Chapter 2: Applying for your Law Clinic Experience
Most institutions require students to formally apply for clinical opportunities, and in some clinic programs this process is competitive. This means that the better prepared you are, the stronger your prospects of success in the process. It’s a good idea to treat your clinic application as practice for your future job applications. You may need to explain why you are interested in the clinic, what attributes make you suitable for the clinic, and provide a CV and/or an academic transcript. Most clinic coordinators will consider how much effort you’ve put into your application and how passionate you sound about joining the clinic. It’s up to you to impress them.
2.1 Your clinic application
First impressions are important, and your clinic application should convey your enthusiasm for the clinic, as well as your attention to detail. Here are a few tips for writing a successful application:
2.1.1 Read the instructions!
Treat the clinic application as you would a job application, which will require you to meet certain criteria to be successful. First, read the application instructions carefully – this is a good indication of your ability to follow instructions, a quality every law graduate should possess, and every employer will expect.
2.1.2 Do your research
Make sure you are familiar with what the clinic entails. This will enable you to express your interest in the clinic in a meaningful way and ensure that you meet the minimum requirements for the clinic. For example, there is no point in applying for a clinic which requires you to have completed Criminal Law and Procedure when you haven’t yet completed the course. You should also ensure that you are able to commit to the clinic times and dates prior to applying. Additionally, it may be helpful to ascertain who the coordinator for the clinic is and email them directly in advance to express your interest and ask any relevant questions you may have (not covered in the clinic description). This is also helpful if you are uncertain about whether you qualify for the clinic.
2.2 Build strong relationships
Emailing the clinic coordinator directly, or arranging to see them in person, will assist in building a relationship with your supervisor and making them aware of your goals and objectives in taking the clinic. During your clinic experience, make use of the opportunity to build relationships with your peers, academics, and legal professionals in practice.
2.3 Follow the process step-by-step
As mentioned above, follow the instructions carefully and ensure that you provide all the documentation requested. If, for example, the application requires a one-page CV, ensure that your CV is no longer than a page. It may seem obvious, but you should ensure that you apply by the specified date and to the correct person. If you are unsure about anything, email the coordinator well in advance to have your questions answered (not at the last minute).
2.4 Use your past experience in your favour
Be enthusiastic about the clinic you’re applying for, demonstrating how you will be able to contribute to the clinic by using examples of your past work experience. For example, you could relate your customer service in hospitality, such as a holiday job working at a local café, demonstrating your ability to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people. Mentioning why you are passionate about a clinic opportunity is also important, for example demonstrating your wish to contribute to the community through your past volunteering at an old-age home or charity shop. Any past experience you may have could be used to show your abilities, interests and commitment to your chosen activities. Most clinics will have a strong focus on access to justice or pro bono work, and you should take care to explain why this type of work will be meaningful to you.
2.5 The interview process
If you are required to attend an interview with the clinic coordinator, treat it as you would a job interview. Dress appropriately like you would for a job interview and if unsure, ask the question in advance. Err on the side of professional business attire if in doubt, and avoid turning up at interviews in casual wear, which may convey a lack of preparation and professionalism. If you have prepared for the interview and have read all the available information on the clinic website, you should be able to ask and answer questions about the clinic activities and expectations. Ensure that you have read any information, policies and procedures available on the clinic website so that you know what the clinic entails. It may also help to speak to your peers who have already completed the clinic you are interested in and ask them what they liked best and least about their experience, so that you can address any issues in the interview.