By DebbieH 04 Dec 2018 7 min read

How to become a Criminal Justice Lawyer

Law is a fast-growing career in the UK, with an estimated 26,655 UK students applying to study law at undergraduate levels, according to a report released by The Law Society. Of those 26,655 applicants, 18,850 were accepted into courses of study.

Criminal law, in particular, continues to draw in new candidates en masse. Popularised in media, television, and movies, criminal law is often seem as dynamic and exciting. While that may be true eventually, prospective lawyers must first study for several years and overcome several obstacles before they can be called to the Bar. To gain a better understanding of what exactly is required for success, let’s explore the steps necessary to becoming a criminal justice lawyer in the UK.


1. Undergraduate Degree

All fields of law require the completion of a bachelor’s degree. While many believe that an undergraduate degree in law is necessary, it is not. The only qualifier to keep in mind is that the programme should be broad in scope, so a student can become well-rounded in analysis, writing, listening comprehension, problem-solving, speaking and time management — skills required for success as a lawyer. To aid in future law specialisations, many undergraduates with law school in mind choose to study economics, business or political science – or even law, if offered at the undergraduate level.


2. Law Degree

If the bachelor’s degree was not law, a student can transfer to study law from a paralegal apprenticeship. In Scotland, the conversion course is called the Graduate Entry or Accelerated LLB, while Wales and England call it the Graduate Diploma in Law. For those aspiring to become criminal lawyers, choosing a course framework which focuses on criminal law elements is necessary to prepare for a future career. When seeking a training contract with a firm, holding a Graduate Entry or Accelerated LLB puts students ahead of their peers. This fact alone is why many people study an LLM at this time.


3. Solicitor/Barrister

The next step is to become a solicitor or barrister, also called advocate in Scotland. To become a solicitor, an aspiring professional must complete the Legal Practice Course then sign on for a training contract at a firm of solicitors. For those seeking criminal law opportunities, this is a good time to choose a firm which handles a copious amount of criminal law cases. For those wishing to become a barrister, first they must finish the Bar Professional Training Course then a pupilage.

While applying to law school directly after earning a bachelor’s degree is one route to take, many potential lawyers wait a year or two and gain experience in the interim. Law school admissions are notoriously competitive, and admissions officers will compare scores and undergraduate GPA as well as any relevant experience. For instance, professional affiliations, leadership roles or community service are types of experiences which may help an applicant stand out.



Criminal Justice Law Career

Newly licensed lawyers often work under experienced solicitors. For example, if a graduate wishes to become a criminal justice solicitor, then seeking out a firm with experienced criminal justice solicitor would be beneficial to skill development. After years of experience and an excellent track record, some solicitors may open their own firm, enter public offices or pursue further education.

Becoming a criminal justice solicitor takes a lot of dedication, commitment, and hard work. Years of study and experience strengthen the skill set needed to be an effective criminal lawyer: analytical ability, attention to detail, persuasiveness, writing ability, sound judgment, and logical reasoning. Each education-, exam- and experience-based stage is necessary to this core competence skillset and will prepare any potential candidate for success in criminal law.



Liz S. Coyle, Director of Client Services for Jackson White Attorneys at Law, also serves as a Family Law Department paralegal. She handles all internal and external firm communications.