Because licensed attorneys are allowed to practice in any field and all fields of law, there is technically no such thing as a felony lawyer. Generally, lawyers advise clients about legal problems and represent clients in legal proceedings. They may research laws, draft legal documents to file in court, argue before judges and negotiate settlements. Therefore, the term felony lawyer mainly applies to lawyers who choose to specialize in handling cases involving felony crimes, which may be better referred to as a criminal lawyer.
All practicing lawyers must hold a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, and all states require that lawyers be licensed. Students typically gain practical experience in law school or as first-year associates. Some of the key skills associated with being a lawyer include critical-thinking skills, analytical reasoning skills, negotiation skills, research skills and writing skills. The mean annual salary for a lawyer is $136,260 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Earn an Undergraduate Degree
The first step to becoming a felony lawyer consists of earning a bachelor's degree. Admission to law school requires earning a bachelor's degree. There is no specific undergraduate field of study required to work as a lawyer, and many aspiring lawyers complete programs focusing on English, history, social science or political science. Aspiring lawyers who want to work with felony cases may consider earning a degree in a social science field because these programs tend to include classes in American criminal law, corrections and the theories of criminal behavior.
Take the LSAT
The second step to becoming a felony lawyer is to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Usually, aspiring law students take this exam during their junior year of undergraduate study. This exam tests a candidate's writing, problem-solving and critical-reading skills, and preparation is a good idea. Admission to law school is competitive and usually depends on an applicant's GPA, LSAT scores and special experience, such as that gained by completing internships. Some companies offer LSAT prep courses that provide instruction on techniques and methods that may increase an examinee's scores.
Graduate from Law School
The third step to becoming a felony lawyers is to graduate form law school. Law school includes three years of study. The first year is primarily dedicated to basic legal subjects, such as criminal law, contracts and constitutional law. The final two years of study are comprised of elective courses, internships and trial practices.
Law students interested in being felony lawyers should complete a criminal law concentration. This concentration provides in-depth instruction about the various aspects of practicing criminal law, which may make it easier to practice as a criminal attorney in the future.
Prospective felony lawyers should also complete a criminal law internship. Many schools provide second- and third-year law students with opportunities to complete clinics and internships with local legal aid societies or courthouses. A criminal law internship provides aspiring lawyers with experience in criminal law practices, legal procedures and trial techniques.
Pass the Bar Exam
The fourth step to becoming a felony lawyer involves passing the bar exam. Usually, lawyers must pass a bar exam to become licensed and be eligible to practice law in a state. The format of each state's bar exam differs, but usually includes one day of examination focusing on national laws and a second day focusing on state-specific laws. The test combines multiple-choice and essay questions.
Work as a Criminal Lawyer
The fifth step to becoming a felony lawyer is to begin work as a criminal lawyer. Once admitted to a state's bar association, lawyers can practice in any field of law they wish, including felony criminal law. Public defenders' or state attorneys' offices, legal aid societies and law firms focusing on criminal law hire attorneys to defend or prosecute accused criminals.
Start Legal Practice
The sixth step to becoming a felony lawyer is to start your own legal practice. With enough experience and potential clientele, felony lawyers may benefit from starting their own practices. Benefits of running one's own practice may include more flexible work hours and improved pay.
Becoming a felony lawyer consists of six steps, including earning a bachelor's degree, taking the LSAT, graduating from law school, passing the bar exam, working as a criminal lawyer and starting your own legal practice.