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Career Advice I want to be a law clerk ... what will my salary be?

Job: Law clerk

The role: Work closely with legal professionals, assisting with administrative tasks such as scheduling, documentation and file management. Some law clerks also draft legal documents on behalf of their employers, though they are unable to provide legal advice, argue in court, or provide any legal services of their own.

“My role is knowing the process, knowing the documents, understanding the court procedures to cut down the lawyer’s administrative work,” said Indira Misir, a Toronto-based litigation law clerk and founder of LegalClerk.ca. “I basically organize all of the documentation and make it easy for a lawyer to review sometimes very voluminous files.”

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Ms. Misir explains that law clerks typically work with more experienced legal professionals, as junior lawyers often manage their own administrative needs in order to better acquaint themselves with legal processes and procedures.

Law clerks in Canada are typically employed by law firms, governments and within the legal department of large companies. Ms. Misir adds that there is also a growing market for law clerks among those who are unable to afford a lawyer to represent them in court. These self-represented litigants, or SRLs, employ clerks such as Ms. Misir to help them navigate the legal process, organize evidence and assist with documentation.

Salary: The average salary of a law clerk in Canada is just more than $50,000 a year, according to a report by Randstad. While salaries can start at about $40,000 a year, senior law clerks may earn $100,000 a year or more.

“It can go even higher if they’re getting a percentage of what they’re billing out,” Ms. Misir added. “Clerks bill their time out [to clients], and the law society acknowledges that. Since our time is billed out salaries might be a bit lower but you might earn a percentage of your billable hours.”

Ms. Misir says salaries are typically higher for those working in major cities, as well those with an established specialization.

Education: There are no educational, licensing or certification requirements for law clerks in Canada. Despite being unregulated, however, Ms. Misir says employers typically require law clerks to earn a law clerk diploma or a bachelor’s degree in a related subject.

Job prospects: Law clerks have become more popular in recent years as legal professionals strive to be more efficient with their time.

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“There’s a fair number of law clerks required [in Canada], because intermediate and senior lawyers can make their business more profitable by working on billable hours instead of doing work a law clerk can do,” Ms. Misir said.

Challenges: Filing papers, managing schedules and completing other administrative tasks may seem monotonous, but Ms. Misir says it’s important for law clerks to remain alert at all times.

“The most challenging part is staying focused on what you’re doing,” she said. “You can’t just sit there and type; you have to think about what you’re doing, identifying important information, paying close attention to detail, being a critical thinker and organizing documentation in a concise and chronological manner.”

Why they do it: Law clerks typically enjoy working closely with legal professionals and assisting with legal proceedings. “I love what I do,” Ms. Misir said. “I love that there’s a beginning and an end to every case. It's exciting to see the development of it, and it's very interesting.”

Misconceptions: Law clerks are often confused with paralegals, and while some of their responsibilities overlap, they are distinct in many ways. Unlike law clerks, paralegals are regulated by the law society and can take on clients, represent them in court and provide some of the same services as a lawyer, but in a limited capacity.

Law clerks, by contrast, are unregulated, unable to represent clients in court, and typically work in tandem with licensed legal professionals.

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“Law clerks like myself work with lawyers in the superior court; paralegals have a lot restrictions on what they can do, and they often work in the lower courts,” Ms. Misir said.

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