Career and Education

How Much Schooling is Required to Become a Criminal Defence Lawyer?

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As attorneys at major criminal defence law firms like albertacriminaldefencelawyers.ca can affirm, becoming a lawyer takes a lot of effort. A student must invest time, focus and dedication. At some point in education and early work experience, an aspiring lawyer finds himself or herself making major sacrifices to continue pursuing this career field. But also as most of these lawyers can attest today, they make these sacrifices because they want to help people facing criminal charges.

Becoming a lawyer of any kind in Canada requires achieving a juris doctor (JD) degree. This degree is the foundation that prepares a new attorney for general law practice. Then there are multiple other steps in the process, particularly if one wants to specialize in criminal defence.

Undergraduate Education to Become a Criminal Defence Lawyer

If someone wants to be a lawyer in Canada, the undergraduate degree requirements are different than in other countries like America, for example. Canadian individuals must complete just three years of undergraduate education before acceptance to law school. In America, a student must get a bachelor’s degree before progressing to legal education. Students who complete an undergraduate degree in Canada still have a better chance of getting into law school when compared to three-year peers, however.

Canadian law schools do not restrict entry to just Canadian university graduates. In fact, you can attend law school here if you have a degree from an accredited four-year institution anywhere in the world. But entry into law school is not automatic. Students aspiring to be lawyers must first take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and achieve a good score to show readiness for law school.

Presenting Her Case To The Judge

Another Three Years of Education after College

After acceptance to law school, students have another three years of education toward a Canadian JD. As part of these three years, you focus on learning about legal nuances, legal research, writing skills and mock legal experience. The mock experience takes place in simulated courts and through trial advocacy. During your law school education, you can choose to explore an area of legal specialization, such as criminal defence or family law. There are student organizations that help you do so.

Students cannot typically balance a heavy work schedule while going to law school. This schooling is full-time in and of itself. You must also focus on your studies year-round, such as through summer internships in law firms, government organizations or non-profit legal services when school is on summer break.

After Getting Your JD

After law school and achieving your JD, you still have work to do in order to become a practicing criminal defence lawyer. You must gain admittance to the bar in your province or territory and work under a licensed attorney’s supervision for just under a year. This effort is called articling. Getting admitted to the bar involves intensive study and passing an exam.

Students who graduate from American law schools can become lawyers in Canada. They first must complete an application for accreditation under the Federation of Law Societies in Canada. If you are taking this route and are not a Canadian citizen, you must also obtain a visa from the federal government. The Federation examines your educational history and work experience before determining your qualification for becoming a practicing Canadian lawyer. If you gain their support, you must then proceed in the steps to achieve your legal licence in Canada.

Interested in Becoming a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Canada?

If you are interested in becoming a criminal lawyer in Canada, start exploring the requirements and possible exposure to the field as early in your education as possible. You can start doing so in high school or college. Talk to lawyers you know and learn more about their career, typical work day and other aspects of their occupation. You can also seek to intern in a law office as a summer administrative clerk or in a similar role to spend time in a practice.

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