Im really interested in becoming a criminal defense attorney.. Im in high school. Where do I start?
Question by jenny: Im really interested in becoming a criminal defense attorney.. Im in high school. Where do I start?
Any advice? Where can I intern / get practice? What do I study (my school dose not offer any classes for this career)? Help?
Answer by ownpool
I am a retired attorney and spent five years doing criminal defense work.
You do not take courses in criminal law until law school.
In high school get the best grades and board scores possible. Go to a good university. Most state universities are fine. I went to one and majored in history. Amy major which requires a lot of critical reading and writing is fine preparation for law school. There is no major called pre-law, which is simply a description of your reason for being in undergraduate school.
At the start of your senior year in college, apply to several law schools. You will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The best time to take it is in June of your junior year in college or in September of your senior year, so you will need to take the test before you apply to law schools. The test is similar to the SAT, but much more difficult. It lasts half a day. Look at the LSAT website for info.
Apply to at least eight law schools. Just as for undergraduate school, include “fit”, “reach” and “safety” schools. Be sure that the law school is approved by the American Bar Association. See their website.
Go to the best law school you can, but any ABA approved law school is fine. Unless you are going to one of the ten top national law schools, it is easiest to go in the state where you plan to practice. The law schools at state universities are fine.
In law school, compete for a position on the best law review. Law reviews are student-edited legal journals and membership on one is highly valued by employers. If you make law review, it will take a lot of your time.
In your summers in law school, try to do internships in law offices which handle criminal law. They may or may not be paid. It does not matter if they do prosecution or defense law.
In your third (last) year of law school, apply for a job in a public defender’s office. This is the best on-the-job training you can get. You can also get good training in a prosecutor’s office.
Take a bar exam review course before you take the bar exam.
Pass the bar exam, be admitted to the bar and you are now a lawyer!
I hope you enjoy criminal defense law. (Please read this whole paragraph before coming to any conclusions.) You will spend all day working with criminals, as most of your clients will not be first offenders, but will already have been convicted of other crimes and have spent time in jail or prison. Most of them are not very nice people. They will lie to you. You will lose most of your cases as district attorneys prosecute many more guilty people than innocent ones.
Perhaps after about five years, you will decide that you would rather be a criminal cases prosecutor and you will join a prosecutor’s office.
I did and was much happier in this position. I then, due to circumstance outside my profession, was able to retire at age 51.
Good luck and please feel free to email me if you have other questions,
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