Law clerks are an essential asset to judges and the courts. You can always find law clerks at the state and federal levels, helping judges to manage their paperwork and ensuring that decisions are appropriately articulated before they are presented before the court.
While many people may read the “clerk” in Law clerk and translate it to administrative duties, this isn’t entirely true. The Clark Law Office clarifies that law clerks are junior apprentice judges or attorneys deemed qualified to conduct legal research. Law clerks can also offer their legal opinion on cases, clarifying why a case’s decision was so and the factors influencing it.
Anyone aiming to become a law clerk must have completed a law school education. Typically, recent law school graduates are perfect for this job, especially because most federal judges need clerks who have studied law review.
A law clerk position is highly coveted among recent law school graduates and is reserved for the top graduating students. In fact, many notable federal and state judges and professors today have a history of being law clerks in the early days of their careers.
How long can you work as a law clerk?
Clerkship with most federal and state judges last between 12 and 24 months. Due to the short employment span, judges are constantly supplied with fresh minds who pass the requisite training before making other career choices.
The clerkship duration works on both sides, allowing judges access to fresh minds and talents while rotating out clerks that have earned the needed experience over the past 12 to 24 months.
The decision on who to hire as a court clerk boils down to the judges and what they want. No standard rule dictates hiring fresh law school graduates for this job. Some judges hire experienced lawyers as clerks often referred to as staff attorneys.
Law Clerk Job Description
Before pursuing a transit career as a law clerk, you should know what it entails and what you’re likely to do in this role. Some of the common tasks and requirements to excel in this position include;
- Offer assistance to the judge during courtroom proceedings. Proceedings may include bail motions, arraignments, and trial proceedings.
- Help in managing evidence and exhibits to be presented in court
- Conduct legal research and provide in-depth and substantive advice to judges and other legal team members to establish facts.
- Help in drafting and reviewing briefs and other legal documents
- Review and verification of legal authority and briefs.
- Research and writing of court communication documents like bench memoranda, opinions, and orders
- Maintaining the chambers library.
- Chamber staff supervision
- Making appeal recommendations based on the facts presented
- Subpoena delivery
- Taking sworn statements from court witnesses.
Court clerkship is a great way to fast-track one’s legal career. Getting a clerkship placement with a respected judge adds polishing to the clerk’s resume and gives them an edge over other top-performing law school graduates.
While clerkship has career rewards, it is often another educational phase to becoming a successful lawyer. Getting into this position requires real work from the clerk, who will handle some of the duties of an overburdened judge. As clerks settle into their role, they may notice more workload, especially as workload piles on their principal.
It is important to note that not all court clerks perform their duties to the extent of the job. Each judge dictates how the court is run, which may include dictating the tasks the clerk is responsible for.
How to Become a Court Clerk
The path to becoming a court clerk is paved with strive and fierce competition. Law students looking to occupy this competitive and enviable position must start preparing while in school. The fierce competition means judges have their picks based on outstanding factors like education and other characteristics.
Judges in the United States are conferred a lot of power and influence, allowing them to choose whomever they want as clerks. Getting picked means each prospective needs to show they are the best candidate. In some cases, judges have selected qualified persons with additional resources to offer, including those who can run local chess clubs, manage their golfing schedules and have a shared passion for the sports or prospective interest in pick-up basketball games.
Although clerks will work with a judge for about two years before moving up the rung in the legal career field, some judges hire permanent clerks – a reserved position based on the judge’s discretion.