- Clerk Programme For German Trainee Layers
- Interviews with former law clerks
- Clerk Initiatives
- Scholarships from the Court
- Clerks' Alumni Network
Court law clerks
The Constitutional Court in 1995 became the first court in South Africa to assign law clerks to assist each of its judges. Law clerks are appointed to work for a specific judge. The law clerk’s primary responsibility is to assist the judge in fulfilling his or her duties.
Each judge has two South African law clerks, paid for by the State, and may in addition have a foreign law clerk, who is self-funded.
Although South African and foreign clerks’ responsibilities are basically identical, different conditions apply to their appointment.
Roles and duties
Specific responsibilities may vary between chambers, but include:
- Preparing analytical summaries of written argument or evidence and assessing arguments in the light of case law and legal literature;
- Detailed research on particular topics;
- Preparing pre-hearing chronologies, memoranda, media summaries and opinions as well as identifying key issues in pending matters;
Assisting the judge in Court, case-calling and ensuring that the oral hearings take place with propriety and efficiency;
- Taking detailed notes of oral argument;
- Assisting the judge in Court-related work such as committees, organisational work and international human rights work;
Cite-checking draft judgments before delivery;
- Taking part in clerks' committees;
- Assisting with administration of Court papers, case management and public relations;
Helping prepare public lectures and speeches;
- Conducting tours of the Court and the artworks collection for each judge’s visitors; and
- Assisting with the Court’s outreach and public education program
Law clerks’ workload varies during the year and depends on individual judges. The working hours are flexible and chamber-specific but are usually long.
Law clerks are required to have the following skills:
- Knowledge of, and the ability to apply, legal principles, concepts and procedures;
- Familiarity with and experience of legal research tools, including electronic sources;
- Excellent English language and writing skills – proficiency in other official languages is an added advantage;
- Analytical skills;
- Drafting skills, including being able to write clearly and concisely under pressure;;
- Ability to plan work and manage conflicting priorities under pressure; and
- Ability to work both independently and in a team.
Training and a two-week orientation are provided to new clerks by the Court’s Orientation Committee.
How clerks are appointed
South African clerks are appointed for one year. Foreign law clerks (except those who are part of the German trainee lawyer programme)are appointed for a minimum of six months. Occasionally foreign clerks may be appointed for a year, and may after six months move from one chambers to another.
Appointments of South African clerks are ordinarily made in May of the preceding year for appointment as a law clerk for the following January to December or or July to June. All applications for South African clerks must be received by no later than 31 March.
Foreign clerk applications are considered on a rolling basis. However, many appointments of foreign clerks are also made in May for January to June or July to December of the following year or later.
Though there is no firm cut-off, foreign applicants should preferably also submit applications by 31 March of each year. It is advisable to apply well in advance of the desired start date.
Because the judges have specific requirements and because they work so closely with their law clerks, appointments are made, where possible, after one-on-one interviews either in person.
Your application should indicate the period or periods for which the applicant wishes to be considered. Applicants must have an LLB (or equivalent) or be in their final year of study. Applications must also include:
- a motivational cover letter ;
- a full curriculum vitae;
- certified copies of academic records;
- an example of written work;
- names and contact details of two referees (one academic and one professional); and
- references regarding working experience and/or any special qualifications (if appropriate).
Failure to comply with these requirements will result in the application not being considered.
South African applications may be submitted by hand, post or electronically to:
The Registrar of the Constitutional Court
1 Hospital Street
Private Bag X1
No applications should be directed to the Court manager or any other staff member directly.
Tel: +27 11 359 7460
Tel: +27 11 359 7444
More information on the foreign clerkship position is available here .
Place of employment
Law clerks perform their duties at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. On occasion the judges may require them to attend to work-related tasks elsewhere.
Remuneration and benefits
South African law clerks receive a uniform salary of about R300 000 a year. No further benefits are included. Parking is provided at the Court subject to a nominal monthly tariff. Parking is provided at the Court subject to a nominal monthly tariff.
Foreign law clerks are not remunerated. They have to seek their own funding to cover all their expenses, including food, accommodation, travel to South Africa, visas, private telephone calls at the Court and travel to and from work.
Benefits of being a law clerk
Being a law clerk offers opportunities to enhance personal and professional development and improve research, writing and people skills, while contributing to the development of constitutional principles and decision-making.
See interviews with former clerks for an account of their experiences at the Court.
South African law clerks also have the added benefit of becoming eligible to apply for either or both of the Court's scholarships