Preparing for a High Court appeal as an elective subject

Practical elective subject for law students

Now, this is how you go about choosing an elective subject that will make you stand out in clerkship and graduate applications.

The Age recently ran a story on a group of Monash university law students who worked on an application for speacial leave to the high court for convicted murdered, John Glascott. You can find the original article here. I thought it would be worthwhile pointing out why choosing to take part in an elective such as this can be an excellent (and crafty) idea.

To keep it brief, I think these students have chosen a fantastic elective subject:

  • It will stand out in a resume, coverletter or job application – not many other students (or lawyers for that matter) have worked on any aspect of a high court appeal, which means that for the HR people reading thousands of applications, it’s a reason to put it in the “yes” or “maybe” pile.
  • An interviewer will definitely ask them about it, so they can prepare a great answer explaining exactly what they learn fro the elective. If they plan it well, it will also be an opportunity to tell the interviewer about something else (eg, “I really enjoyed the subject, I learnt a lot, and it also required other skills such as…”).
  • They were working on a real matter, and that experience counts. Even if they apply to commercial law firms, there are lots of transferable skills that can be displayed (but really, for the purposes of law clerkship interviews, it is the “wow” factor of putting it on your resume that provides the most benefit).
  • They got an article in The Age, which they can now link to in their LinkedIn profile to build their network.

Other reasons off the top of my head include:

  • It sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than Commercial Tenancy Law or Taxation Law and Policy.
  • They would have grappled with issues that they were experiencing first hand, rather than issues that they are just reading about.
  • It provides an opportunity to network and learn from practicing lawyers.

If you are in your final year of university and are choosing electives, take a look at what your law school has to offer by way of practical subjects. I would highly recommend that you consider undertaking one, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

If you are worried that a practical elective subject is not relevant to where you want to work (for example, maybe these students want to work in corporate firms, or in a government department like the ACCC), just remember that the two biggest challenges regarding interviews is first, actually getting one, and then secondly, having enough to talk about with the interviewer.

An interviewer will always prefer to have a normal conversation with you, rather than run through a list of behavioral questions, and a practical elective subject will give you an opportunity to do this; they are just more interesting to talk about than, say, equity and trusts, which every student does. Besides, there are practical subjects that cover everything from community legal work to corporate work, so just see what your uni has to offer.

If you are interested, here is the sentencing judgment of Glascott, which begins: “On a cold and windy mid-winter night, Monday 10 July 2006, you went to Mr Robinson’s solicitors’ office at Station Street, Fairfield intending to burn the premises down.” It’s pretty unsettling stuff.

The Victorian Supreme Court appeal is here, and the transcript of the Monash University assisted application for special leave to the High Court is here.

[Note: The Age owns the copyright to the original article and images posted here. And by the way, kudos to The Age for running stories like this – there are not enough positive stories out there for law students these days.]

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