Learn how to become a judge, and the education and experience required for this career role. However, there is a fairly clear path to becoming a judge, which includes the following steps:
How do You Become a Judge?
- Earn a bachelor’s degree
- Take the Law School Admission Test
- Attend law school and earn a Juris Doctorate
- Pass the bar exam
- Create your resume
- Consider becoming a clerk
- Practice law
- Earn your judgeship.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree to apply for law school. Although some schools offer designated pre-law programs, other strong options include criminal justice, political science, and philosophy.
Coursework should include English, communications, public speaking, and sociology to ensure you’re prepared for the next steps.
In addition to relevant coursework, consider completing an internship with a law practice or your local court system.
Take the Law School Admission Test
The LSAT is an exam used by law schools during the admissions process, commonly taken by undergraduate students late in their junior year or at the very start of their senior year.
The LSAT has five sections, each lasting for 35 minutes.
In addition to an essay portion, there are sections on logical reasoning, logic games, reading comprehension, and an experimental section that can contain between 22 and 28 questions each.
Attend law School and Earn a Juris Doctorate
After taking the LSAT and receiving your scores, you can begin applying to law schools.
A standard law school education consists of three years of courses where you will receive advanced instruction in the legal process.
In your final year of law school, you can choose to complete coursework on subjects that interest you, such as family or environmental law.
Pass the Bar Exam
To practice law in a particular state, you must pass that state’s bar exam.
The exam commonly takes multiple days to complete and consists of two parts, an essay section, and the Multistate Bar Examination.
The essays are completed first and may take one or two days of testing. The essays are used to test your ability to understand and apply the law according to federal and state laws.
The second part of passing the bar is passing the MBE, a standardized test consisting of 200 questions.
Create your Resume
After completing schooling, you should create your resume.
Whether you want to first seek a clerkship or move directly into practicing law at a firm, a strong resume will help you make a positive impression on potential employers.
Your resume should be a combination or functional resume, allowing you to put increased attention on your education and any organizations in which you were a member.
Consider Becoming a Clerk
One option following completion of law school is to enter into a judicial clerkship.
A clerk assists the judge in their duties, offering assistance and legal counsel when a judge is making decisions and writing their legal opinions.
Due to this close relationship with the judge, a clerk can be highly influential compared to peers who proceed directly into practice.
When a judge retires from an appointed position, they offer suggestions for who should replace them, and it is common for the judge to suggest attorneys who clerked for them in the past.
On nearly all occasions, judges are appointed following legal careers of trying cases.
There are several routes available when deciding how to practice law. You may opt to work in public service, either as a prosecutor or a public defender.
Trying cases is a valuable activity if you wish to become a judge.
Participating in cases can bring you to the attention of individuals responsible for appointing judges or to the individuals responsible for compiling shortlists for consideration for an appointment.
Earn your Judgeship
After you have practiced law for at least two years, you can begin looking for opportunities as a judge.
There are three methods of becoming a judge:
Local judges often earn their seats by running in elections.
The specific rules regarding elections vary by state, with variables including the length of terms, when elections occur, and how many terms a judge can serve.
When an elected judge is removed from the bench or opts to step down in the middle of a term, some states will allow for a replacement to be appointed by the government.
Commonly, these seats will remain filled by the appointed judge until the next scheduled election, however, a special election may also be held if the next scheduled election is too far away.
Many judicial seats are appointed by executives, such as governors or the President of the United States.
For federal seats, appointments are often lifetime seats.
The process for an appointment usually starts with being placed on a shortlist which is presented to the individual responsible for the appointment.
Shortlist candidates commonly undergo an interview phase before being chosen for the seat, then present themselves to the state or federal legislative body for confirmation hearings.
It’s a completely attainable career goal as long as you meet the minimum requirements set by the state where you want to serve as a judge.
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