How Do I Become a Law Clerk?

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  • Written By: T. Webster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 21 April 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
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Law clerks work on litigation, researching cases and issues and writing opinions that are used by judges in making a decision. From legal research to drafting legal documents and delivering subpoenas, law clerks play a significant role in the preparation for a courtroom proceeding.

It is required for most law clerks to have studied in law school. For this reason, the position is most often filled by recent law school graduates. In this sense, a law clerk position is often the starting point for a career as an attorney or judge.

Strong interviewing, writing, listening, and communications skills are required to become a law clerk. These professionals are typically called up to interview witnesses and take subpoenas. This requires an ability to analyze information for accuracy and logic. Listening to others, reading their reactions, and being able to persuade them to offer additional information are also important skills.

Being a law clerk also requires an ability to work well under stress and on tight deadlines. Stamina is also important, as workloads may be heavy and the hours can be long. Information often needs to be compiled quickly to prepare for court cases, especially for trials. Proofreading and accuracy are extremely important, as significant mistakes could hinder or ruin a court case.

Essentially, law clerks perform many of the same tasks as attorneys. They must understand and use proper legal terminology. The difference is that the law clerks have not taken and passed the bar exam. For that reason, they do not represent cases in court or offer legal advice to clients.

A law school student or recent graduate who aspires to be an attorneys may become a law clerk until she completes her degree or passes the bar exam. Internships or temporary positions may be offered for current students or those with less than two years of law school. Career law clerks are generally law school graduates who want to serve at least several years as a clerk. To become a law clerk, some formal training will likely be required, whether it is a certificate, associate's degree, or a bachelor,s degree in paralegal studies, social sciences, or history. Check with reputable law firms or legal professional associations to help determine the best education path to take.

The role of a law clerk tends to vary with the size and scope of a law firm. Depending on training and experience, some law clerks may work for a large firm yet specialize in a certain area. Others are called upon to work across the spectrum of civil and criminal law, as well as family and real estate law and contract work. Those desiring to become a law clerk can find employment in a variety of settings, such as law firms, legal aid organizations, or corporate legal departments. Law clerks may work in teams, alone, or as independent contractors on a freelance basis.

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