, , ,

A letter to my penultimate year self, one year on…

By Anonymous

So it’s been a year since clerkship applications. It has also been a year since I wrote a post to the blog about why rejections from clerkships had taught me about resilience, experience and perspective.

A year later, I just want to tell you that everything does turn out to be okay. In fact, it’s more than okay.

However, I know that can be hard to believe right now.

You feel like you poured your soul into those applications, soul searching for all the reasons why you wanted to pursue a career as a corporate lawyer. You worked hard to get your grades to what you thought firms would be looking for, and you polished your CV to the point where it shone like a diamond. There were long nights where you tried to find alternative ways to phrase “commercial awareness” and uncomfortable networking evenings where you tried as hard as one of the contestants on the Bachelor/Bachelorette to be noticed by the firms. 

In my experience, the first rejection email wasn’t so bad. It was a wake up from reality and reminded you of the fact that you were competing with law students from all across Sydney, the state, and even the country. The worst part was when you received your second rejection and every rejection email after. Each “we are unable to progress your application” reaffirmed the doubts you had about yourself and your aptitude to be a lawyer. 

With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you those doubts were unwarranted. 

  1. We all fight for the coveted clerkship, however in the hype of it all, we often forget to ask ourselves why we really want a clerkship. We’re told constantly that we need to be the ‘right fit’ for a firm, but we never ask whether the firm is a right fit for us. Eventually you realise that while there are students who have the time of their life clerking, there are also students who realise that the clerkship was not the right choice for them.
  2. Being unsuccessful at a clerkship does not mean you are unsuitable for commercial law. It doesn’t mean that you had to give up your interest in pursuing a career in commercial law and voice your hate for the private law sector. Being unsuccessful in your clerkship application simply means that you tried your best, and you have been given the opportunity to pursue other options. Failure has also skilled you with the experience which you can use for future applications. 
  3. You doubted your ability to be a lawyer and whether you had “what it takes”, but with every law elective, your passion in the law was reignited. From IP to family law, there was a range of career paths for you that you didn’t realise existed! You also found many other notable private law firms which have comparable expertise to the big 6 and run graduate recruitment rounds in your final year!
  4. While your clerking friends had a great time at their inter-firm sports days and socials, you found the summer to be an excellent opportunity to undertake internships, travel and work experience to broaden your perspective.

Sure, these are all conclusions reached with the benefit of hindsight, however, what can you do now?

  1. Talk about rejection openly. Regular and constant dialogue will normalise the topic of rejection. Speak honestly and candidly to trusted friends or family and reflect on the process. You don’t have to suffer in silence, and being open about your rejection may just help someone else come to terms with their own. 
  2. Accept that rejection is okay, and can be a good thing. Remember that we are first, human, and we are second, law students. Humans are imperfect and imperfection opens the door for us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us. 
  3. Define yourself. You are more than what is listed on your application. You are a friend who will go to the ends of the earth to make someone smile. You are a volunteer in your local community. A mentor to a younger sibling. Simply speaking, “strong written and oral communication skills” on an application can only convey so much about you. Don’t let rejection define who you are and what you can do.
  4. Remember, that you are worthy of success. Success is what you define it to be. You are a unique individual with infinite amounts of potential. Defy the odds. #youdoyou

Join me in normalising rejection. Fear of failure and imperfection contributes towards the increasing rates of mental illness in the legal profession. Lets re-frame the way we speak about failure. Penultimate year self, be brave and embrace failure’s ability to fuel you for bigger and better adventures.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *