How to Become an Assistant District Attorney
Learn how to become an assistant district attorney. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as an assistant district attorney.
Do I Want to Be an Assistant District Attorney?
Assistant district attorneys work under the direction of district attorneys and are responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of committing crimes in a county. In addition to working cases, assistant district attorneys also must formulate policy revisions, implement new programs and evaluate current litigating procedures.
Lawyers can work more than a typical 40-hour work week, especially in the preparation period before a trial and during a trial. Travel is common, because lawyers need to meet with clients and witnesses who might not always be able to come to them. This can be a stressful job, especially during high profile cases where there may be a lot of pressure to win.
Like other types of lawyers, assistant district attorneys need to earn a law degree and become licensed in the state where they wish to practice. It's also essential for prospective assistant district attorneys to have several years of experience. The table below includes the requirements to become an assistant district attorney.
|Degree Level||Juris Doctor*|
|Degree Name||Law degree*|
|Licensure||Assistant district attorneys must pass the bar exam to become licensed*|
|Experience||Experience in a district attorney's office may be necessary**|
|Key Skills||Assistant district attorneys must have strong analytical and research skills, in addition to being good communicators and problem-solvers**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **Douglas County
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
There is no designated major that prospective lawyers need to take; however, students should pursue a degree that will provide them with critical-thinking, communication and research skills. Students may want to look for a program that is loaded with courses in writing, speech, political science, history and philosophy.
- Participate in mock trials. Many colleges and universities offer a mock trial program for students to participate in while earning their degree. Law school is very competitive and competing in mock trials will give you an opportunity to argue cases and learn about the judicial process.
Step 2: Take the LSAT
In order to apply to law school, students will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a standardized exam that tests applicants on reading comprehension, logical reasoning and analytical thinking. Many law schools require that candidates sign up with an account at the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). This account allows applicants to send academic transcripts and LSAT scores electronically to law schools.
Step 3: Enter Law School
Law school takes three years to complete. In the beginning of the program, students focus on areas involving general law practices like civil procedure, torts and criminal law. After gaining a foundation in the field, students can choose electives suited to their future work. Students who want to work as assistant district attorneys may pursue advanced coursework in criminal law and litigation. In addition to learning in classrooms, students may do clinical trials under the supervision of experienced lawyers.
- Gain experience in the field. As an aspiring assistant district attorney, you may want to consider participating in an internship at a district attorney's office. In addition to gaining experience in the field, an internship also offers you an opportunity to network and make connections for future employment.
Step 4: Become Licensed
Lawyers must be licensed in the state in which they want to work. Depending on the state government, lawyers may be required to take several different exams in order to become licensed. While all states require lawyers to complete a General Bar Exam, some state governments may prefer that lawyers take the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). The General Bar exam focuses on general legal principles and the state's laws and ordinances, and the MBE tests lawyers on foundational legal procedures, such as torts, Constitutional law, torts, criminal law and evidence.
Step 5: Work at a DA Office
After graduating from law school and obtaining work experience, lawyers may apply to a district attorney's office. Candidates must have an interest in criminal justice and the judicial process and demonstrate strong litigation skills. Assistant district attorneys may also need to complete training at the DA office. The training provides assistant district attorneys with the necessary skills to litigate criminal cases and prosecute criminals.
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