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Judicial assistants are vital to the workings of a court system. They provide clerical and legal support services that are valuable to both the organization and the flow of cases through the courts. As a judicial assistant, your job description can vary depending on the jurisdiction in which you work. However, legal knowledge and administrative skills are common traits all judicial assistants need to be successful.
In some jurisdictions, judicial assistants support an individual judge, providing both administrative support and paralegal type services such as drafting judicial opinions. You might also verify citations and proofread completed opinions. In other states, judicial assistants are similar to court clerks, focusing mainly on administrative tasks. In these jurisdictions, you interact with the public on a regular basis, collecting fees and filing various documents. You may also perform data entry and ensure that the court filing system is followed.
Judicial assistants handle a variety of responsibilities in a given day, so organization and time management are essential skills. Court files must be maintained in an orderly fashion. You must also maintain your assigned judge's calendar and efficiently handle tasks you are assigned. Discretion is also required. The details of cases are private and you must not inappropriately share information. According to the O*Net Online employment website, judicial assistants -- which it calls judicial law clerks -- also need strong listening skills to adequately interpret instructions from the judge or other court officials.
Judicial assistants handle case files on a daily basis, reviewing them to complete court documents and provide information to appropriate parties. You will have daily communication with attorneys and other court professionals to answer questions and facilitate conversations between your assigned judge and other parties. Data entry is another major task for judicial assistants, and most courts use electronic files and calendars. The judicial assistant is often tasked with entering necessary information into these computer systems.
In some jurisdictions, judicial assistants accompany judges into the courtroom during cases. The judge may ask your assistance in making telephone calls while court is in session, such as contacting an attorney who is late appearing. You might also be asked to check the central court docket to schedule future court proceedings. In some jurisdictions, the judicial assistant administers the oath of honesty during court cases and works with officers to maintain an orderly environment within the courtroom.
Education requirements for a judicial assistant vary by jurisdiction. While some states only require a high school diploma, others prefer to hire assistants with advanced degrees -- specifically law degrees or masters in some area of legal expertise. This is particularly true within federal courts. All jurisdictions typically require some administrative employment experience, preferably within a legal environment. The median hourly rate for judicial assistants was $22.90 as of 2013, according to O*Net Online. The projected job growth for this profession is slow at 3% to 7% from 2012 to 2022. This is partly due to the increased automation of court systems.
Erika Winston is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, with more than 15 years of writing experience. Her articles have appeared in such magazines as Imara, Corporate Colors E-zine and Enterprise Virginia. She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University and a Masters in public policy from New England College.