Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
What sort of clerks are you looking for?
Each judge selects four law clerks per year. This gives judges a considerable amount of flexibility in deciding how best to organize their own chambers. Each individual clerk hired at the Court comes with strong academic standing and excellent research and writing skills in either or both official languages. But the Court as an institution also benefits tremendously when the law clerks, collectively, can contribute a diversity of perspectives that come from background and life experience.
Each judge organizes his or her chambers according to their own needs. Some of those needs are dictated by the very nature of the Supreme Court of Canada as an institution. The Supreme Court of Canada is a bilingual, bijural institution that hears cases in all areas of the law. Clerks must be proficient in one official language, but in this context, being bilingual can be an asset. Some clerks will have training and qualifications in both legal systems, but most clerks are trained in only one of the systems. Subject matter expertise may be a consideration in selecting a clerk.
Does the Court aim to achieve regional representation with its cohort of law clerks?
While there is no explicit requirement for regional representation, law clerks are in fact hired from across Canada and beyond. Some law faculties are not always represented in each year’s cohort. The judges examine all applications that meet the selection criteria. They are sensitive to the diverse qualities that graduates from different law schools can bring to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Do I need to have prior clerkship experience, have a graduate degree or be a member of the bar to be hired as a law clerk?
No. The judges strive to hire the best possible team for their chambers. The support they derive from the work of their law clerks draws from a wide breadth of knowledge and experience that cannot possibly be found in a single person. Hence the real need for diversity within chambers. There is a wide range of qualities that make for a good law clerk. While having prior experience as a law clerk, holding a graduate degree or being a member of the bar may be an asset, it is not a requirement.
Can I apply if I am not a Canadian citizen?
Pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, S.C. 2003, c. 22, preference is given to Canadian citizens, but persons having permanent resident status in Canada or a work permit for Canada may apply. If there are sufficient qualified applicants who are Canadian citizens, the selection will be confined to those applicants.
Can I apply if I hold degree from a non-Canadian university?
To work as a law clerk, you must hold a Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor from a recognized Canadian university or its equivalent. You are responsible for demonstrating that your degree is equivalent to a Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor from a recognized Canadian university. Note that you are not required to hold the degree when you apply for the position, but you must have obtained your degree prior to starting at the Court.
When should I apply?
The law clerk selection process is advertised through a job advertisement posted both on the Court’s website and in a database of the Canada Public Service Commission in October of each year. The deadline to apply for a law clerk position is usually towards the end of January, following the October advertisement.
The selection of law clerks is made a year and a half ahead of time. This means that if you apply in January 2021 and get selected, you will likely start your clerkship in August of 2022.
Can I send my application documents by regular mail?
No. You must submit your documents by email at the following address: email@example.com. They must be attached to the email as separate documents, and follow the naming convention set out in the advertisement for the law clerk positions. Your letters of reference must either be included with your application or sent separately, by email, by the persons who have agreed to forward references. However, your university must send your official law school transcripts by regular mail. In addition, the university may also email the law school transcripts. NOTE (added Nov. 16, 2020): In light of the current pandemic situation, you will not be penalized if your official law school transcript is received after the application deadline or if the university is only able to produce an electronic copy of the transcript. However, your application cannot be processed until all necessary documents are received.
What type of reference letters should I submit?
You should submit four letters of reference, addressed to Keshani Leblanc, Law Clerk Program Coordinator.
Preferably, your references should be from professors of law or legal professionals who have supervised your work. One of these references may be from the current Dean of the faculty where you obtained your law degree. One or more letters of reference should attest to your academic excellence, effective interpersonal skills, ability to work under pressure and ability to work as part of a team.
The letters should be signed and, if possible, printed on official letterhead. The letters may be included with your application or sent separately by email by the persons who have agreed to forward references.
What are the expectations for writing samples?
If you are invited for an interview, you will be asked to submit by email 1 or 2 writing samples, in the official language of your choice. The samples must be between 5 and 10 pages in length; they must not be co-authored and must not be factums (including factums produced for court proceedings or a moot court). You will have about 2 weeks to submit your sample(s), and will receive email confirmation of receipt within 24 hours.
What kind of security clearance do I need?
You do not need a government security clearance to apply for a law clerk position. However, to be appointed, you must successfully pass a security clearance at Level II (Secret).
What is the Court’s policy regarding confidentiality?
Law clerks occupy a sensitive position at the Court, and as a result are required to comply with strict rules and principles regarding professional ethics and confidentiality. As employees of the public service of Canada, law clerks are required to comply with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Supreme Court of Canada’s own Code of Conduct. Before they start at the Court, law clerks will be required to sign a Confidentiality and Conflict of Interest Declaration, which sets out, among other things, duties of confidentiality, discretion, loyalty, and many requirements for avoiding conflicts of interest, that apply both during and after their clerkships. Law clerks are also expected to devote their full time and effort to the performance of their duties as clerks. These obligations as a whole will restrict the types of activities law clerks can engage in outside of work.
What is the Court’s policy in terms of diversity, inclusiveness and employment equity?
The Supreme Court of Canada is committed to developing inclusive, barrier-free selection processes and work environments. If contacted in relation to a job opportunity or testing, you should advise the Court in a timely manner of any accommodation measures that should be taken to ensure your access in a fair and equitable manner. Information received relating to accommodation measures will be treated confidentially.
Candidates are free to indicate on their application if they belong to any of the groups designated under the Employment Equity Act, S.C. 1995, c. 44, i.e. women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. The Supreme Court of Canada is committed to achieving equitable representation of all employment equity designated groups throughout the organization. However, equity, diversity and inclusion extend beyond those four categories, and in that respect, candidates are free to provide additional information about themselves in their application (added Nov. 26, 2020).
What should I expect for the interviews?
All interviews will be conducted during the week of March 1, 2021. You will be advised by e-mail or telephone of the date and time of your interview about three weeks before it is scheduled to take place.
The judges of the Court conduct all interviews by Skype, either individually or in groups, or via a committee. You will need to provide your Skype ID and a telephone number. Each interview will take approximately 20 minutes.
You will need access to and knowledge of Skype software and access to a dedicated, high-speed line to the Internet. We cannot support a Skype call made with a mobile phone or through Wi-Fi Internet.
When does the Supreme Court make its offers?
Selection is usually made at the end of the interview week or very soon thereafter. Typically, other Canadian appellate-level courts make their own offers shortly thereafter. A formal letter of offer will only be sent to you after you have received your security clearance.
Terms and Conditions of Employment
When do the clerkships start and end?
Clerkships begin in August.
While clerkships usually last one year, successful applicants may be appointed for a period of one year or two years.
Applicants may indicate in their application whether they are willing to consider a term of two years.
The vast majority of clerkships will be for one year, and applicants will not be at a disadvantage if they are not available to serve for two years.
What are the salary and benefits?
All law clerk are engaged as term employees within the federal Public Service, at the EC-04 level.
The current salary is $74,122 per annum.
You are entitled to leave and other benefits, including the following:
- Vacation leave (15 days for the total duration of the term)
- Sick leave
- Personal leave (2 days per fiscal year)
- Dental Plan (premiums presently covered by employer)
- Public Service Health Care Plan (optional – employee and employer contribute)
- Long Term Disability Insurance (mandatory)
- Death Benefits (mandatory)
- Pension Plan (mandatory)
Do you cover the cost of relocation?
The Court provides law clerks with a lump-sum payment to assist with relocation, both to Ottawa on initial appointment and upon completion of their term. The amount paid is based on the distance of relocation and the number of dependents, and constitutes a taxable benefit.
Do you cover the cost of the bar admission course?
The Court does not cover the cost of the bar admission course. However, an allowance of $500 is allocated to each law clerk to reimburse expenses related to CLE activities during the course of their clerkship, and the allowance may be applied to the payment of articling and law society fees incurred during a law clerk’s term.
Law Society Requirements
Does clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada satisfy the bar’s articling requirement?
Not all law societies recognize service as a law clerk as fulfilling all or part of their articling requirements. Law clerks are responsible for checking articling requirements with the law society of the jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission to the practice of law.
The Clerking Experience
When do I find out who I will be working with?
You will know who you will be working with shortly after the interview week, when the Court makes its offers.
What kind of training do clerks get?
All law clerks receive orientation and training on a wide variety of subjects, like security procedures, IT and library services, professional conduct, Court operations and the judgment process. Their judge will also give them specific direction on what work they expect from them. Law clerks are free to attend weekly second-language classes held at the Court.
What type of work do clerks do?
The work of a law clerk is very much a team effort. During their time at the Court, the law clerks will work closely with their judge, the other clerks, the lawyers, the jurilinguists and many others on staff who make the wheels of the Court turn.
Working in close collaboration with their judge, clerks can expect to review case files, prepare bench memos, research specific legal issues before and after hearings, discuss and analyze the legal issues emerging from the cases with the judge, comment on draft judgments circulated by judges from other chambers, assist in the preparation and editing of judgments and assist in the preparation of papers and speeches.
Each judge’s chamber functions independently, with a view to reaching the best result with the best reasons in every case. Law clerks are considered as professionals who will organize their time to provide the services required by the judge. There is lots of challenging work to be done, but its high quality brings unique intellectual rewards.
What opportunities do clerks have to attend educational seminars?
The law clerks are encouraged to invite speakers to meet with them in an informal “fireside chat” setting. This gives them an opportunity to meet with prominent members of the legal community.
Law clerks are also encouraged to attend recognized CLE activities. An allowance of $500 is allocated to each law clerk to reimburse expenses related to CLE activities during the course of their clerkship.
What sorts of things do clerks do after leaving the Court?
Clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada opens doors. Former law clerks have found employment with reputable law firms, corporations, organizations and universities in Canada and abroad, and a wide variety of government departments and agencies. Many pursue graduate studies at prestigious universities in Canada, the United States and Europe.
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