“We consider their involvement in extra-curricular activities, as well as their ability to write a concise cover letter that conveys their passion and interest in joining Ashurst.”
Allens has 95 graduate lawyers starting on February 25, up 18.75 per cent from 80 last year, according to data gathered by The Australian Financial Review partnership survey. This year 53 per cent of graduates are women.
Allens’ Sydney staff partner Tim Stewart – who clerked at the firm back in 2004 – said that while the majority did summer clerkships, about 10 were hired without going through the firm’s clerkship process.
Instead, this group spent previous summers studying overseas, doing accounting internships, or working at investment banks.
Mr Stewart said in terms of graduate retention, Allens’ focus is offering a flexible work environment and support to graduates transitioning into corporate law life. Young lawyers at Allens also have the chance early on in their careers to work in London, Hong Kong or Singapore.
“It’s different to life at uni, and there’s a lot of training to soften that landing,” he said.
When asked to comment on any major changes to the types of graduates coming up through Allens since Mr Stewart started, he said the only noteworthy trend was mark inflation.
“It’s difficult to see major trends apart from the fact that many of the people coming in did a lot better at university than I did,” Mr Stewart said.
“There’s a lot of people who joke that we’d never get a job if we were going for one now.”
Clayton Utz have 82 graduate lawyers starting in March, up a marginal 2.5 per cent on 80 on last year. This cohort are 63 per cent women.
Bernice Lethlean, who was awarded first-class honours in law at the University of Wollongong, is one of this year’s starters.
She discovered Clayton Utz at a university careers fair, and said her goal this year was to make the most of the opportunity “to work alongside leaders in the profession”.
Rather than a cut-throat atmosphere, Ms Lethlean said her clerkship experience was warm, supportive and cemented a desire to stay on at Clayton Utz to kickstart her legal career.
“Before I started, I hadn’t met anyone in the clerkship. But what amazed me was how lucky I was to have such a collegiate clerkship,” she said. “It wasn’t like people were competing with each other, they were really supportive.”
Herbert Smith Freehills will welcome 95 graduates across its Australian offices in March this year. The firm’s graduate recruitment numbers are up from 76 last year. In keeping with the top six hiring trend, 57 per cent of the cohort are women.
“To attract the best and brightest grads – and keep them – we invest heavily in maintaining our strong, inclusive culture and providing exceptional opportunities, ” regional managing partner Andrew Pike said.
Like the other big six firms, Mr Pike is hoping its graduates will stick around to work on the “most interesting, high-profile deals and matters in the market” and take advantage of the firm’s international opportunities “to work for six months in one of many offices across our global network such as London, Tokyo or Paris”.
King & Wood Mallesons has one of the highest intakes of women across all the firms. Women make up two-thirds of the 80 fresh faces starting in every capital city except Darwin this year. The firm is hiring three fewer graduates compared with last year.
“We try very hard in the selection process to remove bias,” national graduate resourcing manager Sam Garner said.
What they do is “strip off personal information like name, school, address, gender” when the graduates first apply.
“We don’t look for commerce degree pairing or a GPA cut-off,” Ms Garner said.
Ms Garner admitted that the firm no longer “expects people to stay on to go on to partner track anymore” and in line with that, they’re “trying to build the training program to allow people to have external experiences” like doing an associateship with a judge or working in the firm’s London office.
Minter Ellison is hiring around 120 across the country, with women making up 55 per cent of the cohort.
The firm’s chief talent officer, Mary Lyras, said the firm doesn’t seek out particular types of candidates. Instead they’re “looking for people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences”.
Those chosen to join the graduate cohort are told the firm wants to help them “focus on balancing professional goals with commitments and interests outside of work”, Ms Lyras said.
To help with that balancing process and to retain the graduates they’ve hired the firm “provides a wide range of social, financial and health benefits” as well as the opportunity to wok with “compelling clients”, do “compelling work” and have a “compelling career”.
“By providing them with new learning opportunities and career experiences we find they want to stay for the long term,” Ms Lyras said.