Attorneys who love trial work and criminal law may want to consider a career as a public prosecutor. To become a public prosecutor, you may need to work a while as an assistant public prosecutor. There, you’ll help represent the interests of the city, town or state in criminal court or in other legal proceedings. Perhaps the most famous female public prosecutor of the 20th Century is Marcia Clark, who represented the interests of California in its case against O.J. Simpson.
After police arrest and charge someone with a crime, you may help a prosecutor decide if there is enough evidence to pursue a trial. You’ll prepare legal paperwork, such as briefs and pleadings, and you’ll participate in arraignments and pretrial conferences. You may also present arguments and sentencing recommendations to the court, recommend conditions of release, negotiate plea agreements, and make sure that defendants understand their legal rights.
As an assistant public prosecutor, you may also oversee a prosecution team. The assistant public prosecutor in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, directs work of her co-counsel. She also works closely with victims, advocates, paralegals, detectives, law clerks, secretaries and clerical staff members. You may also participate in civil traffic hearings, code and zoning hearings, bench and jury trials and probation violation hearings.
Education and Experience
To become a lawyer, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree, complete three years of law school and earn a juris doctor, or J.D. degree. How much experience you’ll need to land a job as an assistant public prosecutor depends on the employer. Assistant public prosecutors in Goodyear, Arizona, for example, need at least three years of relevant experience.
You’ll need a license to practice law in any state. To become licensed, you need to pass a licensing exam, which will admit you to the bar. Though requirements vary by state, most require attorneys applying to the bar to graduate from an accredited law school and pass one or more written bar exams. An admitting board may also have to decide that you have the character to represent others and give advice.
You must know how to interpret and apply legal statutes and ordinances and also know how to write legal motions, appeals, special actions and advisory memoranda. Having previous management experience can help as can having a basic understanding of common word-processing and spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. You should be able to work well with others and also on your own. Being able to identify and resolve problems may also come in handy.
- Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office: MCPO Kids Area -- Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- How to Become a Lawyer
- City of Goodyear, Arizona: Assistant City Prosecutor
- Commonwealth Attorney’s Office Jefferson County Kentucky: Job Descriptions -- Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney -- Trial Divisions
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