Court clerk jobs involve the oversight of all administrative responsibilities that are carried out by a district, state or federal court. The specific duties of a court clerk career vary depending on the size of the court and the level of seniority the court clerk has reached. The duties of some court clerks necessitate that they hold a law degree while other court clerks, who perform mainly administrative tasks, need only have a high school diploma.
What is a court clerk? Contrary to the impression that many courtroom dramas portray, there are many behind-the-scenes administrative details that need to be taken care of within a courtroom setting and it is up to trained competent Court Clerks to oversee the smooth functioning of the court.
A “higher-level” court clerk manages all non-judicial tasks, such as performing case law research and suggesting court procedures to the presiding judge, preparing budgetary reports, coordinating case loads for the judicial staff, and coordinating recruitment and training of new court personnel. The court clerk maintains fiduciary responsibility for any monies or other personal collateral collected as part of legal proceedings. Court clerks may also assist probation and parole officers in completing investigation reports on behalf of clients on their caseload.
An administrative court clerk may be responsible for proofreading legal documents, mailing official court documents, reconciling daily cash receipts, scheduling court cases and appointments, preparing forms for the judges (e.g. petitions and warrants), collecting court fines, and filing public records, such as name changes, marriage licenses and adoption documents. Some court clerks are also responsible for transcribing court proceedings.
Court Clerk Job Requirements
The following lists some basic requirements to become a court clerk.
All court clerks need to have strong knowledge of all jurisdictional rules and regulations pertaining to the court system in which they work (city, state, or federal). It is also important for court clerks to have an understanding of legal terminology, jury selection and oversight, how to maintain court records, and the proper handling of evidence, as well as how to perform legal research. Because court clerks often proofread legal documents, they must possess excellent spelling and grammar skills and be proficient with the use of computers and other office equipment. In addition, knowledge of one or more foreign languages may be helpful for those court clerks who work in an area where there is a predominantly non-English speaking population.
Court Clerk Education and Training
As noted, the requirements to become a Court Officer vary greatly depending on scope of responsibilities, along with the policies and procedures of the local court. Federal courts require that their court clerks possess advanced training, up to a masters or law degree. Local and district courts may hire applicants with only a high school diploma for administrative work, although many now prefer a minimum of an associate’s degree with a bachelor’s fast becoming the degree of choice with a major in criminal justice or business management. Preferred skills for administrative-level employment include accounting, budgeting, bookkeeping, legal terminology and word processing.
To obtain a job in courts covered by civil service regulations, applicants must pass a competitive civil service exam.
Court Clerk Salary
The median annual salary for a court clerk varies greatly depending on level of education and experience. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of court clerks ranges from $30, 000 (for those with a high school diploma) to about $50, 000 for those with a master’s degree or Jurist Doctor (Law degree).
Court Clerk Career Opportunities
Court clerks may advance into the role of chief court clerk, the highest ranking clerk in the court system. In larger jurisdictions, chief court clerk is a managerial-level position responsible for the supervision of court clerks and deputy court clerks. Nearly all Chief Court Clerks possess an advanced degree, most typically a JD. Other advancement opportunities include becoming a probation or parole officer or pursing a law degree to become an attorney. Another option for advancement is to transfer from being a city or county court clerk to a clerk for courts at the state or federal level. Just be aware that higher courts will likely require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and the Federal courts may require a master’s degree or a JD.
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