What is a Law Clerk?

Region: Ontario Answer # 2846

In 1968, the Law Society of Ontario established the term “law clerk”. The Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO) is the provincial professional association that provides continuing education, fellowship and networking for its members. According to ILCO, a law clerk is:

“A trained professional doing independent legal work, which may include managerial duties, under the direction and guidance of a lawyer and whose function is to relieve a lawyer of routine legal and administrative matters and assist him in the more complex ones.”

What does a Law Clerk do?

A law clerk’s duties may include:

  • researching records, court files and transcripts;
  • preparing various legal documents such as wills, real estate transactions and affidavits;
  • interviewing clients and witnesses;
  • drafting legal correspondence; and
  • preparing cases for trial

Where can a Law Clerk work?

Law clerks may find employment at:

  • Court offices
  • In-house legal departments
  • Law offices
  • Real estate companies
  • Financial institutions
  • Regional, municipal or federal government offices
  • Registry offices

Code of Ethics

As per the governing bylaw of ILCO, a law clerk must adher to a strict Code of Ethics. Under this Code of Ethics, a law clerk:

  • must perform his or her duties subject to the supervision of that person’s principal
  • shall at no time represent herself or himself to a client as a Barrister and Solicitor
  • shall not counsel or give legal advice to a client without the authority of the Principal
  • discharge his or her duty to the Principal and to the client of the Principal with honesty and integrity
  • should serve the Principal in a conscientious, diligent and efficient manner and should provide a quality of service at least equal to that which Barristers and Solicitors generally would expect of a competent Law Clerk
  • has a duty to hold in strict confidence all information acquired in the course of the professional relationship concerning the business and affairs of the Principal and the Principal’s clients and the Law Clerk should not divulge any such information unless expressly authorized by the Principal or required by law to do so
  • owes a duty to the Principal to observe all relevant rules and laws regarding the preservation and safekeeping of the property of the client entrusted to the Principal
  • should assist in maintaining the integrity of the Legal Profession and should participate in its activities within the limits imposed by The Law Society of Ontario or other governing body

In addition,

  • The Law Clerk’s conduct toward the Principal and other lawyers shall be characterized by courtesy and good faith.
  • The Law Clerk shall observe the rules of conduct set out in this Code of Ethics in the spirit as well as in the letter.
  • Principal’s clients and the Law Clerk should not divulge any such information unless expressly authorized by the Principal or required by law to do so.
  • Any business cards used by the Law Clerk shall include the name of the Law Clerk’s employer and specify the occupation of the Law Clerk or such other description as shall from time to time be approved by ILCO and/or The Law Society of Ontario.

Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO) membership

Students enrolled in a law clerk program at an Ontario College may apply as a Student Member to the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO). Graduates who are employed in the profession may apply to ILCO as an Ordinary Member.

More info

For more information on law clerk programs, view other Answers in Paralegals and Law Clerks, or visit the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario (ILCO) website at ilco.on.ca.


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