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Court Clerk


Description

The court system in the US is complex. There are so many things going on in a court, be it state or federal. Judges are sentencing people and interpreting laws. Lawyers and paralegals are working to secure freedoms and justice. Security guards are trying to keep prisoners and witnesses under control. Meanwhile, below the surface, there are a few diligent workers, keeping it all together.

Court clerks, also known as court administrators, registry officers and court officers, handle the administrative duties of courts. This means they manage other staff, they do the budgets, they monitor the juries, they prepare court dockets, they understand and use all the computer operations, and they see that the heat and electricity are paid for each month. They are the people who "open" the court, announcing the judge before a trial, after first ensuring that the trial lawyers, witnesses, and defendant are present. They swear in the jury members, as well as the witnesses, and mark exhibits. They organize satellite testimony and the use of technology in the courthouse. Because of this, a background in technology, as well as computers, math and law is a good asset to a court administrator.

Court clerks do all the picky bits of running a courthouse so that the judges can concentrate on trials and the practicalities of law. They are the people who keep the courthouse going.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$13,020
 
Median Salary:
$27,300
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$53,410

  Interests and Skills  
Interested in a career in legal administration? Court clerks require strong leadership skills, as they make decisions for others, as well as supervise other administrative staff. They must be logical, with a strong math background. Also, computer and other technological skills are must-haves, as scheduling and accounting duties will be carried out with a computer. Because court clerks spend much of their time in court, they must have a keen interest in the judicial system, and have respect for the legal process. Court clerks are able to work in a professional manner with lawyers, judges, and other senior staff, as well as communicate effectively with those they may supervise. They must be organized, efficient and work well under pressure.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Schedule court trials and arrange pre-trial meetings
  • Record relevant details about each trial, such as trial start date and judgments
  • Collect and record court administrative and services fees
  • Oversee the maintenance of judicial court records
  • Assist in preparing annual budgets
  • Open court, announcing judge
  • Swear in witnesses
  • Mark exhibits
  • The typical day for a court clerk will be fairly straightforward. There will be a lot of scheduling, making sure the court calendar is understood by all court staff. There will be meetings with other staff to discuss juries, upcoming trial dates, or any technology needed in upcoming trials. There is the maintenance of court records or "dockets," the need to explain particular court protocol to lawyers, and the budget to monitor and revise if need be. There will also be the work at the trials themselves-opening and closing court, swearing in witnesses and jury members, and marking exhibits. The day will be full of tasks, but they are tasks you can leave behind at the end of the day--while the job is high-pressure, it does not often entail late nights or weekends at the office.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most court clerks work a regular, 40-hour workweek in comfortable offices, with weekends and evenings off. The position may offer a minimal amount of travel between courthouses in the area. There is also work in the courtrooms during trials.
  • They can be employed by the state or federal government, working in state courts, the Supreme Court, or civil and family court. Court clerks are considered to be civil servants. They do not open firms, join firms or work as independent clerks of the court.
  • Depending on where they work, court clerks may work alone, or in a team. They may be high wage earners. High wage earners will work in larger court systems, while a court administrator doing the same thing in a smaller court will make less.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Court clerks most likely start out as one of many workers being supervised by a more senior administrator. With enough experience, they may move up the ranks to be in charge of the department. However, they could also take the knowledge they have gained and go to law school, applying their history to a career as a lawyer or judge. There is still the option of moving around the court system, working as a clerk of the court in federal, state, then the Supreme court. There are also other clerical jobs, which may require a little more training, within the American court system.
 

  Educational Paths  
While court clerks do not require any sort of certification, there are a number of legal administration programs available at colleges across the nation. These courses deal with many aspects of court administration, including management, legal precedents and principles, and the practical, day-to-day administration of a court house. Many courses offer internships with law firms or courts. Anyone who finds a job as a court clerk will get additional on-the-job training. Some people choose to go into administration after completing a degree in law, or after doing an undergraduate degree in politics, or social studies.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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