The Top 10 Reasons To Be a Criminal Defense Attorney

Updated January 26, 2023

Being a criminal defense attorney can be an exciting career path with a range of benefits. If you enjoy learning about the law and value fairness, criminal defense law may be a satisfying field for you. Exploring some of the advantages of being a criminal defense attorney can help you determine if you want to go to law school and seek out clients with criminal cases. In this article, we explain the basics of a career in criminal defense and share some of the top reasons to be a criminal defense attorney.

What is a criminal defense attorney?

A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer who specializes in defending clients against criminal charges. They can work with clients charged with any kind of crime, including misdemeanors and felonies. Criminal defense attorneys represent their clients in court, negotiate plea deals and create arguments to defend their legal rights. They meet with their clients to prepare them for court, promoting their best interests and giving them advice on what to say during questioning.

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10 reasons to be a criminal defense attorney

There are many personal and professional benefits you can gain from working as a criminal defense attorney. Here are some of the reasons that you may consider pursuing this career path:

1. Upholding your clients' rights

Having the opportunity to protect someone's personal liberties and rights can provide you with immense personal satisfaction. Under the United States Constitution, every citizen has the right to legal representation and a fair trial. As a criminal defense attorney, you can advocate for your clients and give them the opportunity to defend themselves against any accusations and charges. You can be proud knowing that you help people understand the law, promoting fairness and equality in the court by presenting each case in an unbiased manner.

Related: FAQ: How Do I Know If I Want To Be a Lawyer?

2. Solving complex problems

If you enjoy a challenge, being a criminal defense attorney can be an ideal career because of the interesting and complex problems you encounter with each case. Criminal defense attorneys consider each aspect of a case to determine the best argument to protect their clients and advocate for their wellbeing. This can include thinking of different ways to present the evidence, conducting complex legal research, reviewing various ways to interpret the law, considering options for plea deals and coming up with arguments for their client's innocence.

3. Improving people's lives

Being a criminal defense attorney provides you with the opportunity to make a tangible improvement in the lives of your clients. Your work as a criminal defense attorney can make the difference between an innocent person getting justice or receiving a wrongful conviction. As a criminal defense attorney, you may assist non-violent offenders with negotiating alternative sentencing like community service instead of jail time, encouraging them to improve their circumstances. Helping your clients get the best outcome for their criminal charges by providing legal advice and counsel gives them the chance to make better choices for their future.

4. Sharing your knowledge

Once you become a criminal defense attorney, you have the chance to share your knowledge of the law and legal system with others. This can range from completing pro bono work to educating clients about their rights. You can use your position as a criminal defense attorney to raise awareness about how people can advocate for themselves in legal situations and avoid getting into criminal trouble.

5. Working on exciting cases

The cases you receive as a criminal defense attorney can be exciting and intense. If you enjoy a high-pressure, fast-paced work environment, you may consider specializing in criminal law. While some lawyers take cases that focus on bureaucratic issues such as patent law or real estate planning, criminal defense attorneys work with subjects that may involve taboo subjects like drugs or violence. Some criminal defense lawyers even have the opportunity to assist with high-profile cases that receive media attention.

6. Gaining job security

Because everyone has the legal right to a lawyer when the government charges them with a crime, being a public defender is typically a secure career path. Criminal defense attorneys can take private cases, or they can work as court-appointed public defenders and represent people who can't hire their own lawyer for a trial. As long as people receive criminal charges, you can expect a high demand for both types of criminal defense lawyers.

7. Opportunities to specialize

As you gain experience in criminal defense, you can consider specializing. Many criminal defense attorneys work with all kinds of criminal charges, but if you have a particular area of interest, choosing a specialty is also common. For example, many criminal defense attorneys specialize in working with clients who have drug charges. Other criminal defense lawyers can specialize in criminal appeals because they involve a different process than initial court hearings. There are many opportunities to choose an area of interest within the area of criminal defense law.

8. Networking in the legal system

When working as a criminal defense attorney, you can network with many people in the legal system. This includes judges, prosecutors, other lawyers, law enforcement professionals and social service providers. You can use your connections and professional network to provide your clients with resources to use during and after their cases. The network you develop as a criminal defense attorney can also help you grow your career if you're interested in advancing to a position in the judicial, legal or political system.

Related: 15 Top Criminal Justice Degree Jobs (With Salaries)

9. Advanced research opportunities

Arguing a criminal defense case often involves doing in-depth research on other cases and reviewing detailed information about evidence, testimonies and alibis. People who enjoy researching advanced subjects may appreciate the complex topics that they learn about when working on criminal defense cases. You can enhance your perspective and understanding of the law with each criminal case you accept.

10. Earning a high salary

Although there are many reasons to be a criminal defense attorney that relate to your job satisfaction and long-term career goals, you can also enjoy the benefit of a high salary. The national average salary for attorneys is $89,658 per year. You can increase your earning potential as you gain experience and demonstrate your ability to win cases and achieve positive outcomes for clients.

Related: How Much Do Criminal Lawyers Make?

Requirements for becoming a criminal defense attorney

If the benefits of being a criminal defense attorney interest you, you can start exploring this career path by gaining a legal education. This involves completing an undergraduate degree, then attending law school. Next, you study for your state's bar examination. Passing the bar exam is a requirement for practicing law. Once you have these qualifications, you can apply for junior positions at law firms that specialize in criminal law and gain experience working with criminal cases.


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