Law Clerks are Legal professionals working for provincial or federal courts of law and whose main duty is to help, counsel, and assist Judges. In most cases, they are recently graduated Attorneys or law students, with excellent records and grades, going through their last two years of studies. Law Clerks are often tasked with going through extensive documentation and research material related to a case before the trial begins in order to obtain and prepare Judges for what is coming in each case.
Many Judges will confer with and ask Law Clerks for their opinion during cases and instances when a decision must be made. Much like their superiors, Law Clerks must remain impartial and unbiased in all cases. The outcomes of these decisions have the power to change a person’s life and to create new laws.
The position of Law Clerk is not to be confused with that of Paralegals or Prosecutors. A Paralegal works as the assistant to an Attorney, possessing extensive knowledge of law procedures and other specific terms of the trade, but are not legally permitted to practice law in most parts of the country. Prosecutors are also Attorneys working for provincial or federal courts, but unlike Law Clerks and Judges, these professionals are expected to act as representatives of the provincial or federal government against the defendant.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Law Clerks are required to complete.
- Providing counsel, recommendations, and second opinions on legal questions, decisions, and rulings to Judges:
- Researching laws, previous cases, and other documents that may contain relevant information for the case at hand;
- providing assistance prior and during a proceeding by preparing for a case and examining the corresponding legal documents;
- preparing briefs, memoranda, or other statements related to the case at hand;
- reviewing testimonies, appeals, motions, and pledges;
- attending court sessions in order to listen to and record relevant information; and
- ensuring that all documentation related to the case at hand is available and properly ordered.
- Keeping track of new laws and changes to existing ones, as well as notifying Judges about them:
- Maintaining Judges’ law libraries, literature, and documentation updated.
- Performing basic courtroom duties:
- Calling calendars and appointing following sessions;
- providing oaths and swearing in witnesses, jury panels, and any other person providing testimony during cases;
- writing and filing periodic reports on court proceedings;
- compiling court-related statistics and information; and
- assisting members of the jury by clarifying legal terms and answering any questions they may have.
- Coordinating and scheduling the Judge’s appointments and meetings:
- Attending and participating in meetings between Judges and Attorneys;
- taking notes on the subjects and agreements reached during said meetings; and
- providing Judges and Attorneys with any necessary information or documentation during meetings.
- Supervising the work and activities of interns in the court house.
- Providing counsel and assistance to Judges on their main duties.
- Preparing briefs and memoranda with important information for each case.
- Reviewing and recalling relevant information for each case.
- Scheduling and coordinating Judges’ meetings.
- Attending meetings between Judges and Attorneys and taking notes of important information.
- Attending court sessions and performing regular court duties.
- Supervising interns in the court house.
The average Law Clerk salary is $50,602 per year or $26 per hour. This is around 1.5 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $35,000 while most experienced workers make up to $71,000. These results are based on 330 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills:
- Having strong writing skills, as well as knowledge of legal terms and jargon; and
- possessing excellent interviewing skills.
- Outstanding problem-solving, analytical, research, and organizational skills:
- Being able to work on various cases at the same time in a fast-paced environment;
- being capable of adapting quickly to changing deadlines;
- being able to conduct extensive research on previous cases and laws;
- managing and understanding vast amounts of information while extracting relevant data; and
- having the ability to retain large amounts of information, including legal terminology, federal and provincial rules of legal procedure, and substantive law.
- High levels of integrity, morality, honesty, and responsibility:
- Being trustworthy enough to handle sensitive or confidential information;
- being capable of remaining unbiased and impartial during cases; and
- following strict ethical guidelines and client confidentiality rules.
- Good administrative and computer skills:
- Writing legal documents using word processors and other computerized applications; and
- being proficient in MS Office, databases, and accounting systems.
While most court houses have their own preferences when hiring new Law Clerks, the majority of applicants are law students going through their last two years of studies or that have recently graduated. It is also common for experienced Lawyers to become Law Clerks when they wish to pursue a career in becoming a Judge. The selection process is based mostly on academic achievement, recommendations, proof of the aforementioned skills, and a series of interviews with different Judges.
Most court houses, whether provincial or federal, hire a set number of applicants each year; usually between 3 and 5 in the most important ones. Therefore, the competition for this position is quite fierce. This is especially true in the most prestigious courts such as the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal and Provincial Courts of Appeal. 
The majority of Law Clerks are required to work during regular business hours. However, it is not uncommon for them to work extra hours from time to time in order to prepare for special cases.