When most people think of a lawyer, they tend to think of criminal defense attorneys such as F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran, or even the fictional Perry Mason. Criminal defense attorneys are only a small fraction of practicing lawyers, but those who represent well-known clients in high-profile trials garner the majority of the publicity for the entire profession. Let's face it, property law or tax law is nowhere as exciting or glamorous as criminal law. There's just no comparison between a riveting courtroom drama and the dull, day-to-day practice of civil law.
Earn a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree is required for admission to law school, and it is important to make good grades as admission to law school is highly competitive.
Take and earn a good score on the Law School Aptitude Test. A high LSAT score can help you get admitted to law school even if your grade-point average is not stellar.
Complete law school to earn your juris doctor degree. Law school is a challenging three-year program where you study subjects including constitutional law, real estate law, civil procedure, contracts, tort and legal writing. You will learn the basics of tax law, labor law, corporate law and criminal law in the first few semesters of law school, and gain more in-depth experience in criminal law in your last few semesters.
Apply for internships with the public defenders service or criminal defense law firms in your area after your first year of law school. It is important to get at least one internship to get a real feel for the practice of criminal defense. Getting a broader perspective by having a couple summer or part-time internships in your last year or two of law school is ideal.
Take and pass the bar exam so you can become a practicing criminal defense lawyer in your state. The bar exam is a series of comprehensive exams that test your knowledge of federal and state law. You must pass the bar to practice law in all states, but you can, however, act as a legal adviser even if you have not passed the bar.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.