Monday, April 18, 2011

Become a Law Clerk and Contribute to Court Procedures

Aside from judges, lawyers and other legal staff, one professional needed in every courtroom is a law clerk. People in this profession perform a wide variety tasks within the courtroom, before the trail starts and after the trial wraps up. But before they are able to enter the field, would-be law clerks must attend a post-secondary program and obtain a law clerk diploma, such as the one offered by Toronto’s Centennial College.

Housed within the college’s School of Business, the two-year Law Clerk program is accredited by the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO) and provides an excellent opportunity for students to acquire the skills necessary to practice in this field. Those who wish to apply and obtain an Ontario College Diploma must have obtained an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent or be 19 years of age or older. In addition, they must have completed compulsory English 12C or U or skills assessment, or equivalent and Math 11C, M or U, or 12C or U, or skills assessment, or equivalent. Possession of minimum admission requirements does not guarantee admission.

As with other Centennial College programs, the law clerk training provides an ideal balance between academic lectures and hands-on experience. Through their courses, students work with computer legal software, hear guest lecturers and end their studies by attending a four-day-per week work placement in the final semester. This unique work opportunity allows students to apply what they have learned while working alongside law clerk professionals who can share their own experiences with the students.

Before they head out on placement, students participate in a wide range of courses that focus on career-oriented assignments. These courses include: Computers for Law Clerks (designed to build keyboarding skills and to familiarize students with introductory computer concepts such as microcomputer operating systems, file management and more); Civil Litigation (traces the steps in a typical civil action from the commencement of proceedings to the point of trial); Legal Research and Writing (students learn the basic steps required to carry out both legal and factual research); and more.

In order to graduate and become a Toronto law clerk, students must achieve an overall minimum GPA of 2.0, a minimum C grade average, a minimum C grade in COMM-170 and a minimum keyboarding speed of 40 words per minute. Upon graduation, most Toronto law clerks begin their careers by applying for judicial clerkships. Provincial superior and appellate courts hire at least one clerk for each judge. The term typically lasts a year and is a great way to enter the field. Appellate law clerks are responsible for researching and analyzing complex issues in civil and criminal appeals. Meanwhile, trial law clerks help judges with settlement conferences and discovery disputes. They also review briefs submitted by the parties, perform legal research, verify cited legal authority and draft a variety of legal documents.

Emma is the author of this piece about Centennial College’s Law Clerk. Law Clerk program, which results in a Law Clerk Diploma.

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