Updated January 2023
If you are considering legal studies and want 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 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 in each of these work environments. Law clerk graduates can move around until they find the ideal fit.
3. Teamwork 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 caseloads and need their clerks to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, within tight deadlines.
While the atmosphere will vary in 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 and typical salaries for Law Clerks in Ottawa
Demand for law clerks in Ottawa is expected to hold steady over the next few years, according to the most recent report from the Government of Canada Job Bank.
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 $49,000 per year—although it's important to note that earnings for your first year or two will likely be closer to $34,000.
law clerk training
Considering becoming a law clerk? Want to learn more about training programs and career options?
Your next step is to speak with admissions. An advisor will guide you through the law clerk program, costs, financial aid, how to apply, and more.
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