Quick Tips for Becoming a Defense Lawyer

Written by  //  2014/06/09  //  Academics  //  1 Comment

For law students who want the experience of helping actual clients with their actual problems, criminal defense is an attractive route. Becoming a defense lawyer is not easy, though, and it requires a measurable plan. While it might not be easy to become a criminal defense lawyer, there are some things that students can do to give themselves a better opportunity to enter the field. Here are some tips for making that goal a reality.

Work in Some Capacity with the Public Defender’s Office

All states are required to have some sort of public defender arrangement. States like Kentucky and Colorado have highly organized, state-level systems. States like California have dedicated offices in each city where teams of lawyers handle the city’s large case loads. Other states are more disorganized, giving individual cases to private attorneys. One of the best ways to become a defense lawyer is to gain experience interning or volunteering with the public defender’s office. This will provide a student with exposure and with connections that will likely prove invaluable during a job search.

Take as Many Criminal Defense Courses as Possible

It is important for criminal defense lawyers to hit the ground running. While young lawyers in the civil field might have some time to learn the ropes, young criminal defense lawyers have real cases in their hands from the first day. With that in mind, it helps if you take courses that will prepare you for this challenge. For instance, criminal procedure courses, evidence courses, and trial advocacy courses will give you some background that will allow you to know what you’re doing in a criminal trial from the first day. Lawyers also have an educational minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a law degree, so when you are in school, make sure you take courses that help you specialize in defense law.

Specialize and Hang a Shingle

Many criminal defense firms will not hire entry-level lawyers. What this means, then, is that you may have to create your own job by starting your own firm. In order to do this, it will help if you specialize in one way or another. Many young criminal defenders go the DUI route, since these cases are formulaic and plentiful in states like California.

Consider Extensive Training Through an LLM Program

Because legal employers tend to want only those lawyers who can contribute from day one, it is important to get as much practical trial training as possible. To do this, one might consider a trial advocacy degree from a place like California Western. These programs provide students with a chance to learn oral advocacy skills that they can put to use during their trials. In addition to providing critical skills for young lawyers, these programs add an important credential that can separate job seekers from the crowd.

Becoming a criminal defense lawyer can seem challenging. Students who are committed to the cause have some options, though. By gaining practical experience, taking the right courses, and considering an advanced degree program, students have an opportunity to land competitive jobs in the field of criminal defense.

About the author: A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. This article uses information from California Western School of Law, who provides trial advocacy degrees.

One Comment on "Quick Tips for Becoming a Defense Lawyer"

  1. Caryl Anne 2014/06/13 at 2:59 pm ·

    These are great tips of advice! I agree 100% that it’s best to gain knowledge from interning and volunteering. This helps to provide first hand experience! Thanks for sharing!

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