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What does a Court Clerk do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A court clerk’s job is to file and maintain court records, financial files, employee records, and copies of legal documents. She may work in a small local court or one serving a much larger geographic area. Her scope of responsibilities depends on the size of the jurisdiction and if she has a staff to which she can delegate certain tasks.

Most functions of a clerk are related to legal procedures and practices, and her primary job is often related to the court and its proceedings. She normally prepares the court docket and effectively schedules hearings. During court proceedings, she regularly administers the oath to witnesses and jurors. If the court is small, she may also be in charge of recording and transcribing the minutes.

Larger courts require the clerk to review legal documents for compliance and accuracy. She may confer with lawyers and judges on legal matters and recommend courses of action. Before hearings, she regularly contacts litigants, witnesses, and attorneys to gather information or advise of changes in venues or hearing dates. Preparing folders for the judge is a normal job requirement in both large and small courts.

Excellent communication skills are essential for a court clerk. Besides regularly corresponding with legal professionals, she may also be required to explain procedures, forms, and legal terms to nonprofessionals. Dealing with many personality types requires empathy and patience, and the better informed participants are prior to the legal proceedings, the smoother the courtroom events progress.

If no financial specialist is on staff, the clerk may be in charge of the budget, preparing projections and managing the funds allocated for daily operations. If expenditures exceed expectations, she presents measures that may reduce spending or recommends avenues to increase revenues to cover costs.

In some cases, normally in smaller jurisdictions, the court clerk’s responsibilities may include even more duties. She may be in charge of human resource functions, including hiring, firing, and evaluating job performances of the staff. Passport processing and collecting fines for local infractions and misdemeanors are sometimes in her job description.

In addition to being an excellent communicator, a clerk must have outstanding organizational skills to handle all her job responsibilities. Due to the sensitive nature of the information she is privy to, discretion is highly valued. Good judgment and integrity are necessary to have a successful career in this position.

Educational requirements for a court clerk's job vary by location. Some courts require only a high school diploma and two years of business school or college education, while others require a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration. Experience in related fields may substitute for the formal educational requirements, in some cases.

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Discussion Comments
By anon317874 — On Feb 04, 2013

I am the Deputy Clerk of a State Court of Claims. The job description above is quite accurate; however, in my particular position, the Clerk is required to be an attorney, as am I. This is also the case for the State Supreme Court Clerk.

Many times a Clerk is required to dissect complicated discovery and perform legal research, which requires the experience of an attorney. The pay in these positions is also quite a bit higher than the majority of clerk positions. I recommend this job for those with legal training who prefer a 9-5 and less stress than what a private law firm/practice offers.

By Bertie68 — On May 26, 2011

@live2shop - My son's girlfriend is working as a court clerk in our small town. She wants to go to law school, but has to save up more money. Working as a court clerk is giving her some good legal experience and she can save some money to help pay for law school.

She comes over for dinner once a week, and talks about how much she likes her job.

She schedules all the hearings and cases that come to court. Explaining the procedures to all those involved in the cases is something else she does. She is a very friendly girl and talks and explains things well. This helps her in her job.

Fortunately, she is very organized - this is very important in her job. Even though she has a college degree, in some courts, a two-year degree is all that is needed.

Anyway, she loves her job. There is so much variety and she likes working with and helping people. It's important to really like your job.

Not everyone is so lucky!

By live2shop — On May 25, 2011

I have a two year degree from a community college and I'm looking around for a career in law. I worked as a legal assistant one summer. I really didn't like the job because there wasn't very much contact with people.

I live in a fairly small downtown. Has anyone worked as a court clerk? What's it like?

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