A court clerk’s job is to file and maintain court records, financial files, employee records, and copies of legal documents. She may work in a small local court or one serving a much larger geographic area. Her scope of responsibilities depends on the size of the jurisdiction and if she has a staff to which she can delegate certain tasks.
Most functions of a clerk are related to legal procedures and practices, and her primary job is often related to the court and its proceedings. She normally prepares the court docket and effectively schedules hearings. During court proceedings, she regularly administers the oath to witnesses and jurors. If the court is small, she may also be in charge of recording and transcribing the minutes.
Larger courts require the clerk to review legal documents for compliance and accuracy. She may confer with lawyers and judges on legal matters and recommend courses of action. Before hearings, she regularly contacts litigants, witnesses, and attorneys to gather information or advise of changes in venues or hearing dates. Preparing folders for the judge is a normal job requirement in both large and small courts.
Excellent communication skills are essential for a court clerk. Besides regularly corresponding with legal professionals, she may also be required to explain procedures, forms, and legal terms to nonprofessionals. Dealing with many personality types requires empathy and patience, and the better informed participants are prior to the legal proceedings, the smoother the courtroom events progress.
If no financial specialist is on staff, the clerk may be in charge of the budget, preparing projections and managing the funds allocated for daily operations. If expenditures exceed expectations, she presents measures that may reduce spending or recommends avenues to increase revenues to cover costs.
In some cases, normally in smaller jurisdictions, the court clerk’s responsibilities may include even more duties. She may be in charge of human resource functions, including hiring, firing, and evaluating job performances of the staff. Passport processing and collecting fines for local infractions and misdemeanors are sometimes in her job description.
In addition to being an excellent communicator, a clerk must have outstanding organizational skills to handle all her job responsibilities. Due to the sensitive nature of the information she is privy to, discretion is highly valued. Good judgment and integrity are necessary to have a successful career in this position.
Educational requirements for a court clerk's job vary by location. Some courts require only a high school diploma and two years of business school or college education, while others require a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration. Experience in related fields may substitute for the formal educational requirements, in some cases.