A judicial law clerk, also commonly known simply as a law clerk, is a prestigious job. In general, judicial law clerks provide assistance to a judge in many different capacities. Despite the title of clerk, a law clerk's duties don't normally include the typical duties of other types of clerk including filing, typing and making copies. Instead, judicial law clerks work as an assistant to a judge and help that judge make good legal decisions based on law. The way law clerks help judges make this decision is by researching and analyzing complex legal issues and overseeing the actions of courtroom employees, litigants and the public that may have an interest in the case.
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The limits and expectations of judicial law clerks greatly depend on the country the court resides in and the level of the type of court that the law clerk is employed in. In the United States, judicial law clerks research law and write opinions for judges to read. This complex research helps judges make the best decisions possible.
Some law clerks also help to watch over courtroom proceedings, which includes organizing exhibits to be used during trials, analyzing complex legal issues and communicate with the judges staff, in and out of the courtroom. Judicial law clerks often have to confer with litigants about cases and often times will be the judges public figure when dealing with the general public. Many countries who employ judicial clerks, have many of the same expectations. Even though judicial clerks in different countries may have slightly different titles and expectations, many of the position's expectations are fundamentally the same. Countries where the roles of a judicial law clerk are similar to the United States include Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden.
To be a judicial law clerk, potential candidates must possess a strong desire to attain the career and to understand and work intimately with case law. The position of a law clerk is a prestigious, highly sought after position, so the candidate must be willing to aggressively seek the position amongst stellar competition.
The reasoning behind the competitiveness of landing this position is due to the success a former law clerk can expect when there career as a law clerk is over. Former law clerks are often recruited for elite law firms with big salaries and other high-ranking, high-paying positions within the legal system.
The best candidate for a law clerk position is a recent law school graduate or a highly successful, established lawyer. When judges go over the candidates for the position, they often look for applicants who stand out academically. This includes law students who were at the top, or near the top of their graduating law class, as well as candidates who posses superior academic credentials and excellent academic distinctions. In addition to class placement and transcript information, judges also look for a candidate that possesses impeccable research skills, an existing diverse knowledge of case law, a history of working well with others and strong communication and written skills. Some, but not all judges, have a personal desire to work with a law clerk who has similar ideological views as themselves. By doing this, they decrease the likelihood that there will be a conflict of values between the law clerk and the judge.
The job of a judicial law clerk means the candidate must be prepared to work anywhere at essentially anytime. Typically, judicial law clerks will have their own office space, near the judge they are assigned to, in a courthouse. While they will surely spend a great deal of time there, a law clerk will spend a great deal of time all over the courthouse including the judge's chambers and the judge's courtroom. In addition to these locations, due to the need to research legal issues, a law clerk may have to travel near or far, or will have to take work home with them to complete.
The salary for a judicial law clerk can vary depending on several factors including the type of law clerk position they have attained and whether the position is in a state court or a federal court. The different types of law clerks include temporary law clerks, term law clerks, which usually means one to two years, or a career law clerk. These three different types of law clerks are the same in both the state/province or federal court systems. However, whether you are working on the state level or the federal level has a great impact on potential salary. In addition to that criteria, a law clerk's personal experience and bar membership also influence the amount of income earned. In May 2010, it was reported that the median income for a Judicial Law Clerk was $54,000, although the average salary for an inexperienced law clerk is $47,000. The income increases for term clerks at the federal level to $71,000, and the average salary of a career federal law clerk is $105,000.