Comparing Law Clerks to Paralegals
Law clerk and paralegal positions both require professionals to complete such tasks as conducting research, preparing legal paperwork, and assisting those who they work for, such as lawyers and judges. Between the two, the pay is surprisingly similar. However, they differ in their educational requirements, their actual employer, some of the tasks performed, and the position one is ultimately seeking.
|Job Title||Educational Requirements||Median Salary (2018)*||Job Growth (2018-2028)*|
|Law Clerk||Juris Doctor||$53,540||3%|
|Paralegal||Certificate or Two-Year Degree||$50,940 (for paralegals and legal assistants)||12% (for paralegals and legal assistants)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Responsibilities of a Law Clerk vs a Paralegal
Law clerks assist judges by preparing legal documents. This position is writing and research intensive. Some of the daily tasks may involve performing legal research and drafting documents like memos. A paralegal performs many of the same types of legal support services as a law clerk, and additional tasks may include interviewing clients, scheduling appointments, filing paperwork, and even organizing exhibits.
Law clerks generally work in state or federal courts. The educational requirements for law clerks typically require graduation from law school, especially for federal court clerkships. These positions are competitive and might also require applicants to rank in the top of their class. Research skills, communication skills, computer skills, organizational, and supervisory skills are key to this position.
Job requirements for a law clerk may include:
- Researching laws, briefs, and other information related to an upcoming case
- Preparing legal memoranda, briefs, judicial opinions, and decisions
- Conferring with judges
- Scheduling judges' appointments
- Staying up to date with changes to laws relevant to a case
Paralegals often work for attorneys at law offices; however, they also work for government organizations and corporate offices. Paralegals may start off in this position and later decide to go to law school. A paralegal position often requires a paralegal associate's degree that can be completed in a year or two. There are also four-year college degrees in paralegal studies and post-baccalaureate paralegal certificates that one could earn, some of which are American Bar Association (ABA)-approved. The working hours for paralegals are typically regular business hours but may also include after-hours time. These professionals also interview clients and sometimes travel to meet them. Research skills, communication skills, computer skills organizational skills, and interpersonal skills are key to this position.
Job requirements for a paralegal may include:
- Preparing and filing legal documents, such as briefs, affidavits and appeals
- Researching statues, codes, and legal documents
- Delivering subpoenas
- Gathering evidence
- Taking notes during trials
If you're interested in working as a law clerk, the similar education and job duties of a trial lawyer might make this an appealing career choice. Aspiring paralegals who might want to focus on more general office tasks might consider a legal secretary career.