Few career paths are more respected or more lucrative than that of becoming a criminal defense lawyer. This means that it’s also a job to which many people aspire.
Of course not every wannabe attorney is able to achieve their dreams, and even knowing where to get started is tricky if you are a total novice.
With that in mind, let’s look at the steps you need to take and the challenges that you’ll have to overcome to eventually work as a criminal defense lawyer.
Complete a bachelor’s degree course
You’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree under your belt before you can even think about attending law school, and it’s best to stick to one of the areas of study that is generally preferred by the best legal institutions around.
This includes things like political science and sociology, although you can have a degree-level grounding in any subject you wish, so long as you are able to impress on your law school application and at interview.
Intern at a law firm
An excellent extracurricular activity to have under your belt is experience built up as part of an internship scheme within a reputable law firm, preferably in the same region or state where you intend to study and eventually qualify.
For example, by working alongside a New Brunswick based criminal defense lawyer, you’ll not only gain something valuable to add to your law school application, but you’ll also get a taste for what life as an attorney in this field is actually like.
Pass the entrance exam
All of the law schools which are recognized and accredited will not only require prospective students to have a solid educational background, but will also need them to sit the LSAT, otherwise known as the law school admissions test.
The higher your score, the more likely you will be to achieve an offer from your preferred school. You could even get in on a scholarship if your LSAT performance is distinguished enough, and you meet the other eligibility criteria for financial support.
Obviously you’ll need to study for the test, and one of the best ways to do this is by taking practice exams so you are familiar with the questions you’ll face during the real thing.
If you fail to meet the score requirements imposed by your law school of choice, you can retake the LSAT in order to raise it, although different institutions will have different rules about how scores from retakes are assessed, so bear this in mind.
Complete your law school course
Most law schools have a course of study that lasts 3 years in total, and during this time you’ll be able to explore the different areas of practice and ideally home in on one that gels with your interests and your values.
If criminal defense is what stimulates you most, make sure you maximize your opportunities to follow this path throughout law school with the electives you opt for, for example.
You can also get summer jobs within law firms while you are at law school, which will further enhance your levels of experience. This could also open doors for you to a job straight out of school once you have passed the bar exam.
Take the bar exam
As mentioned, you’ll need to pass the bar exam in your chosen state where you want to practice law once you have finished your law school studies.
Gearing up for this exam takes two or three months, depending on bar exam scheduling, and most applicants pay for prep courses to get them over the line.
If you succeed, you’ll be ready to seek employment at a law firm, and start your career as a criminal defense lawyer!