Duties of Federal Law Clerks

The duties and functions of a federal judicial law clerk are determined by the employing judge. In most chambers, law clerks concentrate on legal research and writing. Typically, the broad range of duties assigned to a law clerk includes conducting legal research, preparing bench memos, drafting orders and opinions, proofreading the judge's orders and opinions, verifying citations, communicating with counsel regarding case management and procedural requirements, and assisting the judge during courtroom proceedings. Some judges also may assign maintaining the chambers library, and other administrative duties to the law clerk. Because there are a myriad of tasks that may be assigned to a law clerk, the Online System for Clerkship Application and Review (OSCAR) permits a judge to identify any particular duties that are required in the position announcement.

Judicial law clerks also are expected to work cooperatively with chambers staff and court personnel. The employing judge must be confident in the law clerk's professionalism in interacting with counsel, litigants and the public. A law clerk is bound by the ethical standards established by the judge and the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees. The Federal Judicial Center published pamphlet, Maintaining the Public Trust: Ethics for Federal Judicial Law Clerks, also discusses ethical issues and applying appropriate ethical standards.