28 Oct 2021
1. Can you describe a day in your life as a judicial clerk?
I start my days with a cup of coffee; and that is generally where daily routine ends. Judicial clerks provide assistance to judges and the form that assistance takes is determined by the judge’s work which is determined in turn by the disputes brought to the Court. No two cases are identical and similarly my work has a good amount of variety in it. Some days feature more legal research and others more drafting. Many days include grappling with unfamiliar concepts. I attend hearings also and engage in discussions with judges about cases. The last two activities make for the most enjoyable days.
2. What is the biggest challenge you face?
I think the biggest challenge I face as a judicial clerk relates to responsibility. The judges I assist are tasked with hearing disputes and in most cases will resolve them by compulsion in the form of court orders. Frequently, a correct decision can be arrived at only with effort, particularly where both sides of a dispute are represented by persuasive lawyers. Whilst the heavy responsibility of deciding cases rests on the shoulders of the judge, his or her judicial clerk must provide assistance befitting of that responsibility. In practical terms this means leaving no stone unturned, whatever task has been given to me, and occasionally turning them a second or third time for good measure.
3. What are the qualities that make a good judicial clerk?
I think judicial clerks are like cases: in the end, it is for the judge to decide what makes a good one. Different judges go about their work in different ways and so the assistance required by one judge will differ to that required by another. Generally speaking, however, I think a judicial clerk should be attentive, hardworking, conscientious, optimistic, organised, proactive, responsive, meticulous, determined, flexible and enthusiastic.
4. What advice would you give to your younger self and those who want to enter the legal profession?
I wasted a lot of time reading books unrelated to law. I think I would advise my younger self to waste twice as much time! I am constantly seeing how past explorations in seemingly remote subject areas lend support the tasks I do in this job, directly or indirectly. And language plays a central role in law, so it is helpful in my opinion to be interested in language and how it is used and can be interpreted, or the “playing along with the play of language” as it has been put, not least because good lawyers are usually very skilled at that.
To those wanting to enter the legal profession, my advice would be to explore all the options you have and keep an open mind. Competition to enter the profession is usually fierce. But I think this is partly because most aspirants converge at only a handful of “gateways”. Most will aspire to be solicitors or barristers but a fulfilling and accomplished career - a dream career - as an arbitrator, mediator or court registrar, for example, may await you; where you are currently based or perhaps elsewhere.