Graduates who have attained strong grades and have some legal research experience may wish to work with a judge in chambers for a year or two after graduation, before embarking on the next phase in their careers. The District Court of NSW, Federal Court of Australia and High Court of Australia offer roles as an Associate to a judge or as a legal research officer within the court’s registry. The Supreme Court of NSW offers graduate roles as a Tipstaff to a judge or a legal researcher. Other courts and tribunals also offer Associate or researcher roles.
What are the benefits?
These positions are highly sought after and provide:
- A valuable insight to the workings of a judge’s chambers.
- An understanding of the administration of justice and courtroom procedure.
- An opportunity to further consolidate advanced legal research skills.
- An insight into work of a barrister or litigation practice as a solicitor.
- An opportunity to expand your professional network.
Where to apply?
Generally, students in their final or penultimate year of LLB or JD will apply directly to the judge or court with whom they wish to work. In deciding where to apply, students should consider:
- The caseload or jurisdiction of the Court in light of your interests or future career plans.
- An individual judge’s own specialisation (for instance, a judge may be known for their particular expertise in an area).
How to apply?
- By the beginning of your final year of study, contact each judge’s chambers to inquire about their application timing and procedures
- Feel free to apply to more than one judge or court, but tailor your application to the specific judge.
- Be aware of greeting style and formalities (e.g., it is customary to address your application letter ‘Dear Judge’). If you are unsure about this, you might ask the judge’s assistant.
- Judges will be looking for excellent grades, extra-curricular activities, finely-tuned research skills, excellent oral and written communication, a strong work ethic and the ability to work well under direction.
High Court Associateships
Naturally, there is exceptional competition for High Court Associateships . An Associate to a High Court judge would be expected to have graduated with first class Honours and have exceptional research skills. High Court judges often appoint their Associates two and three years in advance, so your application should indicate the years that you are available for employment. Further information about Associateship applications.
Federal Court Associateships
The Federal Court of Australia offers a number of Associate positions each year. Associates are employed as part of the personal chambers staff of a particular judge. They provide legal research, incourt duties and other support for that judge. Associate positions are generally not advertised and the selection of Associates is conducted by the judge personally. Generally, Associates are employed for up to 12 months, usually (but not always) commencing early in the calendar year. An application for an Associate position should include a cover letter, curriculum vitae and an Academic Transcript. You should indicate if there are particular availability periods for when you wish to be considered for employment. Forward your application directly to the judge or to the District Registrar in the appropriate registry.
Supreme Court of NSW Tipstaff or legal researcher positions
Work as a tipstaff involves assisting a NSW Supreme Court judge with court related duties and complex legal research. Research generally involves a detailed analysis of case law and an examination of legal developments in areas where precedents may not be well defined. Tipstaff positions are available for judges in the Equity and Common Law Divisions of the Supreme Court of NSW and in the NSW Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court also employs legal researchers on an annual basis.
Applicants for these roles are expected to possess strong communication and interpersonal skills, to demonstrate a high level of IT proficiency and to display tact, confidentiality and confidence in their interactions with court users, practitioners, the judiciary and other court staff. A strong academic record and exceptional legal research skills are also essential.
Applications should be directed to the individual Judge’s chambers preferably no later than the 30th March, the year before you wish to commence work. Interviews are usually conducted in April and May, with the successful applicant commencing work in late January the following year. The tipstaff and researcher positions are highly competitive. Applicants are strongly recommended to contact the chambers of individual judges for specific information on applications for the tipstaff position with that judge.
Please visit the Supreme Court of NSW for further information about applying for these positions and a list of Supreme Court judicial officers.
District Court of NSW Associateships
An Associate in the District Court of NSW acts as a personal and professional assistant to a Judge. An Associate provides a comprehensive legal and research service to the judge and assists with court related duties. The Associate’s responsibilities include maintaining records, administering oaths, empanelling and taking verdicts from juries, recording and taking custody of exhibits and accompanying and assisting a judge on country court circuits. Associates are also required to liaise with the judiciary, legal profession, prosecutors, litigants, witnesses, court staff and the public, in order to ensure the effective processing of court and chamber matters.
Law graduates applying for positions are expected to have a strong academic record in their law studies and highly developed legal research skills. Previous legal work experience is also highly desirable.
For advertised positions contact the Judicial Support Coordinator on (02) 9287 7324.