Skip to main content
4 answers
Asked Viewed 407 times Translate

What do you have to do to become a law clerk?

do i have to get a JD?
How long will it take?
law-school lawyer

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


4 answers

Updated Translate

Jonathan’s Answer

First I can tell you that I’m some states you can be an apprentice to become a lawyer. However in most states you need a JD or be a law student. Most private law firms take on academic law clerks starting in your second your second year. After your first year you may be able to get a highly paid summer associate positions depending on your 1L grades and law school. Most students after the 1L year can get unpaid internships with state judges or appellate courts or low paying positions elsewhere. For example I worked for 10/hour in the Govt Affairs department of a large insurance company. I considered myself. Ultimately if you do not want to get a JD or need more time to make your decision try becoming a paralegal for two years. Some paralegals do some legal research and writing which is what you would do as a clerk
Updated Translate

Kevin T.’s Answer

Hi Jennifer S.

Good question, and I think that the answer may depend on your state laws.

Typically, you need to go to law school and can work as a lawyer after you graduate and pass the state bar exam. During law school, you might be able to get a part-time job or a summer job working in the legal field where you might hold the title of "law clerk." Alternatively, after you graduate you might be able to get a job as a "law clerk" for a judge. Typically, clerking for a judge is a one or two year assignment that you use as a steppingstone to a more permanent job in the legal profession, such as a lawyer in a firm in private practice or an in-house counsel.

In those "clerk" roles, the things that you actually do on a daily basis will depend on the specific job. I have never clerked for a judge, but I imagine that the job entails studying the facts of a particular case that is before the judge, researching issues of law that are pertinent to that case, writing memos on those issues of law and fact, maybe writing draft opinions for the judge. When I was in law school I held a part-time job at a law firm and was called a "clerk." In that job, I worked on specific issues of law for the firms clients and did things like legal research, writing memorandum about that research, organizing documents and files in cases, drafting letters, edited briefs, and generally helped get things done that needed to be done.

In some states, you might be able to sit for the bar exam without going to law school, but in that case you might have to work as an apprentice in a law firm for several years. In that situation, you might actually hold the title of "clerk" also and do some of the same things that I described above, but it would more likely be a full time role and an intense period of dedication and learning. For example, there have been recent news stories that Kim Kardashian is taking such a path to becoming a lawyer in California.

I personally do not know what the laws in your home state of Nevada would require. However, you can do an internet search for the "authorized practice of law in Nevada" and you should find the relevant statutes that explain who can practice law in your state and whether that person must graduate from law school before sitting for the bar.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue for you.

Good luck.

Kevin T. recommends the following next steps:

Research the law in your state to determine what the requirements are to practice law there.
Updated Translate

Charles’s Answer

The short answer is that you do not have to obtain a Juris Doctor (JD) degree to become a law clerk.

Where I practice (in California), typically law firms hire students who are in a 3-year law school program to perform work as a law clerk, either part-time during the school year, during the summers, or both. This provides an excellent opportunity for the clerk to decide whether or not this field (or this firm or particular attorney) is appealing. The law firm can get to know the law clerk and their work to better determine if this is someone whom they want to hire to clerk full-time after graduation from law school and after taking the State Bar Exam. The goal of course would be to then hire the law clerk on a full-time basis if they pass the Bar Exam.

There are exceptions to this general answer, of course. I can imagine that a smart high school student with an interest in law (and perhaps with a background in debate or having taken a Constitutional Law course) might be hired as a law clerk. This would be more likely to occur if the student worked for a relative or friend of the family.

Duties of a law clerk typically include:

• Legal Research – check cases and legal treatises (textbooks) to research a point of law that is key to winning a case or completing a legal matter for clients.
• Drafting Legal Memoranda – draft memos to the handling attorney to provide a summary of the cases that the law clerk researched, and to explain how those cases might help or hurt the client’s case. (Typically, law clerks are given a specific written assignment via a memo from the handling attorney.)
• Research the legal “Causes of Action”, or theories of recovery that a Plaintiff needs to include in a Pleading (often called a Complaint) that is filed with the court, and which serves as the legal basis to support a recovery by the party that sues for legal relief
• Perform miscellaneous tasks for the attorney, such as physically filing a pleading, complaint or other document with the court; interviewing witnesses; assisting with deposition preparation by suggesting questions or lines of inquiry; and drafting written discovery, such as “Interrogatories”, or questions, that the opposing party or parties must answer under oath
• In some jurisdictions (such as CA) Law Clerks can become certified with the State Courts, typically in the 2nd or 3rd year of law school. This certification enables them to appear in court to argue motions that they have researched and written.

A typical law clerk (not working for a Judge or Justice after law school) need not have a J.D. degree. If they have this degree, they typically want to practice law. However, if the person has not passed the Bar Exam, or for some reason doesn’t want to take it, of course it would be of benefit to possess a J.D. degree. That would help to ensure marketability over other potential candidates who are competing for the same position.

Finally, in some jurisdictions, persons can take courses to become a Certified Paralegal. This is the equivalent of a high-end law clerk, for people who have chosen, at least for the time being, to work as a paralegal, instead of striving for an attorney’s license. These paralegals often decide later to pursue careers as lawyers.

I hope this answer helps you to learn more about the potential to work as a law clerk or as a paralegal. I wish you the best as you sort out and pursue your career goals.
Updated Translate

Lisa’s Answer


It depends on what type of law clerk. Most law firms hire law students in the summer or during the year and they clerk for the firm before they have their law degree or license. If you mean clerk for a judge, except the case of internships, you need to have your law degree and license to practice in most states.

Wishing you the best!


Lisa recommends the following next steps:

I recommend participating in an internship while you are in law school to see if you like it.