To be a criminal lawyer, you need to be able to thrive under pressure while working on fast-paced cases. Because of the nature of criminal law, you must enjoy a challenge and be able to think on your feet.
Criminal Law also involves a large amount of evidence gathering. Therefore being able to deal with information quickly and competently will also serve you well. Attention to detail is very also important as case outcomes often come about through focusing on small details of the evidence.
Finally, it helps to have a neutral and determined approach to your work. Working with such a diverse range of individuals in a range of contexts means that you will have to ignore prejudice and go into every case with an open mind to ensure your clients’ right to a fair trial.
Criminal Law Work Experience
If you want to become a criminal law solicitor, you can spend a few days at a solicitor’s office or attend the open day/vacation scheme of a law firm with a relevant department.
If you want to become a criminal law barrister, you can shadow a barrister in the field or carry out a mini-pupillage.
Universities provide a fantastic experience for their students in pro bono initiatives giving free legal advice to those who cannot afford legal aid. This type of experience can be invaluable for improving the types of skills that are necessary for a career in criminal law.
Criminal Law Career Route
If you are interested in pursuing a career in criminal law the routes you have to take are similar to other areas of law. You must obtain a qualifying degree in law or alternatively a degree in any other discipline followed by the completion of the Graduate Diploma in Law. Following this, if you want to follow the solicitor pathway you will have to undertake the Legal Practice Course and a recognized period of training (via training contract or post-2021, the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam).
If you want to pursue a career at the bar, you will have to undertake the Bar Professional Training Course followed by a pupillage to complete your qualification.
An alternative to this exists within the Crown Prosecution Service Legal Trainee Scheme. This offers both a route into criminal law through pupillage or period of recognized training but the Crown Prosecution Service rather than through a law firm or chambers. However, there are limited spaces available on this program and you have to have passed the BPTC or LPC before applying.