The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Criminal Lawyer

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

Whether you grew up on Matlock or fancy yourself a modern-day Ally McBeal, becoming a Lawyer takes a lot of dedication. Once achieved, it is one of the most rewarding careers as criminal law is the foundation of American democracy and governance. Here is the beginner’s guide to becoming a criminal lawyer in the most exciting area of the criminal justice system where you will represent those accused of a wide range of crimes.

What to Expect From a Career in Criminal Law

A role of a criminal defense lawyer is to defend individuals or businesses of criminal wrongdoing vigorously. Some defendants retain their criminal defense lawyers privately while others are appointed by the court as public defenders to assist the individuals who are poverty-stricken. In either case, it is your duty to provide each defendant with sound legal counsel and defense.

How Does Someone Become a Criminal Lawyer?

There is a direct path to becoming a criminal lawyer that starts with your education.  You need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree program. It is the minimal requirement to gain admission into a law program. That said, the median GPA for admission is between a 3.0 and 4.0, You also must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for admission into a law school and score normally between 165 and 175.

The LSAT is a fundamental component of any admission. The examination measures a student’s competency, knowledge and value to the criminal justice system. The exam has a total of five multiple choice fields, which includes legalities, reading comprehension, argumentation, critical thinking, analysis, reasoning and data management.

Once these steps are completed, you must also apply to accredited law schools by filling out the appropriate applications. Once accepted into an applied behavior analysis (ABA) degree program, you will need to satisfy coursework and earn a Juris Doctor degree. Before you can practice law, you will also need to pass the bar exam, which means achieving a score above 1,440 out of a possible 2,000 points.

The bar exam is usually a two-day procedure although each state has its own guidelines.  The first part of the exam covers the multistate bar exam while the second date covers the writing examination including an individual’s legal knowledge. The bar also looks at academics, character, competency and quality of representation before offering a candidate a legal license.

Characteristics That Good Criminal Defense Lawyer Needs

Whether you are born with them or develop skills over time, there are certain characteristics that great criminal lawyers have in common. Here are the critical characteristics you must possess:

  • Great communication skills
  • Thriving under pressure
  • A systemic approach to data management
  • Keen attention to detail
  • Ability to stay neutral to provide a fair defense
  • Strong analytic and research skills
  • Overcome challenges with limited resources
  • Ability to think outside the box

The road to becoming a successful criminal lawyer also depends on your career path, which may begin as an associate in a law firm, private practice, an assistant district attorney or a public defender. Each path guarantees you have plenty of opportunities to gain the necessary experience.

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