A day in the life of a court usher (with skills and FAQs)
Updated 6 April 2023
A court usher plays an important supporting role in the running of a courtroom. They ensure everyone in court proceedings knows what to do, so the position requires excellent organisational and communication skills. If you have an interest in becoming a court usher, knowing what to expect can help determine if it's a good choice for you. In this article, we explain the role, describe a day in the life of a court usher with a list of responsibilities, discuss requirements for the position, including the necessary abilities, and answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is a court usher?
A court usher directs people where to go In the courtroom and the court building and helps them understand what to do. This assistance can involve meeting people attending court, informing them of proceedings, answering their questions and updating them about any timetable changes. They can also escort the jury, check that everyone is present and pass evidence between various people in the courtroom. The court usher role requires excellent organisational ability, communication, time management and knowledge of court proceedings.
Related: How to become a court usher
A day in the life of a court usher
Knowing what a day in the life of a court usher is like can help you decide if this is a career you want to pursue. The responsibilities of the job include:
The court usher prepares the courtroom before judges, lawyers and others enter it for a case. This might include laying out papers, ensuring adequate drinking water is available and arranging the seating. Other tasks might include checking the fire escape and that any hardware in the room is working correctly. After a courtroom has emptied, an usher tidies the area in preparation for subsequent use, including retrieving items left behind and disposing of rubbish.
Noting people's arrival
A court usher checks that everyone is present in the courtroom, including lawyers from both sides, witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs. When people arrive, some may require direction on where to sit or stand. The usher can help by greeting them upon entry, informing them where to go or escorting them to their seats. Once everyone is in the courtroom, the court usher informs the clerk that the proceedings can begin.
Calling people into court
Some participants in a case – witnesses for example – might be present only for a short period. For those participating for a limited time, a court usher can let them know when to enter the courtroom and where to go. This assistance can also extend to people who are providing evidence.
It's sometimes necessary for those in a courtroom to see exhibits. To enable this, the court usher can label and pass an item between people, such as the judge, lawyers and jury members. The usher is responsible for returning the exhibit eventually to its safe custody in court. They can also pass notes between lawyers and court clerks, enabling them to communicate without disrupting court proceedings.
Many people entering a courtroom, like witnesses or visitors, may be unaware of procedures and the court's timetable. A court usher can answer their questions and explain procedures to ensure they don't cause interruptions. This instruction can include explaining who is to speak and when, security measures and what personal items are permissible in court.
Related: What are communication skills?
Each witness in a case swears an oath or affirms to speak truthfully. The court usher usually administers this procedure by explaining it to the witness, ensuring they understand and then saying the necessary words for the witness to repeat. A similar process exists for the jury, who independently swear an oath on a holy book or make an affirmation to give a true verdict according to the evidence. The court usher usually administers this oath, too.
Attending to the jury
When a case requires a jury, a sworn usher is responsible for them. This person is a court usher who has sworn an oath to ensure that nobody disturbs the jury when they're in the jury deliberation room. A sworn usher escorts the jury to and from the courtroom, takes messages between the judge and jury, passes them any items they require and remains outside the jury room as they deliberate to ensure nobody enters.
If the jury is going to be present for more than a day, a court usher can arrange their accommodation in hotels. They may organise transportation between the courtroom and their arranged accommodation as necessary. They can also distribute claims forms to jurors for loss of earnings and expenses incurred.
A court usher may perform various clerical duties for people in court. These duties can include photocopying documents and filing and retrieving data. They may receive requests to do this from lawyers, judges or court clerks. An usher might also operate electronic equipment in the courtroom, like computers or projectors.
Requirements to become a court usher
If you have an interest in becoming a court usher, consider these steps and requirements:
Of the many options available to become a court usher, all typically require you to have GCSEs. Depending on your chosen method, between two and five GCSEs will be needed. For example, a Level 1 or 2 college qualification often requires between one and three GCSEs. An advanced apprenticeship usually requires five GCSEs. It may also be possible to apply directly for court usher roles, in which case at least two GCSEs may be necessary. English and maths are excellent subject choices, in addition to information technology.
Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications
2. College course
There are some college course options that can help you become an usher. These relate to administrative work: a Level 1 Certificate in Business Administration and a Level 2 Certificate in Principles of Business Administration. Requirements for these courses can be two or more GCSEs with higher grade requirements for a Level 2 certificate.
If you have sufficient GCSEs, an alternative to college courses is to seek an apprenticeship. There are several options, including one for a public service operational delivery officer, a business administrator or an intermediate apprenticeship for a customer service practitioner. These options include administrative and customer service skills, which are helpful for court ushers.
Getting a job as a court usher with no post-school qualifications is possible. Some GCSEs and possessing the requisite proficiencies may enable you to do so. Some key skills for the role are:
verbal and written communication
knowledge of legal proceedings
organisation and time management
ability to use a computer and office software
patience and dedication
attention to detail and thoroughness
Below are some FAQs about court ushers, along with their respective answers:
What are the career progression options for court ushers?
There are two main career progression possibilities for court ushers. The first is for higher responsibility in similar roles, such as leading a team of ushers or becoming the administrative officer of a court. The other option is to advance to administrative and other local or central government roles, where others can value your knowledge of legal proceedings and relevant experience.
How many ushers are there in a courtroom?
The number of court ushers required depends on the dictates of the proceedings. It's often only necessary to have one usher attend a courtroom. In other cases, it may be necessary to have several, such as in Crown Court where there's a jury. In this case, you may find both court ushers and a sworn usher.
What are the working hours like for court ushers?
Working hours for a court usher typically reflect the working hours of the courts themselves. A normal working day equates to between 35 and 40 hours a week. Occasionally, cases may take longer and result in overtime work for ushers. Court ushers may work fewer hours in a part-time capacity.
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