Judicial clerkship

In this article, Karn Singh of JGLS discusses How to get a judicial clerkship at Supreme Court and various High Courts.

“You learn more in one year of clerking than you learn in eight years of practice” Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Introduction

Every judge requires an assistance in deciding cases or making up for the mistakes. This task is done by the Judicial Clerk who is essentially an assistant to the Judge in conducting research on the cases that is in front of the judge. The Task of Judicial clerkship differs from court to court and judge to judge. The Task of judicial clerkship in Supreme Court can be very different from a Judicial Clerkship in District Court.

But the knowledge in every court about the judicial process is tremendous. The primary role of a judicial clerk is to assist the judge under the strict deadline and tremendous workload.

One law clerk is assigned to each judge for a year, but some judges require 2 or more law clerk at a time depending on the work a judge has. The law clerk usually begins its tenure in the month of July each year, soon after he/she completes LLB degree. Judicial Clerkship can be on any level either in Supreme Court or High Court. Advocates can be tremendous assistance at the Supreme Court level. Judicial clerks are paid around Rs. 25000 to 30000 per month. The task given to the Judicial Clerkship are preparing a summary of facts, read briefs, lookup and update relevant authorities, conduct general research, and make a record of facts and arguments.

The more detailed task of judicial clerkship

  • Maintaining judges libraries by updating appropriate documents.
  • Attend court sessions to record necessary case information
  • Draft or proofread judicial opinions, decisions, or citations.
  • Participate in conferences between judges and attorney
  • Prepare briefs, statement of issues involved in cases.
  • Research laws, court decisions, documents, opinions, briefs, or other information related to cases.

Advantages of Judicial Clerkship:

  • It allows a fresh graduate to get an overview and in-depth experience of the procedure of the court.
  • One can understand how to argue in the court or how not to argue in the argue. As this is the most important part of a case.
  • Going through a lot of cases will make the graduate understand how to spot the weaknesses or strengths of a case fast.
  • Also, going through 100s of cases will make a graduate perfect in different aspects of the law.
  • As research is an integral part of the judicial clerk, it does enhance the research skill of a graduate.
  • Working as a judicial law clerk will teach a great research technique from the judge he or she is working with.

How to get the judicial clerkship at Supreme Court or High Court

  • The first stage for the Judicial Clerkship at Supreme Court is the entrance test which is held almost year in the month of May. In this written exam, two sections are included. Section 1 includes General English, and General Awareness for 50 marks And Section 2 includes all the law related questions i.e. Indian Constitution, Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act etc for 100 marks.

Guidelines for Written Exam

  • The candidate applying for the exam should be a law graduate having an LLB degree from any law school recognized by Bar Council Of India
  • Candidate studying in the last year can also apply for the clerk cum research assistant.
  • Candidate must know basic computer skills and must know the various search engines like Manupatra, SSC Online, Westlaw etc.
  • The question paper comprises of 150 questions. One mark for the correct answer and 0.25 negative mark for the wrong answer.
  • Minimum marks to qualify is 60% of the total.

After the written test, selected candidates are called for personal interview.

  • A committee of judges interviews the eligible candidate. The interview will carry for 30 marks and 15 marks are the minimum qualifying marks.
  • The selected candidates are allocated work under the sitting judges of the Supreme Court.

If a judge wants more than one law clerk then, a judge can appoint a second clerk.

A judge can either ask the Registrar to appoint one from the list of the shortlisted candidates or can personally recommend someone. If the candidate is fit then he will be appointed as the 2nd clerk.

A lot of people apply for the judicial clerkship. More than 100 candidates apply and around 50-60 candidate is selected. Court starts in the month of July and the clerkships starts in mid-August.

Questions asked in the interview:

  • Firstly, the judges will ask about the internship that is done in the law school. Judges basically look if the candidate knows the basic of the court proceedings and how the court works. So, if you choose to go for clerkship then court internship will matter a lot.
  • The Judge will also ask about the law that is covered in the internship. Law is the most important part in the clerkship and one should know the law properly. Not only from the books but from the practical point of view. In the interview, judges will ask about the law, in what part of law one has interned like criminal law, civil law, or arbitration etc.
  • Judges will also ask about the hobbies and academic interests.

Is the internship with Judge is important to get judicial clerkship job?

No, it is really not important but one should know the basic information about the court and its proceedings.

Difference Between Internship and clerkship:

A Judicial clerkship is referred as long term clerkship. Duration of which is 1 year and if the judge or the candidate wants to expand, it can be expanded for 2 years. A Judicial clerkship is a paid job which is varied from court to court. In Supreme Court, a judicial clerk is paid between INR 25000-30000.

Short term clerkship is the opportunity given to the law students to work as a legal trainee under the honorable Supreme Court judges during their internship period. The duration can vary from 4 to 6 weeks. Short term clerkship is mostly unpaid.

How to apply for short term clerkship:

  • Law students from the school recognized by The Bar Council Of India can directly apply under the name of the university to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of India or The High Court.
  • The Registrar of the court scrutinizes the applications and communicate the same to the head of the institution. The application for the same should be applied 3 to 4 months prior to the date of joining.
  • The registrar will call the applicant if the application is selected or not, 3 weeks before the date of joining.
  • Short term clerkship is basically unpaid.

Conclusion

A judicial clerkship is not a famous job in India. But fresh graduates from many know law school is applying for judicial clerkship as it serves a lot of benefit in one’s career. It is said that you can learn a lot in one year of clerkship than you can learn from seven years of practice. Judicial clerkship gives the insight of the judge’s chamber and how a judge decides a case. In addition, Judge develops a professional relationship with their clerks which can be beneficial for a law graduate. The Graduate should try judicial clerkship at least once in his/her career. This can improve the skills that are required for arguing a case.

Name-Karan Singh

College- Jindal Global Law School

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