The Superior Court of Justice Clerkship Program offers law students the unique opportunity to experience the trial process first hand, to work closely with judicial officials, and to substantively engage in a myriad of legal issues. Since its inception in 1996, the Clerkship Program has provided law students with a solid foundation on which to build their careers. Former Superior Court of Justice law clerks have gone on to successfully pursue a variety of legal and non-legal opportunities, including:
- private practice in small, medium, and large law firms in Canada and the U.S.;
- federal and provincial civil services (including work as Crown Attorneys and policy advisors);
- public interest work with legal aid and non-profit organizations;
- graduate studies at the national and international level; and
- legal research and consulting.
By working with members of the judiciary, judicial law clerks gain intimate knowledge of the court system and the judicial process, while acquiring firsthand experience of the largest superior trial court in Canada.
Law clerks have the unique opportunity to work closely with judges and to become involved in many aspects of the trial process. Clerks review pleadings, provide judges with oral opinions and written memoranda of law on a broad range of legal topics, and prepare case summaries. Depending on the needs of the judge, a law clerk may be asked to perform exhaustive research from all relevant sources or to find a quick answer during the course of a hearing. Clerks may also assist judges in preparing scholarly work, speeches, and presentations on law-related topics.
However, clerking at the trial level is about more than legal research. Law clerks are encouraged to attend hearings and to discuss their observations with the presiding judges. This opportunity provides law clerks with invaluable insight into judicial reasoning and decision-making processes. Law clerks observe outstanding advocates bring court procedure and rules of evidence to life in conducting their opening addresses, direct examinations, cross-examinations, and closing arguments. Clerks also observe and discuss jury selections, sentencing hearings, case conferences, bankruptcy hearings, summary conviction appeals, civil motions court, and family court.
In addition, all law clerks participate in educational seminars held throughout the year. The seminars are conducted by judges and senior counsel on topics of interest to the clerks. Law clerks have also traditionally been invited to attend judges’ conferences, and training is provided to clerks during an initial two-day orientation session.
Divisional Court Clerkships
In Toronto, three law clerks are dedicated to the Divisional Court. The Divisional Court clerkships will appeal most to those candidates who would like to develop in-depth expertise in administrative, labour, constitutional, judicial review, and appellate legal issues. The Divisional Court is the main forum for legal challenges to government action. High profile cases include the same-sex marriage case, school closing cases across the province, a case challenging the “zero tolerance” regime for doctors who sexually abuse patients, the Polewsky case dealing with small claims court fees, and a variety of important environmental cases.
The Divisional Court handles appeals from civil judgments under $50,000, and appeals and judicial reviews of decisions from a wide variety of Ontario tribunals dealing with human rights, securities regulation, welfare and social assistance, municipal law, landlord and tenant issues, commercial registration, and professional discipline of lawyers and health care professionals. The Divisional Court clerks provide legal research assistance to the judges assigned to Divisional Court and prepare pre-hearing bench memoranda. These positions provide the opportunity to observe the argument of appeals and judicial review applications in court, and to consult directly with the judges involved. Divisional Court clerks also provide legal research assistance to Superior Court judges.
There are 27 clerkship positions are available across the province in the following locations:
|Number of Clerkship Positions
|Newmarket & Oshawa & Barrie
|London & Windsor
* 3 of the Toronto positions are dedicated to the Divisional Court
Each location offers the opportunity to work with a variety of judges on a wide range of legal matters. While the law clerks may be geographically dispersed, they may work collectively with clerks in other regions. All the law clerks are supervised by counsel in Toronto, and each clerk has his or her own judicial mentor. Salary and benefits are the same for each location.
In Toronto, each law clerk is typically assigned to work for ten to twelve full-time and supernumerary judges. The judges themselves are assigned to various rotations, including family, criminal, civil, and commercial. As a result, law clerks get to work with a variety of judges on a wide range of matters.
In all other locations, law clerks conduct research for the judges throughout their respective judicial regions. The work-sharing arrangements in locations with more than one clerk vary by judicial region.
If you would like to know more about a particular region, you can reach out to the Court at SCJ.Clerkship@ontario.ca and someone will put you in touch with a law clerk in that location.
Terms of Employment
All clerkships begin in August. Law clerks’ benefits include vacation pay, statutory holiday pay, 4% pay in lieu of other benefits, paid sick days, law society fees associated with articling, and an educational stipend. Law clerks are also included in the Ministry of the Attorney General hireback pool and may apply for internal counsel positions after clerking and completion of bar admission.