Criminal law is a popular choice among lawyers as it's a dynamic and exciting world. Appearing in court, working all hours with clients, and being the sole of discretion are all part of being a criminal lawyer.
Here we take a look at how you can become a criminal lawyer in the United Kingdom.
Take a degree in law
The first step is to take a degree in law. If you want to become a criminal lawyer, then you will want the degree course you choose to have a strong emphasis on criminal law. Alternatively, if your first degree was not law, you can take a conversion course, or you can transfer to study law from a paralegal apprenticeship. In England and Wales the conversion course is known as the Graduate Diploma in Law and in Scotland, it is known as the Graduate Entry or Accelerated LLB. An LLM in Criminal Law is an advantage when trying to gain a training contract with a firm of solicitors and many people choose to study an LLM at this point.
Qualify as a solicitor or barrister
The second step is to qualify as a solicitor or barrister (or advocate in Scotland). To become a solicitor you need to complete the Legal Practice Course and then undertake a training contract at a firm of solicitors. Ideally, this firm of solicitors should have a large amount of criminal law work if you wish to become a criminal lawyer. To become a barrister you need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course and then a pupilage.
Work experience is vital
Work experience throughout your studies is vital to gaining a training position or pupilage as these are very competitive. Networking throughout your studies and training will help you at every step. It is a great idea to get involved with your university's law society and participate in pro bono work through them as this will give you vital contacts. All parts of the law are very competitive, but criminal law is the most competitive, so be prepared to work hard.
Find a firm that specialises in criminal law
The final step to becoming a criminal lawyer is to gain a position at a firm of solicitors that specialises in criminal law. For barristers, after the pupilage, you can apply for a tenancy as a self-employed barrister in a chamber or as an employed barrister with an organisation such as the Crown Prosecution Service. A great number of barristers and solicitors work for public organisations such as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Public Defender Service as criminal lawyers. After qualifying as a solicitor or barrister many people consider an LLM in Criminal Law to sharpen their skills and develop their understanding.