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 communicating 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 their 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.