The typical day of a defense attorney is varied and demanding. Each day can include doing research, attending meetings, speaking to clients and witnesses, appearing in court before judges and defending clients in criminal cases. Women made up about 31 percent of attorneys in 2012, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
A good portion of a lawyer's day is spent in meetings with clients and other members of the legal defense team. On a given day, you may have an appointment with a new client to learn about his case. Later that day, you may have a meeting with a current client in your office or at a jail. These meetings help in formulating a defense or in deciding how to proceed with a case. Meetings with paralegals, partners and assistants are used to set goals and plans of action on cases.
Research is a regular part of the defense lawyer's day as well. Though lawyers often delegate case research and file organization to paralegals, they engage in some hands-on research and case preparation. On a given day, you might visit a crime scene to gain further insight on a case. You also could contact witnesses to conduct interviews and to gather background information on a case.
True to common perception, lawyers do spend parts of a typical day in court. However, many criminal cases never actually go to trial because they end in plea agreements. Instead, much of the time in court is spent making motions before the judge and arguing for the rights of a client. Attorneys routinely negotiate plea bargains behind the scenes with prosecutors, and then they appear in court to present the negotiated deal to the judge.
The road to becoming a lawyer is lengthy and rigorous. Each state has its own particular licensing requirements. However, you normally need a bachelor's degree, a law school degree and successful completion of your state's bar exam. Law school normally takes about three years to complete. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2011, 45 states required lawyers to receive continuing education, at least every three years but in some cases every year.
- Catalyst: Women in Law in the U.S.
- KCC Studnet Career Spotlight: Informational Interview with Civil and Criminal Defense Lawyer
- John R. Teakell: The Challenges Of Being A Criminal Defense Lawyer In Fort Worth
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Lawyer
- American Bar Association: First Year and Total J.D. Enrollment by Gender 1947 - 2010
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Household Data Annual Averages: p. 3
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