Law Clerk Degree, Diploma and Training Program Information

Oct 13, 2019

Although a diploma program may prepare a person to be a paralegal, law clerk training comes from first attending law school. Clerking opportunities are available for law school students and graduates who have a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree.

Essential Information

Some J.D. programs allow students to tailor their studies in order to specialize in a particular type of law, such as tax, business or environmental law. Many programs also offer law clerk internship opportunities for 2nd-year and 3rd-year students. These positions are traditionally unpaid, but do result in course credit. They also represent an opportunity for networking and resume building. The J.D. program should prepare students to take the bar examination and pursue licensing.

Prerequisites for these programs include a bachelor's degree, acceptable Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores and a statement of intent. Some programs require a personal interview for admission.


Juris Doctorate Programs

First-year courses in law school cover the basic concepts behind legal reasoning and judicial opinions. The curriculum of the second and third years features more electives and allows the student to explore the law from a variety of angles.

Individuals enrolled in J.D. programs study basic and advanced legal topics such as legislation and regulation, legal research and writing, civil procedures and international law.

Sample course topics include:

  • Wills and trusts
  • History of the jury
  • Criminal justice
  • Property law
  • Torts

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Law clerk positions that translate into course credit are likely to be unpaid, but there are many paying clerking positions available to law students and graduates. These clerking opportunities may exist with state appellate judges, federal judges and state trial court judges. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that judicial law clerks in the United States made an average annual income of $59,540 in 2018. The median annual salary was $53,540 (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education and Training Information

To practice law in the United States, it is necessary to first complete a J.D. program from an accredited institution. The next step is to achieve licensure by passing the state bar exam. Law clerks do not typically have to pass a state bar exam. However, for some positions, such as a federal judicial clerkship, having successfully completed the bar exam may help increase job opportunities.

Law clerks receive substantial on-the-job training. Methods and modes of communication can differ between judges. The legal research and writing style preferred may also vary between judges and courts. The ideal law clerk is an excellent communicator and possess a genuine love of legal research.

Law clerkships can be paid positions for J.D. graduates or unpaid internships that allow current law school students to supplement their coursework and gain valuable job experience.

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