Court Legal Adviser

The Job and What's Involved

Court legal advisers in England and Wales (sometimes known as court clerks), are qualified lawyers who advise magistrates about the law.

Magistrates serve on a voluntary basis and do not need law qualifications, so your main duty as a legal adviser would be to explain the law and legal procedures to magistrates and others involved in the Youth Court, Family Proceedings court and licensing committees. You might advise on possible sentencing options, but you would never judge a case yourself.

As well as advising on the law, your work would also include:

  • Managing court schedules.
  • Preparing for court sessions and making sure that all relevant papers and exhibits are ready.
  • Reading charges to the court.
  • Dealing with legal aid applications.
  • Researching legal issues and collecting case statistics.
  • Providing training for magistrates.

You would work closely with solicitors, police officers, probation staff and social workers as well as magistrates.

You would be based at a magistrates' court, and work in both courtrooms and offices. You may sometimes need to work from several courts in an area. Formal dress is expected.

In a full-time job you would work standard office hours, Monday to Friday. Part-time work and job sharing may be available.

Starting salaries can be from around £20,500 for trainee advisers with the LPC/BVC only, or £29,000 for those who have completed the LPC/BVC and a training contract.

After training, salaries can rise to between £30,000 and £43,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

As a court legal adviser you would be employed by Her Majesty's Courts Service to work in magistrates' courts in England and Wales.

Jobs are advertised in the local and national press and on the HM Court Service website.

Education and Training

To work as a legal adviser you must have completed the academic stage of training to become a solicitor or barrister.

For this, you will first need either an approved law degree or postgraduate law qualification (the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)), followed by either:

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) to become a solicitor, or

The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC, previously known as the Bar Vocational Course or BVC), for barristers.

Ideally you should also have fully qualified as a solicitor or barrister by completing a training contract after your LPC or BPTC/BVC (see the Solicitor and Barrister job guides for more information). However, if you have passed the LPC or BPTC/BVC but not completed a training contract, courts may employ you as a trainee legal adviser.

You will find it useful to have previous experience as a magistrate, and to have customer service and administration skills.

You will also need to pass a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As a legal adviser in training, you will follow a structured on-the-job induction programme organised by your court. Most training programmes take between one and two years.

You would usually start by observing court proceedings and experienced mentors. You might then advise on one particular area such as road traffic courts, trials, licensing, sentencing or fines enforcement, before covering the full range of work by the end of your training.

Your training may include work-based NVQs at levels 3 and 4 in Legal Advice. Contact Skills for Justice or the Open University Awarding Body for more information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A court legal adviser needs:

  • Good organisational and research skills.
  • Good spoken and written communication skills.
  • The ability to explain complex laws and procedures.
  • Objectivity and a logical approach.
  • Discretion, for working with confidential information.
  • Patience, tact and a non-judgemental approach.
  • The ability to work under pressure.
  • Professional detachment when dealing with emotionally demanding cases.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could be promoted to justices' clerk (responsible for running a number of courts within an area) or become a district judge (a legally-qualified magistrate who works for an annual salary).

Alternatively, you could move into private practice as a solicitor or barrister, or join the Crown Prosecution Service as a Crown Prosecutor or Crown Advocate.

Get Further Information

Skills for Justice,
Centre Court, Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ
Website: www.skillsforjustice.com

HM Courts & Tribunals Service
Website: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk

Open University
Tel: 01908 332870
Website: www.open.ac.uk

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