The following programs are available to you:
Graduate positions are usually only offered to students in their final year who are graduating within the required time frame set by the firm or organisation, or recent graduates that have already finished their studies.
Organisations that offer graduate programs
Most private practice firms, in-house legal teams and government organisations offer graduate programs. However, the majority of the graduates sourced by each organisation come from their previous pool of clerks or interns.
Length of the programs
Graduate programs can last between 12 – 24 months.
Program structure overview
The program is structured as such that students allow students to become integrated into the business. The program is usually made up of rotations where students spend a certain amount of time in a particular area of the business. The rotations will include a learning and development program which also includes non-technical skills development.
Work on offer
Graduates are directly involved in key matters from the beginning so there will be the opportunity to:
- Provide a range of oral and written legal services (under supervision) as part of a multi-skilled project team, which may include:
- Handling legal matters
- Reviewing/drafting notices, instruments and other legal documents
- Researching, assessing and preparing advice on legal and regulatory matters
- Analyse stakeholder and market conduct and apply law and policy in solving regulatory issues
- Participate in investigations and prepare briefs for evidence
- Liaise with relevant stakeholders
- Contribute to the development and implementation of policy on financial services, corporate finance and corporate governance
- Undertake research, analyse and summarise the information and present it back in various forms
Details on rotations
The rotation program is executed in a very structured manner, and is decided by a combination of student choices and business needs. By doing this, graduates will gain a wider knowledge of the business, clients and culture. The rotations assist firms and organisations to decide which department graduates may be best suited.
The salary will depend place to place. It generally will range from $50,000-$55,000 (boutique) - $60,000 - $65,000 (mid-tier, government and in-house) and $70,000 - $80,000 (top tier). Some salaries do sit outside these figures.
Government Graduate Roles
A graduate position in Australian Public Service is a detailed, structured way to enter or transition into a career in public service. The career paths taken by graduates in public service include government solicitor, working for the DPP, LegalAid, advisory or consultancy roles and many more. Graduate positions in Australian Public Service are sourced from a number of different tertiary courses including: law, science, arts, engineering, information technology as well as many others.
What departments or bodies offer graduate programs?
There are dozens of governmental agencies and public bodies that offer graduate programs. For a list of agencies, click here
The list includes government departments such as the department of agriculture, defence or education. Graduates can also apply to programs run by regulatory bodies like ASIC and ASIO. Government graduate programs are spread across a state and federal level so all together there are dozens of graduate programs that students can look to apply to.
The application process to government legal jobs is completely different to applying for positions in private practice or in-house legal services. Government departments will have their own separate application process and are usually longer and more detailed. There is also a much more rigorous screening process that applicants will need to be aware of.
Applications are usually completed online through the respective department or agency websites. After the online application is submitted, there will often be a round or more of psychometric testing, followed by video interviews. After this, further assessments are undertaken at the department or agency assessment centre – which can often be located in Canberra. The entire process often takes a number of months, the opening dates for registration varying between the different government bodies, with some opening around similar times to law firm graduate programs and some opening much later in the year.
Length of the program
The graduate programs are usually 12 months long, however can range from 10 to 24 months, and students have the opportunity to partake in up to four rotations across two to three practice groups. After the completion of the program, graduates can choose to continue and progress through the Australian Public Service (APS) Work Level Standards.
Structure of the program
The structure of the program depends on each respective department. Each program will commence with an orientation, up to two weeks, here all participants will have the chance to meet each other and familiarise themselves with their department and people they will be working with. Students are often allocated a Graduate Team and buddy to aid in their transition to life in Canberra. Students will be able to experience a mix of rotations, with their allocated rotations being a mix of their own choice and additional business needs.
What work is on offer?
The work on offer is similar to the any work done in private practice but will also involve department specific tasks, client liaison and research. Work within the legal department will include:
- Performing legal and factual research
- Drafting and summarising legal documents, checking for accuracy
- Preparing correspondence, written reports and performing records research
- Organising and tracking case files
- Recording client meetings and drafting daily correspondence such as letters and legal documents
- Assisting senior and junior solicitors in additional legal matters
- Applying both law and policy in solving regulatory issues
- Contributions to the development and implementation of policy
- Enhancing relationships with professional bodies and the community
Generalist duties may include:
- Data collation and analysis
- Consultancy on relevant governmental issues
- Gathering research and analysing information to prepare written and oral briefs
- Project Coordination
During the programs, graduates can experience up to three rotations, within their chosen stream, as well as a client-contact component to expose graduates to different parts of the organisation. While the rotations vary greatly, stream to stream, some common streams include:
- Information Technology
Within the law stream, graduates will have the opportunity to rotate through different departmental teams which allows graduates to experience different areas and applications of the law. The various rotations will depend on the specific agency or department.
Salary is fixed at each APS Work Level. For a comprehensive guide, please read the 2015 APS remuneration report.
Starting salaries for graduate programs have ranged from $50,000 to $72,000 + (ASIO), however most will sit in between $60,000 to $70,000. Depending on the department, there may be the opportunity to advance through multiple levels in a shorter amount of time. Some places, like the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for example, allow advancement from APS3 to APS5 within two years.
Students can continue to work in public service or transition into a different area. Many criminal lawyers, for example, have worked for the DPP and in criminal defence. Graduates may also want to transition into private practice later, however this can sometimes be difficult without fairly extensive experience.
An associateship is a role that is undertaken, usually, by a trained lawyer who assists a judge with administrative, research and other legal tasks. The role of tipstaff is usually undertaken by a law graduate, prior to starting or during their Practical Legal Training. On occasion, though very rarely, the role is given to a senior law student or a lawyer with more than two years or post-qualification experience.
Associates vs Tipstaves
It is important to note the difference between an associateship and a position as a tipstaff, especially in the New South Wales Supreme Court. While the roles are similar, there are very minor differences between the two. Judges in the NSW Supreme Court will often hire both tipstaves and associates simultaneously. In NSW equivalent of associates, in other states, is actually a tipstaff. An associate role in NSW is more of an executive assistant position. Tipstaves on the other hand will be more closely involved in legal research, drafting and everyday court procedure on top of administrative and PA tasks. For the sake of clarity, the role of a NSW tipstaff will be referred to as an “associateship”.
Places that offer associateships
Judges from all different courts in Australia, from local courts to the high court, will hire associates. High court judges will hire two associates, one based in Canberra and one in their home state (known as a “travelling associate”). Other judges will usually hire a single associate per year.
Length of the programs
Associateships are offered on a contractual basis, which means that associates are not permanent employees. Most associateships occur on a yearly basis, however some can extend up to two years. It is very rare for an associateship to last longer than a year. In a lot of cases, one of the first tasks a judge’s associate needs to complete is finding their own replacement for the next year.
Program structure and aims – overview
The structure of an associateship varies between judges. An associate is essentially a high-level assistant to a judge and will need to be able to keep up with the type of work that their judge needs completed. While there is no official program, associates are expected to hit the ground running from day one. This means the majority of the time, the associate is in the courtroom, ensuring that the judge’s day in court goes smoothly. The ultimate aim of an Associateships is to entrench themselves in the day to day occurrences of court proceedings, learn about standard procedure and, hopefully, build a strong network.
Competition is often very high when applying for associateships. Often associateships require superior grades, previous experience and a very high level of business acumen and communication skills. At a high court level, competition escalates, with associates often being the students who topped their cohort at university. One specific reason applicants need to be of such high calibre is because they will be a major part of the judge’s professional and personal life for the next year. They will be the person that the judge relies on every single day professionally and personally. This means that they not only need to be academically and professionally bright but they also need to be compatible with their judge on a personal level, as it is expected that the judge and their associate will work extremely closely.
Work on offer
A judge’s associate is a position that offers one of the most expansive opportunities work-wise. An associateship is not a desk job but it is very administrative. There is the standard paperwork to be done and judge’s associates do need to constantly be on top of scheduling arrangements. Other work can include:
- Arranging the court room for the day and general file management
- Recording the happenings in the courtroom on the court order sheet and in the associates notebook
- Summarising court materials
- Reviewing transcripts
- Drafting and editing judgments
- Providing feedback for the judge
- Personal assistant duties for the judge (maintaining chambers, Judge’s apparel)
- Legal research
- Legal policy writing
- Speech writing
- Correspondence with clients, the registry, solicitors, barristers and other legal staff involved in cases
The salary of an associate varies, with the higher the jurisdiction, the higher the salary. An associate to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is at an ASO 5 level and can range from $68,315 - $72,440 plus superannuation.
2018 Graduate Program Key Dates
- Monday 5 March - Applications for graduate positions open.
- Sunday 15 April - Applications for graduate positions close at 5pm.
- Monday 7 May - Interviews for graduate positions commence.
- Friday 8 June - Offers for graduate positions can be made.
- Monday 18 June - Offers for graduate positions must be accepted or declined by 5.00pm.
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.