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Law Clerk

Education and Training: Graduation or diploma in law
Average Salary: $41,960
Job Outlook: Good

The law clerk’s job is to assist judges or lawyers by carrying out researches, performing legal analysis, and preparing legal documents or files. They basically do almost all of the functions as lawyers do however they cannot officially appear in court. They are responsible for maintaining the legal documents and papers related to different cases and are required to prepare rough drafts of briefs and arguments for evaluation and approval by lawyers. In short, they offer their services to keep the court room organized before the start of any hearing or routine.

Following are some of the responsibilities of the law clerk:

  • To prepare drafts of motions or briefs.

  • To explore and study legal documents to determine a course of action and preparing cases.

  • To trace and interview witnesses.

  • To prepare affidavits, case correspondence and document files.

  • To schedule cases, events, meeting times, and office hours of the court.

  • To maintain the link between officials, attorneys, and litigants.

  • To write bench ruling when the judge made the decision on a case.

  • To assist the judges in translating legal documents.

  • To administer the delivery of subpoenas to witnesses.

  • To converse with the attorneys, judges, witnesses, or other individuals linked to a particular case.

Education and Training Requirements

To be a law clerk the minimum requirement is graduation in any stream with an introductory course or diploma in law field. In addition they should have the knowledge of rules and procedures of law, legal terminologies, formats of different legal letters, and case summaries. They must be capable of doing all clerical jobs like listing, sorting, and evaluating personal and business related issues.

Getting the Job

To get the job of a law clerk, one needs to have superior writing and research skills. They must have a great knowledge of all the areas of law, procedures of the court, jurisdictional rules, and the court system. Law clerks should have strong communication skills and work cooperatively with staff members and the public.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, law clerk jobs are expected to grow by at least 14 percent, which is higher than the average for all occupations.
The economic crisis has impacted the legal job market as well. Now private law firms and corporate legal departments are hiring law clerks and laying off attorneys, which will have positive impact on law clerks but it may have a negative impact on judicial positions particularly at the federal level.
Latest hiring trends shows that private law firms are hiring law clerks in place of junior lawyers. This helps private law firms to maintain low operational costs.

Working Conditions and Environment

Law clerks work in a professional environment and are supposed to dress and behave accordingly. Law clerks normally work in government offices, law firms,and corporate legal departments.The law clerks in corporate firms or government offices have to work for 40 hours a week where as those working in private law firms are often required to work extended hours on a regular basis. Deadlines and high expectations can create high levels of stress.

Salary and Benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2009, the national annual average salary for law clerks was $41,960 and average hourly salary was $20.17.
There is a major difference in pay levels among law clerks in state judicial and federal judicial clerkships. Inexperienced state clerks get an average annual salary of about $47,000, whereas Federal judicial term law clerks get an average annual salary of about $71,000 with permanent clerks getting roughly about $105,000 annually.
Benefits normally include paid vacations, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Where to Go for More Information

American Bar Association
740 15th St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20005-1019
(202) 662-1000

NALA Headquarters
1516 S Boston, Ste. 200
Tulsa, OK 74119
(918) 587-6828

National Association for Law Placement
1025 Connecticut Ave., Ste. 1110
Washington, DC 20036-5413
(202) 835-1001

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service