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Is becoming a criminal law lawyer more intense then other lawyer careers.


Criminal law is intense. People's liberty is at stake. If you represented the accused, you will need to be comfortable working with people in holding cells, jail and courtroom. Being in court is also intense, but it will make you very comfortable with public speaking, thinking on your feet, and proving your credibility and trustworthiness with judges, opposing counsel, involved parties on a case, and if there is a jury trial, the public. The life of a criminal lawyer is very demanding. You should expect to work more than a 9 to 5 job. However, it is very rewarding on multiple levels. I suggest giving it a try through a student internship program with the DA or Public Defender. That will give you a good window to make your assessment. Jill S

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Jonathan’s Answer

No you are watching too much TV. There are plenty of criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors just copping pleas and grinding through cases. The criminal justice system is overburdened and they are just moving people along one way or the other. Trust me, when Enron as going bankrupt, that was intense, in a big deal, things get intense. Just because prison may be at stake doesn’t mean that it is any less intense than when money is at stake.
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Desiree’s Answer

Hi Nyasia! To become any sort of lawyer in the US, the typical process* is exactly the same.

First, you need to do well in High School, to get admitted to university for a "Bachelor's Degree" (often referred to as an "undergraduate degree"). This is typically a 4-year program. The good news there is you can major in ANYTHING you like. For example, I have a Bachelor's of Science in Marine Science & Biology. If you are interested in Criminal law, you might consider related majors like Criminal Science, Criminal Justice, etc. but there is absolutely no requirement for this. Some people will tell you that political science or English (there is a lot of reading and writing in law school!) will give you an edge in law school, but I strongly believe that you should study what you love and get the best grades possible. Hate to say it, but grades matter a lot.

You need good grades with your Bachelor's Degree and a strong LSAT score. The LSAT - unlike, say, the SAT - doesn't test your math skills or substantive knowledge but rather the way you think. It has three types of multiple choice questions testing (a) reading comprehension, (b) analytical reasoning, and (c) logical reasoning, along with a writing sample. If you like puzzles and logic games, you might actually enjoy the LSAT questions (but the time pressure is intense). Many companies offer tutoring for the LSAT exam - but you can also studying up on it on your own (that's what I did).

With good grades from University and strong LSAT score, you start applying to law school to earn a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. One thing that matters a lot to future employment is getting into a so-called a high or top tier law school. Play close attention to the ranking and accreditation of potential law schools, because they are a huge determining factor of future employment. A low ranked law school - or one that looses its accreditation - could leave you burdened with student debt and no likely employment prospects. Law School is typically a 3-year program. Again, getting good grades matters a lot to prospective employers, with students at the top of the class competing (with all the top students at all the top law schools) for jobs after graduation. It it common to have a paid internship the summer before your final year at law school at a law firm -- a so-called "summer associate" position -- to get "real world" experience and to see if the firm is a good fit. Successful summer associates may get early job offers (pending law school graduation and passing the bar exam). The last semester of law school, graduating students who haven't already secured a job trying to get offers for jobs - on top of their studies. In your last 2 years of law school, you can elect courses that align more with Criminal Law (as opposed to say, Family Law or Environmental Law). Also, your law school may offer a clinic focused on Criminal Law to give you "real world" experience while still a law student. This is a good way to try the field before you seek a job as a Criminal Lawyer. However, all attorneys that follow the typical route* in the US get the same JD and take the same bar exam - Criminal Law or otherwise.

Once you graduate with your JD, most states require you pass an ethics exam (typically "easy" if you've made it through law school), the infamous Bar Exam (hard, I'm not going to lie it was the hardest test ever in my entire life) as well as a "character and fitness" interview with a practicing attorney. Each state has its own standards and requirements for what a passing score is on the Bar Exam and how much the multi-state/multiple choose portion of the exams weighs against the written essay portion of the test.

Once you have all of these steps, you are "admitted to the Bar". Afterwards, most states require you to take "Continuing Legal Education" classes and volunteer at/contribute to legal clinics for the whole time you are a practicing attorney. Of course, if you are a Criminal attorney, you'll likely take your CLEs in related courses.



*I say "typical" for two reasons. (1) As Kim Kardashian's very public and recent attempt to become a lawyer exhibits, a few U.S. states have uncommon pathways to allow people to become a lawyer. These are very rare and, frankly, in 20 years of legal practice, I have not meet anyone in real life whose become a lawyer through such paths. (2) Also, engineers can sit for the US Patent Bar exam, which is a different and very unique pathway to become an Intellectual Property lawyer but does not allow for the practice of any other sort of law.

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Research on-line law schools well known for their criminal law programs, clinics, etc.
Research on-line law school admission criteria
Research on-line law school course requirements and electives in the field of criminal law
Consider reaching out to local Attorneys to discuss their career paths. See if your parents, teachers or other adults you know can help you identify attorneys they may know.
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