How to Become a Law Clerk: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a law clerk. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a law clerk.

View 7 Popular Schools »

Do I Want to Be a Law Clerk?

Law clerks work for judges in the municipal, state and federal court systems. Law clerks draft memoranda and opinions, as well as doing legal research for judges. They verify legal citations, attend hearings and provide support for judges during court hearings. Clerks also prepare files for hearings and manage filing systems. They also assist with pro se issues in bankruptcy court and in prisoner cases. The position is generally a temporary position - one to two years - depending on the judge. Stress may be involved with meeting court deadlines.

Job Requirements

Law clerks are generally required to be law school graduates, and most have passed the state bar examination. The following general requirements to become a law clerk come from the National Center for State Courts:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Juris doctorate
Degree Field(s) Law
Licensure Must have passed the bar examination
Experience 1-2 years
Key Skills Organizational skills, coordinate and prioritize multiple projects
Computer Skills Word processing, online legal research sites (Westlaw), online case management filing programs

Step 1: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

Before enrolling in law school, a student must first earn an undergraduate degree. Law schools generally do not have requirements as to a degree field or course of study. Law schools can afford to accept only the best applicants, so the pre-law student should maintain a high grade point average in his or her undergraduate degree program.

Step 2: Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and Apply to Law School

Before graduates can be accepted to law school, they must take the LSAT and pass with a minimum required score. This test features three multiple choice sections covering reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning. There is also a written essay section which is not graded but which is submitted to law schools along with the test scores. Applicants are generally required to sign up for the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which administers the LSAT and assembles the student's Law School Report. This report contains the LSAT scores, the student's letters of recommendation and personal essay required by law school admission departments. It also includes their undergraduate transcripts and grade point analysis. The law schools to which the student applies then access this report when making admissions decisions.

Step 3: Get a Juris Doctorate

It generally takes three years of full-time attendance to graduate law school. Courses generally include civil and criminal law and procedures, contract law, torts, legal writing and research, constitutional law, ethics and specialty law courses. Those who aspire to work as law clerks should choose classes that will build their skills in legal research, writing and judgment. Additionally, students who hope to attain positions with judges should strive to keep up their grades since judges, especially those on the federal level, often seek candidates with strong academic records. Prospective employers may also look for law school graduates who were active participants in various student groups, such as moot court or trial team, or who wrote for their school's law journal.

Step 4: Pass the Bar Examination

Law school graduates must take the state bar examination before being able to practice as a lawyer. Since a judicial law clerk is often a lawyer, graduates who want to be law clerks generally must also pass the state bar examination. In some cases, a judge may hire a law school graduate who has not yet passed the bar, on the condition that the clerk take the bar examination.

Step 5: Gain Experience

Most judges prefer law clerks who have some experience with legal procedures and research. Serving an internship or working in a law office while preparing to take the bar examination can satisfy this requirement. The prospective law clerk should accept work that builds research and legal writing skills.

Show me popular schools

Related to How to Become a Law Clerk: Step-by-Step Career Guide

  • Related
  • Recently Updated
  • Popular
Law Clerk Degree, Diploma and Training Program Information

Read about degree programs that prepare aspiring law clerks. Discover the educational requirements of these programs and review...

Too Many Law Schools, Not Enough Jobs

The principle of supply and demand infiltrates all aspects of life, and unfortunately it's become especially relevant when...

Fewer Job Opportunities and Higher Tuition Don't Deter Prospective Law Students

When it comes to shrinking job opportunities and lower salary prospects for graduates - not to mention increases in tuition -...

Top Law Firms Create New Kind of Lawyer

Stand before a group of first-year law students and tell them that when they complete their studies, they are going to work for...

New Washington State Law Aids Military Veterans in Job Market

Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Currently not accepting applications from Texas residents
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    Which subject are you interested in?

  • School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (1 campus)
    • Pennsylvania (2)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What year did you graduate from high school?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (2 campuses)
    • California (4)
    • Colorado (2)
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1)
    • Florida (1)
    • Georgia (1)
    • Hawaii (1)
    • Illinois (1)
    • New Mexico (1)
    • Nevada (1)
    • Pennsylvania (1)
    • Puerto Rico (1)
    • Tennessee (3)
    • Texas (4)
    • Virginia (3)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    Do you prefer online or campus based learning?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Minnesota (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    • Bachelor
        • Bachelor of Science - Criminal Justice Brooklyn Center
    • Associate
        • Associate - Criminal Justice Brooklyn Center

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must complete an application online and submit transcripts for their highest degree earned.
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Southwestern College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Legal
      • Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, and Corrections
      • Fire Safety and Protection
      • Legal Support Services
        • Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
        • Legal Assistant or Paralegal
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Ball State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Legal
      • Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, and Corrections
      • Legal Support Services
        • Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
        • Legal Assistant or Paralegal
  • School locations:
    • Puerto Rico (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at D'Mart Institute include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
    • Legal
      • Legal Support Services
        • Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary

Popular Schools

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics