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What Does a Criminal Law Job Entail?

published April 23, 2010

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 118 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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First of all, you'll have to have a very good understanding of the law so that you can defend your clients properly as a defense attorney. If, for example, the client has been accused of committing bodily harm against someone, he or she may actually have a good defense in that he or she was trying to protect him or herself (or someone else), that the confrontation was unprovoked by the defendant in question, and that the amount of force used in that protection was necessary.

That's just one of the cases a criminal law job like that of a criminal attorney may have you handling. Other law jobs may also be had, such as if you are a paralegal or other assistant to a criminal lawyer.

What does it take to have a criminal law job like that of a criminal lawyer?

You have to have a keen interest in the law, and you have to be interested in helping people -- whether as a defense attorney if you're a criminal lawyer who defends accused defendants, or as a prosecutor if you are the other major type of criminal lawyer; a prosecutor takes the opposite job of the defending attorney, and actually prosecutes the crime and criminal in question.

If you like to help people and want to represent victims, such that they've been victims of crime and you want to see their perpetrators put behind bars, you may want the type of law jobs that prosecute criminals, such as the prosecution attorney would do. However, it's also important that defendants be represented fairly in court, too. That's because the criminal law system is not perfect, and innocent people can also be accused of crimes they didn't do. Therefore, it's also important that defendants be given a fair trial and a fair sentence as applicable, depending on what they are accused and perhaps convicted of.

"Working out deals," or going for conviction versus acquittal

One of the things both prosecutors and defense attorneys do with these types of law jobs is not just to try cases in trial. Rather, they can often work out deals whereby defendants serve less severe sentences or have less severe punishments for reduced charges, which can be less expensive for everyone and still fair to all involved.

With criminal law jobs, it's not always a case of black and white. Instead, even though victims, for example, may want someone to serve a very long sentence, this may not be practical or fair because the crime was relatively inconsequential, or simply because the justice system itself is overloaded with cases; drug charges are a good example of this. Although drugs are illegal, and people are often prosecuted for either using or selling them, it's not always practical to put them in jail for a longer time simply because they were in possession of that drug. Therefore, in both prosecutors and defense attorneys, in these types of law jobs, will work out deals whereby some defendants may not serve any time at all, but may instead go to treatment or something more helpful than simple jail time. Because of this, those who are versed in these types of law jobs must know much more than just the law; they must also have a distinct desire to help people and do what's most fair.

Getting a criminal law job

If you intend to become an attorney, whether defense or prosecution, you're going to have to go to college first, usually graduating with a degree in pre-law. After that, you will usually go to law school for three years, and ultimately specialize in criminal law. By the way, many criminal law attorneys have also done both types of work, defense and prosecution. Therefore, you can have more than one type of career within this venue -- all within the arc of your chosen career's lifetime.

What can a criminal lawyer expect to make for this type of criminal law job?

Criminal lawyers can make a lot of money, especially if they are high profile defense attorneys. Nonetheless, this is one of the lower paying types of work, and you should do it because you have a sincere interest in helping people. Nonetheless, you can make up to $100,000 a year or more, depending on your position and what types of law jobs you are actually doing.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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( 118 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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