What does a criminal lawyer do?
Criminal lawyers (also called criminal attorneys) are generally either criminal defense lawyers or prosecutors. Criminal defense lawyers represent people who have been accused and charged with committing criminal activity. They are advocates and argue on their client’s behalf. They present evidence and ensure there is no violation of the client’s rights. When presenting facts, criminal lawyers must do so in a way to show favorable reflection on the client. They also provide advice to their clients about legal rights and responsibilities and suggest courses of action. Prosecutors represent the state and present evidence and facts to prove the accused client is guilty of the crime.
Criminal lawyers also spend a lot of time outside the courtroom where they conduct research, conduct interviews, and gather facts to prepare for presenting their case.
What kind of training does a criminal lawyer need?
Criminal lawyers usually must complete 4 years of undergraduate education and 3 years of law school. Many aspiring criminal lawyers complete their undergraduate education in criminal justice. Law school applicants must also complete the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The test assesses the applicant’s tendency to practice law. Law school involved intensive study and grants the juris doctorate degree.
Law school graduates must pass a written bar examination to become licensed to practice. Requirements often vary by state, but most states also require graduates to pass a separate ethics examination. Many states also require applicants to pass a one-time Multi-state Performance Test to evaluate practical skills. Criminal lawyers must stay current on legal developments and many states require continuing education.
What are the prospects for a career as a criminal lawyer?
Employment of lawyers is projected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 11% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Population growth and the increase in criminal cases will drive job growth.
Job prospects are expected to be good with keen competition. The best prospects will be for criminal lawyers with degrees from highly regarded law schools.
How much do criminal lawyers make?
As of October 2009, criminal lawyers with less than 1 year experience earned annual salaries between $45,172 and $69,870. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earned annual salaries between $50,737 and $81,194 (2).
A career as a criminal lawyer is an excellent choice for people who have a strong interest in criminal justice. Criminal lawyers must be able speak with ease and authority and think quickly on their feet when presenting cases in trials. They must be familiar with strategy and the rules of the courtroom to accurately and effectively present their case. Perseverance, reasoning ability, critical thinking, and creativity are also essential qualities.