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 intergrated 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:
- Handling legal matters
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 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:
Generalist duties may include:
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:
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.
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:
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.
2017 Graduate Program Key Dates
Wednesday 1 March
Applications for graduate positions open.
Thursday 30 March
Offers for graduate positions to current summer clerks must be made and accepted/declined by 5.00pm.
Friday 14 April
Applications for graduate positions close at 5.00pm.
Monday 8 May
Interviews for graduate positions commence.
Friday 9 June
Offers for graduate positions can be made.
Friday 16 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.
- Graduate Services
- T: (02) 9926 0222
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org