Careers in law enforcement have always offered one of the major alternative career paths for lawyers.
There are many people, who in the midway of their careers realize that they do not actually want to practice law in the courts. The reasons may be many and differ from person to person according to their individual situations, mindsets and financial conditions. Such people either drop out of law school and immediately face their dreams or battles of existence, or they move their careers ahead in two principal ways.
The first of these is going straight for alternative careers for those with a JD degree, and the second is to first gain specialized experience at the courts for some time and then move on to alternative employment. There is no telling which path is better, but for those without exceptional talents for law enforcement work, the second path offers better opportunities, and a JD with relevant experience in related legal work can easily land a job in law enforcement.
The advantages that a JD provides in law enforcement careers can be summed up as follows:
Mind you, we are talking about careers in law enforcement here and not jobs like attorney-agents working as special prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office or, for example, in charge of financial investigations in the FBI. These are actually positions that require a person to be a lawyer and have a JD. And such positions always require experience in legal work and at courts.
- Knowledge of legal writing tremendously helps in law enforcement work because it puts you in a better position for all documentation including affidavits, and documents related to all law enforcement activities like searches, arrests, interceptions, and etcetera. Warrants and Title 3 affidavits become easier to learn and implement not because you know how to do it, but because your years at law school taught you the principles behind the drafting of such documents.
- If you are in law enforcement, and also have a JD, then you are on a better level vis-à-vis prosecutors than other personnel on the witness stand. Testifying can be an ordeal for law enforcement officers and your knowledge of law would stand you in good stead before defense attorneys.
- Your training in law school would make you approach and execute law enforcement related activities in a totally different manner than done by those who do not have that law school background. At least in most cases, unless you are up against a Sherlock Holmes type with exceptional talents that lead him/her to do the correct things instinctively.
- Especially, knowledge of the law of evidence, and what is acceptable as evidence in court and what is not, comes to great help in your career as a law enforcement officer.
- If you join the police academy or related departments, the mandatory tests on legal knowledge are easy to pass with high scores.
On the other hand, careers in law enforcement, where being a lawyer is not mandatory, still makes a JD a better candidate for myriad reasons. And here's a bit of advice. If you are really thinking of joining a law enforcement career or the job of a criminal investigator, it is better to start applying at least one and a half years before you graduate.
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Why apply so early? Well, getting hired early is not a problem in the current state of the market. Even if you have two years of JD completed, you can qualify for the GL-09 pay grade and at the same time save tons of money on tuitions and fees. Also, if your final examinations are close at hand when you get hired, most recruiters provide the option to complete the degree program.
In the next parts of this series we would be talking about specific openings in law enforcement suitable for lawyers and those with JD degrees.