Choosing a Law Clerk Career: Pros, Cons & Career Options

If you are considering legal studies, and looking to focus on career paths that do not require a university degree, law clerk could be an ideal option.

Law clerks, or legal administrators, assist lawyers with a wide range of tasks that include everything from routine office operations to specialized legal research and document preparation.

In this post, we break down some of the most common pros and cons of working as a law clerk, as well as job and salary information for clerks in Ottawa. 

We hope this information gives you a clearer picture of this career path, and helps with your decision-making process.

 

Benefits of Working in Legal Administration

We looked at a variety of research sources when compiling this list of law clerk career "pros", including blog posts, interviews, and research reports. These sources included feedback from both new and highly experienced legal administrators.

These are the benefits and advantages professionals in the field most often mention when describing what they love most about their work.

 

1. Opportunities to focus on a particular area of law

Lawyers often specialize in a specific legal domain, such as real estate or family law. After graduating from a law clerk program and gaining some practical experience, law clerks can begin targeting firms that match their particular interests.

This is an ideal way to delve deeper into an area of law you feel passionate about.

 

2. Many work environments to choose from

Law clerks have many routes by which to start a career after training. They are employed by a very wide range of organizations, including:

  • law firms (from single practitioner firms, to firms with 200+ lawyers)
  • commercial and industrial corporations
  • legal departments of local, provincial, and federal governments
  • banks and trust companies

Specific job duties and atmosphere will be quite different at each of these work environments. Law clerk graduates can move around until they find the ideal fit.

 

3. Team work and interacting with diverse people

Legal administrators get to interact with everyone from clients to fellow clerks to lawyers to board members. This is by nature a team-oriented profession, and is ideal for a "people-person."

 

4. Always a new challenge and more to learn

Law clerks perform administrative tasks (like billing and scheduling) and help with legal duties (like court filings, research, and preparing official documents).

So whether you are implementing a new and better way to manage office operations, or delving into a new area of law, there is no shortage of challenges and learning opportunities in this role.

 

Common Challenges Faced by Law Clerks

Every career path comes with its own unique challenges, and legal administration is no exception. These are two of the most commonly-reported difficulties law clerks encounter at work:

 

1. Lawyers are not always good managers

Lawyers don't need to know how to run a practice in order to graduate from law school. And they often know very little about communicating with and managing office staff.

One of the most often-reported challenges of working as a law clerk is interpreting the wants and needs of a demanding lawyer—or multiple partners in a law firm—all of whom want things done "their" way.

A little patience and diplomacy goes a long way in this role!

 

2. Working under pressure

Wasted time means lost money for law firms. Lawyers often carry heavy case loads and need their clerks to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, and within tight deadlines.

While the atmosphere will vary at different work environments (government versus private practice, for example), it is generally reported that law clerks must be extremely well-organized, and able to work well under pressure.

 

Career Outlook for Law Clerks in Ottawa

Demand for law clerks in Ottawa is expected to hold steady over the next several years, according to the most recent report from the Canada Job Bank (jobbank.gc.ca).

The report highlights "moderate employment growth" and low levels of unemployment in this field, combined with a good "balance of job-seekers and employers" over the next 10 years.

PayScale offers insights into what salary you can expect to earn throughout your law clerk career. They peg average salaries for Ottawa law clerks at about $45K per year—although it's important to note that earnings for your first year or two will likely be closer to $36K.

AVERAGE LAW CLERK SALARY IN OTTAWA

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