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Confessions of a Law Clerk

Marshall Eriksen

Your first weeks of being a law clerk are a bit like starring in a comedy of errors. There are plenty of hilarious stuff ups (at least they’re funny to everyone else), lessons in befriending court registry staff and courtroom behaviour. One newly-minted clerk spills the beans.

Is Everyone in the Car?

I was given the highly important task of taking Scary Barrister and Solicitor to the airport. Simple, right? After patiently waiting in the loading dock Scary Barrister jumps in the car (this guy scares me more than just a little) and I start to drive off. “WAIT,” screams Scary Barrister. “Solicitor is not in the car yet!” Solicitor had placed his bags in the car, put one foot in and before he could sit down, I drove off. Smooth.

Where did I put that?

On my second day I was handed the ‘swipie’ (a card that opens and closes the car park) and strongly informed it was THE ONLY ONE they had. You can see where this is going can’t you?

We get back and I go to grab the ‘swipie’, but it’s not there. Fortunately some wonderful human being let me into the car park, but my problem was still not solved. I tore the car apart. No inch of the car was left unchecked, re-checked and triple-checked.

At this point I was pretty sure I would not recover from a lost ‘swipie’ event and would have to keep looking for a job. I was on the verge of hysteria, I placed it in the back seat or my folder satchel before we left. I was SURE of it. 45 long, panic laden minutes later it turns up in a book I had in the folder. The ‘swipie’ had decided it would prefer to be a book mark. Oh yeah! Now to explain my absence without looking like a twit.

Just the Messenger

I am pretty sure the court clerks saw me coming. I was sent down from the office to get something we didn’t have on file. That’s pretty easy and straight forward right? Nope, no dice, I am not allowed to have that information.

After calling the office my instructions where along the lines of “don’t take any crap from the staff, you march right back in there and demand… (it went on for a while).”

I think it is fair to say that in my 4th week in the legal industry the aim of the game is to not upset people. Short of bunging on some fake tears, I went back to the little window of denial and asked again, very, very nicely explained I was just the messenger, only been doing this for a month now, just a clerk, don’t hate me… I got it, and I got it without pissing anyone off. That is a learning curve, and from what I have seen so far dealing with court staff is worthy of an elective subject in itself.

Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, don’t laugh

Watching a barrister or self-represented litigant being spanked by a Magistrate is always interesting: “Get OUT of my court room for 15 minutes, I am just too angry with you right now or Mr. X. This is not the time for you to read XYZ, you got sent the materials right? And you read them? No… Wait… You CAN read right?” Not giggling is always a challenge.

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