Legal ClerkJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Legal clerks play a crucial role in helping attorneys prepare for trials. They put together and organize information for use in legal documents, research legal precedents for cases, draft legal memos, gather case materials, and write reports. Many times, a legal clerk also performs administrative office tasks such as answering phones, signing for packages, greeting guests, monitoring mail, managing office supplies, and making photocopies. A legal clerk should be organized, have solid research skills, and be comfortable handling confidential client information.

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

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a legal clerk is $46,450 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$46,200$62,500
Los Angeles, California$52,100$70,500
Denver, Colorado$43,450$58,750
Washington, DC$52,900$71,600
Miami, Florida$43,250$58,500
Orlando, Florida$39,900$53,950
Tampa, Florida$40,250$54,500
Atlanta, Georgia$42,250$57,150
Chicago, Illinois$48,550$65,700
Boston, Massachusetts$52,500$71,050
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$41,850$56,600
New York City, New York$55,300$74,800
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$45,000$60,900
Dallas, Texas$43,850$59,300
Houston, Texas$43,450$58,750
Seattle, Washington$50,550$68,350
National Average$39,500$53,400

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.

Sample interview questions

  • What are the qualities of a good legal clerk?
  • How would you describe your writing style?
  • What have you done to improve your knowledge in the last year?
  • What do you consider your greatest strengths? Your greatest
  • weaknesses?
  • How fast can you type?
  • Why are you a good candidate for this position?
  • Which areas of law are you most interested in?
  • How would you describe a typical day in this position?
  • Do you have experience with billing?
  • Which software programs are you familiar with?
  • Do you have good phone communication skills?
  • How do you measure success?
  • Are you familiar with case management software? Which ones?
  • Are you proficient in drafting depositions, summonses, and subpoenas?
  • How would you prepare a case file?
  • How do you handle stress?
  • How do you ensure the accuracy of your work?
  • Can you give an example of when you improved efficiency in the office?
  • What is your experience dealing with confidential information? How do
  • you protect it?
  • How would you deal with a demanding client?
  • How do you prioritize your workload when you have multiple tasks and
  • deadlines to manage?

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