British Columbia Judicial Law Clerk Program
The Judicial Law Clerk Program at the B.C. Court of Appeal and the B.C. Supreme Court provides a unique learning experience for recent law school graduates. Established in 1973, the clerking program continues to build a tradition of excellence and offers an opportunity for outstanding students to develop skills in legal research, writing, and advocacy.
Each law clerk's experience differs according to the court and judges to whom the clerk is assigned, the cases before the courts, and the law clerk's own level of curiosity and initiative. A clerking year affords a unique opportunity to learn about the judicial process. Law clerks develop an appreciation for the range of questions that concern judges in dealing with legal issues. Law clerks can augment their recent academic legal training with the experience of those who have earned the respect of the legal profession, both as senior members of the bar and as sitting judges. Law clerks also learn valuable lessons in the art of advocacy by reviewing written materials and watching counsel in court.
The primary role of law clerks, at both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, is to provide assistance to judges in a variety of ways, including conducting legal research, preparing written memoranda, discussing matters with their judges, and editing and proofreading draft judgments. As time and workloads permit, law clerks are encouraged to observe court proceedings—including trials, appeals, and chambers hearings. Law clerks have the opportunity to engage in discussion with judges about cases they are hearing, developments in the law, aspects of the trial or appellate process, and the judicial process in general.
The law clerk experience is a rewarding one, not only for its educational value, but also for the collegial and supportive environment it offers and the lasting friendships that are made during the program. Invariably, the law clerk experience is enriching and memorable.
Throughout the clerkship term, judges and other judicial officers conduct informal seminars on topics of the law clerks' choice. There is a chambers program in which law clerks may attend Supreme Court Masters’ and Judges’ chambers. The law clerks are given instruction in Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Registry procedures, and visits to the Provincial Court are arranged for those interested. Law clerks also organize several educational events with the assistance of the courts’ legal counsel.
For the 2020–2021 term, 30 full-time law clerks will be hired for the two superior courts. The Court of Appeal will employ 12 law clerks. The Supreme Court will employ 18 law clerks; two of the 18 law clerks will be located in Victoria, three in New Westminster, and 13 will be located in Vancouver.
Applicants must anticipate receiving a law degree from an accredited Canadian or foreign law school before the commencement of the clerkship; be of good character; and be fit to become members of the Law Society of British Columbia. A criminal records check will be conducted at the commencement of the clerkship term; a satisfactory report is a condition of continued employment.
Emphasis in hiring is placed on academic excellence, legal research and writing skills, general motivation, and work experience. The ability to manage multiple projects and to produce high-quality work under strict deadlines is required.
Applications are not accepted from candidates who have been admitted to the bar in any jurisdiction.
While applicants with foreign qualifications may apply, preference will typically be given to graduates of Canadian law schools or those who have received training in Canadian law.
The first day of the 2020–2021 clerkship term in both courts is Tuesday, September 8, 2020. In the Supreme Court, all clerkships are for a term of 12 months. In the Court of Appeal, clerkships may be for a term of 10, 11 or 12 months.
Law clerks with the British Columbia courts are auxiliary employees of the provincial Ministry of Attorney General. The salary for the law clerk position is the same as the salary of articling students with the Ministry and includes a payment in lieu of benefits. 2018–2019 law clerks’ biweekly pay is currently approximately $1,913 plus some benefits in lieu.
Once offered a position as a law clerk, candidates will be sent a letter confirming an offer of employment. In the period between hiring and commencement of the clerkship, candidates are expected to maintain law school grades comparable to those achieved when hired. As final grades become available at the end of each term, candidates are required to submit unofficial copies of transcripts to show their continued academic standing. A formal official transcript is required at the completion of third year and prior to commencement of the clerkship.
At the commencement of the clerkship, in addition to the criminal records check, clerks are required to accept the terms and conditions of employment with the public service of the Province of British Columbia. This includes the swearing or affirming of the standard form public service employment oath. Clerks are also required to abide by the courts’ “Conflicts and Confidentiality Policy” and Standards of Conduct for BC Public Service Employees.
Clerks may not be called to the bar in any jurisdiction until after their clerkship term has concluded.
During the clerkship term, clerks are required to devote their time to their work for the courts. Outside engagement, whether or not remunerated, is not permitted. In addition, law clerks are discouraged from publishing papers, other than as part of their approved work for the courts. Papers submitted for publication before the commencement of clerkship are usually permissible, but clerks are advised to speak with the legal counsel first.
There are also some other restrictions on participation in volunteer activities or affiliations during the clerkship term. These restrictions are best discussed on a case-by-case basis with the legal counsel and the executive director and senior counsel of the Superior Courts Judiciary, as needed. These restrictions reflect the need for law clerks to act in a manner consistent with the impartiality of the judiciary and the need to uphold public confidence in the courts.
Many candidates for clerkships at the B.C. courts also apply to other courts (the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Federal Court). The interview and hiring cycles of the various courts do not always coincide. It is generally expected that if a candidate is offered a position with the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court in British Columbia, the candidate will accept the position and stand by the acceptance if made a subsequent offer by another court.
Recognizing the special status of the Supreme Court of Canada, the B.C. Courts Law Clerk program will release candidates from their acceptance of a position with the B.C. Courts to permit them to take a clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada. Accordingly, the legal counsel of the Court of Appeal and B.C. Supreme Court maintain an “alternate list”. Candidates on the alternate list are called if another candidate withdraws or declines an offer. Typically, one or two alternates are called on each year.
The time spent as a law clerk partially fulfills the articling requirements for call and admission to the Law Society of British Columbia. After completing the clerkship, students may apply to the Law Society for a reduction of their articling period. Law clerks typically complete their articling requirements with a law firm, a non-profit organization, the Ministry of Attorney General, or the Department of Justice.
Generally speaking, the time frame for admission to the bar for students who have been law clerks in B.C. is 18–22 ½ months following graduation from law school.
If you plan to be called to the bar in a jurisdiction other than British Columbia, you should contact the law society of that jurisdiction to obtain more specific information about how a clerkship may affect your articles or admission to practice.