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Law Clerk vs. Lawyer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in law can be both exciting and rewarding. If you’re interested in this field, you may be wondering what the difference is between a lawyer and a law clerk. Both positions require extensive education and training, but there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between lawyers and law clerks, and we provide helpful tips for choosing the right career path.

What is a Law Clerk?

Law Clerks are entry-level positions for those interested in becoming lawyers. Many law firms hire law clerks to work during the summer months, but some firms hire them to work year-round. Law Clerks research legal precedent, write legal briefs and memos, and assist with trial preparation. They also attend meetings with clients, witnesses and other lawyers. Many Law Clerks go on to law school and become lawyers, but some find that they prefer the research and writing aspects of the job and choose to stay in a Law Clerk role.

What is a Lawyer?

Lawyers represent clients in both criminal and civil legal cases. They research and analyze legal issues and write legal documents on behalf of their clients. Lawyers also represent clients in court and argue on their behalf. In some cases, lawyers may also mediates disputes between parties. Lawyers typically work in private law firms, although some may be self-employed or work for the government.

Law Clerk vs. Lawyer

Here are the main differences between a law clerk and a lawyer.

Job Duties

One of the biggest differences between a law clerk and a lawyer is the type of duties they perform. Law clerks work with judges to assist them in their legal decisions, which can involve researching cases, writing memos or preparing for hearings. Lawyers typically work outside of a courtroom, where they may handle client meetings, research cases or prepare documents for filing. Both professionals may also perform administrative tasks like scheduling appointments or managing files.

Lawyers often have more varied job duties than law clerks. While a clerk might spend most of their time working on one task, a lawyer might divide their time among several responsibilities. This can be helpful for law clerks who are learning about different aspects of the legal process, but it’s important that you don’t take your employer’s workload onto yourself by taking on too many responsibilities. It’s also important to note that some lawyers switch firms after being a clerk, so there is opportunity for growth if you begin as a law clerk.

Job Requirements

Lawyers must have a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and pass their state’s bar exam to be licensed to practice law. The process of becoming a lawyer can take seven years or more, as most students complete four years of undergraduate study before attending three years of law school. Some states also require lawyers to complete continuing education courses throughout their careers to stay up-to-date on the latest legal developments.

Law clerks typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, though some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree in law or a related field. Many law clerks gain experience through internships or externships while they are still in school. Once they have graduated, law clerks might work for a specific lawyer or law firm, or they might be hired by a court to assist judges with research and writing tasks.

Work Environment

Law clerks and lawyers work in different environments. Lawyers typically work in private practice, government or corporate settings. They may also work as public defenders or prosecutors for the government. Law clerks usually work in law firms, but they can also find positions with judges or other legal professionals.

Lawyers often spend their days in courtrooms arguing cases before juries and judges. They may travel to meet with clients and attend meetings with colleagues. Clerks rarely go into court because they assist attorneys during preparation rather than actual trials. They may spend most of their time in an office setting working on research projects and writing briefs.


There are several similarities between the skills needed for a law clerk and lawyer. Both roles require excellent research and writing skills, as well as the ability to think critically and solve problems. Strong communication skills are also important, as both positions involve communicating with clients, colleagues and others involved in the legal process.

However, there are some differences in the skills needed for each role. For example, lawyers need to be able to argue their cases in court, so public speaking skills are important. They also need to be familiar with the rules of evidence and procedure. Law clerks do not typically appear in court, but they may need to have mediation skills to help resolve disputes between parties.


The average salary for a law clerk is $56,860 per year, while the average salary for a lawyer is $94,905 per year. The salary for a law clerk may vary depending on the type of law firm they work for, their level of experience and their location. The salary for a lawyer may vary depending on the type of law firm they work for, their level of experience and their location.


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