at Allens

Jaymes Carr

Careers Commentator
Allens promises a cosmopolitan career for grads. We asked our graduate insiders at Allens how students can get their foot in the door.

Allens is an international commercial law firm and one of Australia’s ‘Big Six’ law firms. Since its founding in 1822, Allens has produced multiple High and Supreme Court Justices, a Prime Minister, and various influential executives. Its lawyers have also been involved in various high-profile cases, including a class-action suit against Ford, a multi-billion dollar dispute between Rio Tinto and other prospecting companies, and an investigation by KPMG into several corporate collapses and auditors’ negligence claims.

With its global reputation and offices across Asia and Australia, Allens promises a cosmopolitan career that exposes grads to big-name clients across a range of industries. We asked our graduate insiders how ambitious students can get involved—you’ll find their six tips below.

1. Be prepared for a rigorous application process

When it comes to hiring new personnel, Allens, which has about 1,200 personnel, prioritises quality over quantity. It’s little surprise then to learn from our insiders that the application process for graduate positions is lengthy and highly competitive.

Bear in mind that many of Allens’ graduate positions are filled by students who complete clerkships at Allens while still studying. As a result, graduate positions advertised to the general market are comparatively rare and sought after. If you’re pursuing such a role, be ready to prove yourself across interviews, aptitude tests, and other assessments.  

“The firm requires graduates to complete a strengths-based assessment and there is also an interview. The interview will usually be with two lawyers, including one partner. It depends on who you are interviewed by, but the interviews are fairly relaxed. The firm just wants to get to know you, not drill you.”

Graduate, Melbourne

“Most recruitment comes from clerkships however there is also a level of market graduate recruitment. Market graduate recruitment is quite strenuous and will likely involve two interviews, including one where your legal skills are tested.’

Entry level, Sydney

2. If you’ve done a clerkship, take advantage of it

Obviously, there’s no better demonstration of your suitability to work for a particular firm than any experience you’ve had with that firm. For many law graduates, this will mean drawing on what they’ve learned or proven during their time completing a clerkship. Even if your clerkship was performed elsewhere, be prepared to show how the skills you gained or developed will be relevant to your success as a graduate at Allens.

“Law graduates usually come to the firm via the clerkship process - involving an application, interview, online testing, and a period of vacation work at the firm. Law graduates are then recruited only from the clerkship pool. Very rarely, candidates will be recruited directly from the open market.”

Graduate, Melbourne

“Standard interview process. I obtained my graduate position through a clerkship, so was required to complete a 4 week clerkship with the firm”

Graduate, Melbourne

3. Take special care in preparing your cover letter

Lawyers are professionals who read and write binding documents with a high sensitivity to detail. This, after all, is at the heart of contractual negotiations, court submissions, client communications, and the myriad other processes that underscore most legal matters. As a result, it’s imperative that your ‘first impression’—usually the cover letter on your application—demonstrates your well-developed comprehension skills and command of written English. So be sure that you have addressed all of the selection criteria, and proofread the cover letter to eliminate any careless mistakes.  

“Find out a bit about the firm and convey in your application why you want to work at Allens specifically, and why you are interested in commercial law. You don't need to do any legal research or anything like that. Make sure your cover letter is error-free.”

Graduate, Melbourne

“Proofread your cover letters closely, and ask somebody else to check them for you as well. Demonstrate that you are somebody who is interesting, interested and engaged in the world around them. Don't write cover letters that spend too much time talking about your academic results - we know that you're probably a smart and capable person (you're a law student, we know that you know how to study), and your transcript will convey that information anyway. We're more interested in hearing what makes you unique and special.”

Graduate, Melbourne

4. Know what’s happening in the world of commercial law

The law is a living thing and has undoubtedly changed even since you finished your last assessment for Commercial Law 101. Prove that you’re on top of contemporary trends by familiarising yourself with them in the weeks preceding your interview. You might find it helpful to review lead stories in publications like The Economist, The Australian Financial Review, or commercial law magazines.

“Read up on commercial news, stay up to date with commercial law, and try to understand what law means in a commercial context.”

Graduate, Melbourne

“Research Allens and the work they have done. Show an interest in an area of law that Allens specialises in. If you can, research the people interviewing you.”

Entry level, Melbourne

5. Emphasise what makes you different

For recruiters interviewing several hundred applications, a good lawyer is relatively easy to find. What’s more difficult is to find a good lawyer who is also a strong communicator, a passionate team player, and possesses unique interests or talents that will help them contribute something unique to a firm. So, according to our insiders, it’s a good idea not to shy away from questions designed to probe who you are as a person. In fact, you might find that sharing your enthusiasm for social justice issues, sports, literature, or a different passion gives you an edge by helping you stand out from the crowd.

I was asked why I wanted to be a lawyer, why I chose commercial law and why I chose Allens. Apart from that the questions were really directed at getting to know who I was as a person and whether I would be a good fit for the firm.

Entry level, Melbourne

Emphasise what makes you different. Hint: it's not your grades.

Graduate, Perth

6. Remember to ask questions back to get a feel for the firm’s culture

Yes, the relationship between employer and prospective employee is well established in graduate interviews—generally, they will ask you the questions. However, it helps to remember that the best firm for you is not necessarily the firm that offers you a position because you’ve answered their questions well. Use the interviews as an opportunity to ask about the things that are important to you.

Will there be opportunities for training? Do graduates get to involve themselves in social outreach programs? What will your career progression look like? This might seem obvious, but asking questions is a great way to show your interviewers that you’re serious about your career and want to find a long-term fit that will help you flourish as a legal professional.

“Even though the work we do is really important and the stakes are high, it's not a scary place at all. The vibe is pretty relaxed most of the time, and even as a grad, you are generally given the reins to manage your own time.”

Graduate, Melbourne

“People are high achieving and hard workers, however people are also supportive and willing to help each other. After hours, there are many social events to get involved in.”

Entry level, Melbourne