There are a wide variety of roles available in the legal industry and not all of them require years of expensive training. The role of court usher is an example of one of these roles and is highly important in the smooth running of court. As a court usher, you will be involved in numerous types of cases and will ensure that all people involved in a hearing are in the right place at the right time.
If you enjoy working with a variety of people, are highly organised, and have an interest in the law, a career as a court usher could be for you.
Day-to-day responsibilities might include:
- Ensuring that the courtroom is prepared for the upcoming schedule.
- Reception duties, such as greeting those coming to court for hearings or as visitors.
- Calling witnesses and defendants into court.
- Directing witnesses in the taking of oaths and swearing in jurors.
- Labelling evidence and handing it to the jury or judge as required.
- Passing messages as directed.
- Keeping public areas disciplined and under control.
- Administrative duties, such as filing on a computer system.
- ‘Sworn ushers’ have a duty to prevent anyone from approaching the jury without permission.
There are no specific qualifications for this role. However, some GCSEs at grades A-C are normally required, including English. Training takes place on the job and can last for about a year. A new usher normally shadows an experienced colleague, gradually taking on more duties. There are also short courses on topics that might help you prepare for the role, such as security issues, dealing with difficult situations, working with jurors, and equality awareness. You could also consider taking the Diploma in Society, health and development or the Diploma in public services.
The following NVQs are relevant for this role:
- Level 2 in court/tribunal administration and court/tribunal operations
- Level 3 in court operations
- Level 3 in witness care
Experience working in customer service or administration would be beneficial, as would good IT skills. You will also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before you start work.
Communication skills: You will be working with a wide range of people, from members of the public to judges, so the ability to communicate well is essential.
Confidence: You may have to assert authority when keeping order in public areas.
The ability to remain calm under pressure: You may have to deal with people in difficult situations.
Attention to detail: This is important for duties such as preparing the courtroom and for clerical responsibilities.
A professional manner: You will be expected to adhere to court customs and traditions.
Starting salary: £15,000 – £17,000
Experienced: £18,000 – 19,000
Senior: £19,000 – £22,000
These figures are a guide and come from the National Careers Service.
As you build up experience, you will take on more responsibility. This could involve taking on duties as a ‘sworn usher’ or by supervising a team of ushers. You could also become an administrative officer for the court.
It will be useful for you to be aware of the different types of courts if you are considering a career as a court usher.
Magistrates’ courts which hear most criminal cases ranging from driving offences to theft and assault. They also act as family courts, where they decide on relationship breakdown and childcare cases, and youth courts which deal with offences committed by young people under 18. Magistrates are unpaid, trained members of the community who usually sit in a panel or ‘bench’ of three.
Crown Courts deal with more serious criminal offences such as murder, rape or robbery. They also deal with appeals from magistrates’ courts. Crown Court cases are heard by a judge who decides on the sentence but the decision about whether someone is guilty or not is decided by a jury of twelve members of the public who are chosen at random.
County courts deal with civil cases which include matters such as people owing money, claims for personal injury or disputes over contracts. Hearing may be formal or informal.
The High Court deals with the most complex civil cases and with appeals against decisions made in the county court.
The Court of Appeal hears appeals against decisions made in the High Court and the Crown Court. Any disputes from the Court of Appeal go to the House of Lords.
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