A law clerk's primary function is to perform research pertaining to legal issues. They may work for a judge or a private attorney. Law clerks provide necessary assistance to those in professional law positions who cannot do all of the research and paperwork themselves. They may also assist a judge in making legal decisions.
Law clerks must have a broad understanding of how the law works and must be prompt in finding the necessary information in their research. Legal proceedings often move very quickly and cannot be halted because the law clerk is taking a long time to find the information. Therefore, law clerks must be skilled at using information systems. The position of law clerk is usually a stepping stone leading to other major positions in law, such as the positions of a lawyer or a judge. A law clerk's work setting can include a legal library, legal office, private office, or courtroom. Law clerks may often perform their duties around the regular hours in which courts are open. Courts are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but they may have to perform research at all hours of the night and on weekends. Law clerks generally do the "grunt" work of the legal profession while building their skills to move up in the system.
Law clerks must be graduates of law schools. They do not usually need any professional experience, as many law clerks come straight out of school. They must be highly organized and able to make good use of documentation computer programs. They also must be skilled writers and legal researchers. Many positions also require accomplishments such as graduating in the top 10% of the class.
The job of a law clerk is an important position that assists those in higher positions in the legal process. Law clerks must work diligently to perform their duties, even when it inconveniences their personal life. This is the entry-level position in the legal profession that lawyers and judges often hold early in their careers.
Law Clerk Tasks
- Research and analyze law sources to prepare drafts of briefs or arguments for review, approval and use by attorney.
- Prepare affidavits of documents and maintain document files and case correspondence.
- Review and file pleadings, petitions and other documents relevant to court actions.
- Search for and study legal documents to investigate facts and law of cases.
- Deliver or direct delivery of subpoenas to witnesses and parties to action, serve copies of pleas to opposing counsel.