Court clerks (a.k.a. magistrates’ court legal advisers) are employed by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. They may be referred to as the ‘clerk of the court’ in Scotland. These guys are qualified barristers or solicitors that are assigned to work with magistrates.
Magistrates are not qualified lawyers. Neither do they need a legal background, since the legal element of proceedings is taken care of by the court clerk, who meets the legal qualification criteria.
Essentially, court clerks work alongside magistrates that are presiding over criminal cases or specific civil proceedings, providing them with advice on applicable laws and judicial procedures.
The magistrate considers and analyses the facts of the case and the clerk provides them with guidance on the legal concepts, precedents and rules, which are relevant to the matter being heard.
They also make sure that court proceedings move along smoothly, explain procedures to defendants and witnesses in order to avoid disruptions and make sure that all the people involved in court proceedings conform to the conventions of the court. For instance, they “swear in” witnesses and juries.
Additional responsibilities include overseeing and managing administrative matters and setting up hearing schedules in accordance with the availability of magistrates.
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Salary & benefits
Starting salaries range between £20,000 and £30,000 for trainee court clerks, while more experienced court clerks earn salaries ranging from £40,000 to £50,000, depending on their location, qualifications and experience.
Working nine-to-five is the norm in this line of work. However, court clerks may work extra hours when necessary in order to accommodate urgent hearings.
Work is mainly office or courtroom-based. Senior clerks may need to travel to other magistrates’ courts within the same jurisdiction from time to time.
Apart from completing the training and qualification process for becoming a solicitor or barrister, court clerks need to complete the Induction Training Programme (ITP), conducted by the Judicial Studies Board (JSB).
The programme covers law, practice principles and procedures, hands-on experience under the guidance of an experienced clerk, rotations through related and ancillary departments under the judicial system, maintenance of a detailed training record, and theoretical and practical assessments of professional competence.
Training & progression
A court clerk’s career progression within HM Courts and Tribunals Service involves moving through the ranks, from trainee roles into Tier One court clerk positions and then upwards through various stages until they reach Tier Five.
Level One clerks work in an assigned magistrates’ court; Level Two clerks are also eligible for a judicial appointment; Level Three clerks manage an assigned regional area, comprised of several magistrates’ courts; Level Four clerks have the option of specialising in a specific area of court management; and Level Five clerks are eligible to work as senior clerks.