The two following programs are available to you:
A corporate internship is similar to a clerkship in that it provides students with a taste of what it will be like working in a multi-disciplinary professional services organisation as a graduate lawyer. Law students can often find a broad range of work experience as an intern for an organisation, especially as internships provide students with a different outlook to legal work when compared to a clerkship. There is generally a much greater focus on internal work and client-relationship management because interns are focused on servicing the single client in-house. The culture of in-house practices is such that the single client takes over the entire workload and will often request an on-the-spot solution to most legal issues.
Organisations that offer in-house legal internships
Many large, corporate organisations have a formal internship program. The list of the types of organisations that provide internships include (but are not limited to):
It is also important to do your research into the organisations that offer legal internships and approach them directly with your expressions of interest, these are often less publicised than clerkships. On top of your academic history, you should showcase any experience gained at university through internships, co-curricular activities and any other legal experience from previous employment.
Length of the program
Many organisations offer a formal internship program that takes place over a period of time in the holidays between semesters. The length of internship programs depend on when they are held. Formal, structured internships are mostly held in the summer over a 10 week period, full-time on average, though they can range anywhere between 2-15 weeks. Winter internships are also fairly common among some of the organisations and will generally be shorter.
Internship Structure and Aims
Internships will aim to develop a number of areas, including:
What work is on offer?
Companies often place emphasis on the fact that interns undergo an experience that encompasses what an actual role at the company would be like. The work is often varied and depends on the departments and stream that students choose. Types of work students may experience in the legal stream include (but are not limited to):
Details on Streams and Practice Areas
Usually there will be the chance to experience more than one area of the business. Internships will sometimes offer a choice of areas and will then rotate students. Students often have a chance to choose what streams they might like to try, while most law students will choose the legal stream, there are many other options law students may choose, including tax, finance and more. Final streams are allocated using a mix of choice, demand and company needs. Different organisations will have different streams, based on what departments they have. Within the legal stream, practice areas offered include (but are not limited to):
Many internships are unpaid however there are a few that offer remuneration. When working for larger companies, often multinationals or banks, internships are paid. These are usually paid in wages, from $25-$28 per hour, though some amounts will sit outside these figures. A frequently quoted amount by Fusion Graduate Consultancy is that internships will pay around 70% of the graduate salary.
Volunteering is a useful way to widen your network and build your professional skills, often while adding value to a worthwhile cause. Volunteering can take place at virtually any organisation, however many volunteering positions will be for charitable organisations, like the Cancer Council, or social justice and public interest causes, such as RACS (Refugees Advice and Casework Service) and other non-profits.
Difference between a volunteer and an employee or intern
While a volunteer is not an employee, nor are they paid, the standard occupational health and safety procedures do apply to volunteers. Volunteers are entitled to be treated with a standard of care that would ordinarily be applied to any employee, contractor or intern. Volunteers do not have the structured programs that employees have, in that they are not entitled to paid leave, superannuation, workers’ compensation, national employment standards and unfair dismissal laws. However likewise, volunteers do not have the obligations that employees, contractors and interns may have – such as the legally enforceable obligation to provide services or time restraints as per the volunteer arrangement.
The difference between volunteering and interning can be a little more blurred. Through the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the most apparent difference is that interns have a more structured program to follow. Interns also, especially when interning for larger companies, often do get some remuneration for their work whereas volunteers hardly ever do (reimbursement notwithstanding).
Places that offer volunteering programs
Volunteering programs are offered by many different types of organisations, from very small to international organisations, including (but not limited to):
Length of the programs
Volunteering programs as usually run on a needs basis, this means that there are often less structured dates within which they are conducted. This is extremely beneficial for students as the opportunities are available year round, rather than within a certain time frame. Some volunteering programs are structured similarly to seasonal clerkships, in that they span full-time over a seasonal period (these are mostly volunteering positions in larger or international organisations) or they can run for single days or events. To keep up with the available volunteering positions as they arise, please click here for the LegalVitae jobs board.
Program structure and aims – overview
The aim of volunteering programs is to help students get practical experience while making contributions to various public interest and social justice causes. The structure depends on the type of volunteering that you are interested in. International opportunities are often a lot more structured, with specific set dates and a schedule that is to be followed. International volunteering programs like the ones by the United Nations and 40K have formal induction dates, followed by team-building exercises.
Work on offer
There are many different kinds of work on offer when volunteering, ranging from basic administrative work to creative campaigns. The benefits of volunteering, especially at non-profits and/or social justice organisations is that the work can be varied and interesting, often branching out beyond strictly legal work. The legal work available could include:
Details on rotations
Volunteering positions will generally not have any rotations, unlike clerkships and internships, simply because there is a less structured approach to work. However if you are embarking on an international volunteering program you may be required to rotate through a number of different departments or fields.
Volunteering positions are unpaid, with the aim to provide experience and future opportunities over remuneration. This is uniform over most volunteering positions from small local organisations to larger, multinationals like the United Nations. Despite the lack of wages, volunteering positions will usually reimburse their volunteers in some form, whether it is transportation, accommodation or other costs of living and working.
For more information
From 2017 onward, students and employers will have the chance to connect more systematically and discover more on internships, volunteer positions and similar opportunities via LegalVitae.
LegalVitae is the Law Society’s new jobs portal designed to showcase a full range of available positions to law students.
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