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How to Become a Legal Clerk

Do you have excellent writing skills, an interest in the law, and outstanding attention to detail? A career as a legal clerk might be the perfect opportunity for your next career move.

Legal clerks assist lawyers and judges by gathering information for legal documents, researching precedents, drafting legal memos, and writing reports on cases. They typically perform administrative tasks as well, such as answering phones, greeting guests, monitoring mail, managing office supplies, and making photocopies. To be a successful legal clerk, you’ll need strong organizational skills, excellent research skills, and to be comfortable handling confidential client information.

Critical thinking and accuracy are key skills you’ll need. You may be required to provide assistance prior to and during a case and must perform duties in a timely manner. Legal clerks also schedule appointments and meetings. You will need a good working knowledge of the law and the ability to work independently or as part of a team to excel as a legal clerk. 

Sample job description

Legal clerks handle all the administrative duties for lawyers and judges, including preparing legal documentation and trials, conducting research, offering customer service, and greeting clients. Legal clerks must have a working knowledge of legal proceedings. To perform this function, legal clerks need to be highly organized, have excellent communication skills, and be proficient with computers. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced legal clerk to take our business to new heights. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience performing legal research and providing legal reports to support lawyers and judges.  

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare legal drafts
  • Assemble and organize information for legal forms and documents
  • Research and study laws, regulations, and court decisions
  • Prepare legal memoranda
  • Collect and organize case materials such as reports and evidence
  • Prepare trial briefs, exhibits, and motions
  • Maintain calendar of court dates and hearings
  • Administrative tasks including answering phones, managing office supplies, filing, and greeting guests

Education and experience

A high school diploma or GED is required for this position. However, employers prefer that candidates have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in pre-law, administration, or a related field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Proficient computer skills, including Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel)
  • Excellent organization and scheduling skills
  • Ability to perform a wide range of clerical duties including maintaining files
  • Discretion and an ability to handle confidential information
  • Time management skills and ability to prioritize
  • Legal research skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Requires excellent written and oral communication skills and thorough knowledge of legal research tools such as LEXIS and Westlaw
  • Hands-on familiarity with a variety of computer applications, including word processing, databases (such as document review and file management systems), spreadsheets, and imaging
  • Hands-on familiarity with ESI tools and knowledge of e-discovery procedures and resources

Typical work environment

Legal clerks typically work in office settings, usually in courthouses or law firms. They also spend time in the courtroom. Some may also spend time in the judge’s chambers. Legal clerks work normal business hours but often work overtime when working on complex cases. Some law clerks work one or more days a week from home. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a legal clerk are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many legal clerks can work more than 40 hours a week or on weekends, especially when nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

Legal clerks work in legal settings for law firms or in courthouses. Many institutions offer certifications to help legal clerks develop their skills. Here are some of the best certifications for legal clerks: 

  • Certified Legal Professional (CLP). The CLP is designed for lawyer’s assistants who want to advance their skills and knowledge and gain an advantage in their careers. The exam consists of four parts that demonstrate your dedication to professionalism and test your knowledge of legal office skills, the ability to interact on a professional level with attorneys, clients, and other support staff, and a working knowledge of procedural law, the law library, and how to prepare legal documents. 
  • Certified Paralegal (CP). The CP, offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants, recognizes your knowledge in the legal field, your analytical skills, writing abilities, and reading comprehension. The exam has 5 sections. To qualify for the exam, you will need a high school diploma plus 7 years of experience, a bachelor’s degree in any field plus 1 year of experience, or a bachelor’s degree from a bar association-approved paralegal program. The certification must be renewed every 5 years.

Career path

A high school diploma or GED is required to be a legal clerk. However, employers prefer that candidates have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in pre-law, administration, or a related field.

A legal clerk works very closely with attorneys and often reports to a senior legal assistant.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-2011

2020 Employment345,600
Projected Employment in 2030387,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 12% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift41,400 increase

According to the career website The Balance Careers, one trend legal clerks should be aware of is the outsourcing of a lot of the legal process. Many firms are transferring the work of paralegals, legal assistants, and support professionals like legal clerks outside of their firms. Instead, these services are being handled by outside vendors both in and out of the U.S.

Another trend in the legal field that affects legal clerks is the increasing demand for a better work-life balance. In the past, law firms have pushed staff members to work long hours to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines. Now, firms are giving employees more benefits like flex-time, part-time work, and allowing telecommuting.