There are several factors that affect judicial clerkship salaries in the United States. Experience and whether a clerk is a member of the American Bar Association plays a role, as does a clerk's job title and location. Clerkship salaries also are affected by whether a clerk works with a federal or state court. The benefits offered also can have some influence on how much a law clerk will be paid.
Experience is an important consideration in clerkship salaries. Law clerks who have experience in courtrooms and have done a good deal of case research are paid more than clerks who are just starting their career. Clerkship salaries are paid based on grade levels and steps. For example, a grade 12 law clerk would be paid more than a grade 10 law clerk, because a clerk at pay grade 12 would have more experience. A law clerk who is a bar member also earns a higher pay grade than a clerk who has not passed the bar exam.
The job title a clerk holds affects his or her salary. Certification as a paralegal can make a great deal of difference in clerkship salaries. A law clerk who has paralegal certification often makes several thousand U.S. Dollars (USD) more each year than a clerk who doesn't.
The location of the clerkship also will affect the salary. Clerkship salaries are typically higher in areas where there is a higher cost of living. A judicial clerkship in a major U.S. city such as Washington, D.C., or New York would pay more than a clerkship in a smaller town. Cost of living varies by state, so the salaries of law clerks who live in high-cost states are more than those in lower cost states, even if the clerk works in a small town within that state.
Whether a law clerk works at the state or federal level has a major impact on how much he or she will make annually. The pay is much higher at the federal level than at the state level. Law clerks who work at the federal level make several thousand USD more each year than a clerk who is working at the state level and has the same credentials. Salaries at both the state and federal levels depend on the court for which the clerk is working. Those clerks who work for trial courts generally make less than those who work for supreme courts, whether at the federal or state level.
Many judicial positions come with attractive benefits packages, which can affect clerkship salaries. Dental, vision and medical benefits are usually offered to clerks. In some areas, clerks have a higher salary but enjoy fewer benefits. In other areas, clerks receive more benefits in exchange for less pay, which often is considered a fair trade.