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How to Become a District Attorney

published November 02, 2009

( 2070 votes, average: 4 out of 5)

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A District Attorney (DA) is an elected official. The DA's main responsibility is to prosecute crimes in a designated county or district, but the DA also involves cooperating with law enforcement, managing the office of the prosecutor, considering the facts of a case against an individual to determine if there is enough evidence to file criminal charges, and gathering evidence to bring before a Grand Jury. It is therefore important that the district attorney have administrative as well as prosecutorial skills.
How To Become A District Attorney

Popular and long-running television shows have considerably glamorized the job of a DA so many enthusiasts are driven to ask how to become district attorney. But becoming a district attorney is not at all a walk in the park. Because of the amount of power that a DA yields, the requirements to become a district attorney go beyond the desire to prosecute criminals or an impeccable law degree. A DA must have great personal strength of character, eloquence and unquestionable ethics. Even the appearance of unethical behavior is enough to ruin any aspirant's chances of being a district attorney.

Because it is an elected position, a DA must not only be publicly visible but also have the confidence of the constituency. Lawyers who wish to be elected must first have a public presence in some capacity, and excellent professional exposure.

One of the best answers to how do you become a district attorney is to apprentice as a legal assistant in the District Attorney's office while still a law student. This will not only provide an insider's view of how the system in a particularly county or district works and the dynamics of the bureaucracy, but also invaluable experience in what is required to prosecute a case. The criminal prosecution process is not glamorous; it entails a lot of backbreaking and often frustrating investigations, cross-checking and evidence analysis. Aside from prosecuting cases, DAs also have to manage a staff of other lawyers, called assistant district attorneys who have to be monitored in putting cases together, field investigators, researchers and legal assistants.

Passing the bar for a particular state is theoretically the first step in how to become a District Attorney. The first thing that you must do, of course, is to attend law school. This is a pre-requisite for all attorneys, so this should not come as a surprise at all. You must also excel while you are attending law school and it always looks better if you attend one of the more prestigious schools in the country. If you are able to get into one of these top notch schools you will have to work hard throughout your academic career, because even one small slipup can cost you all of your hard work. Never let your guard down and make sure that you are fully prepared for every exam. Also, keep in mind that these prestigious schools are looking for people with enough charisma to win important cases.
These schools are putting their reputation on the line with every student that they graduate, so they are extremely careful about the admission and graduation process. If you want to end up as a DA, try to get an internship with the district county while you are in school, as this will look good on a resume later on. In reality, most districts or counties look for candidates among the best performing law students; often there are honors program from which the pool of potential assistant district attorneys and district attorneys is drawn. But that is not always the case.

Next, you must decide on where you want to become an attorney, as you will only be licensed in one state at a time. It is best to look for an economy that is quickly expanding, as these places will probably have more need for district attorneys in the future. If you have interest in a particular city or area, research that city and find out how often they hire people of your skill set. If there are positions already available, then you are ahead of the game because you can get your name out there right away. Even if you lose out to a more experienced person, you can make a good impression, which could get you a job in the future.

Once you have found the place that you wish to practice in, you must pass the bar exam in that state. This exam is necessary in every state, but you must pass it in each individual state that you wish to work in, so it is best to take it after you have made a decision on your location. There is a bar exam website that you can browse in order to figure out exactly what this exam will include. Make sure that you check it out because different states will have different exams.

How does one become a district attorney if there is no honors program offered? The ideal candidate to become a district attorney would have at least one year of postgraduate experience in either general misdemeanors or appellate courts. Trial exposure is invaluable for preparing for district attorney interview questions which tend to deal with hypothetical situations which one may encounter in actual trials with defendants, evidence, arguments and judge's opinions. The interviews would be the basis for being considered being put up as a candidate for the position of district attorney.

While it is not a prerequisite, obtaining the position as an assistant district attorney increases the chances both of exposure and experience in prosecution. It is easier to answer the question of how to become an assistant district attorney than it is to answer the question of how to become a DA because this is not an elected position. A qualified lawyer may apply to the district or county attorney's office for an entry level position, and a determined ADA can work his or her way up to deputy district attorney, which is the second in command below the DA. Being part of the prosecuting team is the quickest way to the top slot.

How does one become an assistant district attorney? The application with the cover letter will be assessed by the deputy district attorney mainly on past courtroom experience, so how to become an ADA will depend on how much one has participated in a courtroom, preferably as the lead attorney.It is possible to become a DA without going through the ADA route, but it requires an impressive resume as a trial attorney. Many state and federal judges started their careers in the district attorney's office. This illustrates how important trial experience is to qualify for a district attorney position.

On successful completion of these steps, you will be fully qualified to become an attorney for a district county. This will be a great step for your career because not only will you make a lot of money, but you will also be held in extremely high regard. Before you will be accepted for any job, however, you will be forced to undergo some rather thorough interviews and must be able to prove that you have the legal skills are that needed to excel. These jobs are usually given to people who have already practiced law in their state for a few years, and they are more likely to have developed these skills. The amount of time and effort that you put into your schooling will definitely be an influence here because the committee that hires you will want to see that you have the work ethic that is needed. While you might be able to smooth over any shortcomings that you might have in the interview, it is best to avoid having anything to explain and work as hard as possible when getting your education.

Please see the following articles for more information about jobs related to criminal law:
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