Criminal defense attorneys help people accused of various crimes and assist them in navigating the criminal justice system. In some states, the attorney is an independent contractor who performs his or her duties under the supervision of an attorney appointed by the judge. Other states require that the attorney is retained by the defendant and the case go on to trial unless it is an emergency.
The purpose of retaining legal counsel is to represent a criminal defendant at trial. Attorneys can also represent clients who are accused of misdemeanors and lesser charges. There are certain requirements for becoming an attorney.
- First, a criminal defense attorney must have had a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Additionally, he or she must hold a postgraduate degree with at least three years of supervised experience in criminal law.
- Second, a criminal defense lawyer must possess a master’s degree from an accredited institution of higher learning or have passed the bar exam. In addition, the attorney must have at least one year of supervised experience in criminal law. For this certification, a criminal defense attorney must pass the bar exam, pass a written examination on state laws, and be licensed by the state they are representing. It is important to note that not all states require this licensing; however, it is recommended for any criminal attorney to maintain at least one year of supervised experience in criminal law.
- Third, the law school must be accredited. An accredited law school must earn the accreditation status of the Commission on Accreditation of Law Schools and Legal Education Programs. The accreditation status indicates that the school meets certain standards of academic excellence and has a high standard of ethical conduct. A law school can have its accreditation renewed if it meets certain criteria.
- Finally, the criminal law student must complete the Bachelor of Arts degree with a minimum of two years of study in criminal law. In most states, a student who is in good standing can take the bar exam as a first step toward becoming an attorney without having to complete additional study. Once the student has passed the bar exam, he or she must then sit for the bar exam again and pass the third time if the student wishes to pursue a law license as an attorney.
If you are considering a career in criminal defense attorney and would like to learn more about the profession and the job outlook, you can do your research online. You can begin by checking the websites of the American Criminal Defense Association (ACDA) and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). Both organizations are professional organizations that provide information, educational resources and networking opportunities for attorneys. You can find plenty of information about criminal defense attorneys online.
When you have completed your education and experience, ask the firm’s background and disciplinary history. It is also a good idea to review the law firm’s web site at and current employment practices to ensure that the company is credible.