Legal advisers are qualified solicitors or barristers who have responsibility to advice magistrates and other court officials on legal matters whilst in court. They advise on points of law, procedures, penalties and other issues.
Legal advisers are highly qualified and knowledgeable about the law and they have an important role to carry out in court proceedings. Their work is very varied and no two days are the same.
Typical job responsibilities include:
- Advising magistrates on points of law in court
- Advising on procedures, penalties and other issues in court
- Managing court schedules to make the best use of available time
- Ensuring that defendants understand the workings of court proceedings
- Assisting magistrates in the decision-making process using set procedures
- Ensuring that evidence is ready at the start of a hearing
- Training newly appointed magistrates
- Managing a team of legal advisers
Legal advisers will normally be located in one court building and will generally work a 37 hour week from Monday to Friday. However, working hours may be unsociable or vary at times due to complex cases. At times, legal advisers may travel to different courts so a driving licence is useful.
Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service has a set career structure. Legal advisers can progress to a role as Justices' Clerk or as Justices' Chief Executive in a Magistrates' Court. You can also go on to a role in which you train magistrates or manage a team of legal advisers.
Please note: In Scotland this job is called a Sheriff's Clerk. They perform a similar role to Legal Advisers by advising on procedures and points of law in criminal and civil courts. They may also have more general duties such as handling court complaints and providing statistics for court staff. Small rural courts may only have one clerk but, while a court in a big city will have several.
There is a clear promotion structure within the Scottish Court Service.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for legal advisers
- A strong interest in the Law
- Excellent communication skills as you will be required to advise on a wide range of issues
- Able to deal with a range of different people and professionals involved in court procedures including magistrates
- Excellent organisational skills, reliable and able to work quickly and accurately under pressure
- An ability to remain impartial and detached in demanding cases
- Need for discretion to deal with confidential information
Pay And Opportunities
England and Wales
Typical employers of legal advisers
Legal advisers are employed in a magistrates' court through Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal System.
In Scotland, sheriff's clerks, or clerks of court, are employed by the Scottish Courts Service.
Qualifications and training required
Legal advisers must be fully qualified as either a barrister or a solicitor. From this stage you will start as a trainee legal adviser following a structured on-the-job induction programme organised by the associated court.
You will be required to have a law degree or a non-law degree followed by the Common Professional Exam (CPE) or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). You should then have completed either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
To apply for a law degree you will be required to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9 -4 (A* - C) and 2 A levels. In most cases 3 good A level passes will be required. English and History are useful A levels although many applicants also offer Law at A level.
In Scotland all clerks of court are civil servants. There are strict nationality and residency requirements. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants must pass a suitability test. You must be over 16 although most entrants are a lot older. Experience in dealing with the public and difficult situations, such as in the police or armed forces, is useful