Learn What You Need to Become a Judge in 9 Steps

Learn What You Need to Become a Judge

Judges control legal proceedings like hearing cases and trials. They play a very crucial role in the law because their words are the ultimate verdict for a presented case. Judges preside over different types of cases, including civil cases, criminal cases, and issues from state and federal law. The road to becoming a judge is quite lengthy. However, it is one of the most estimable jobs in the judicial field. Becoming a judge will be easy for you if you have a passion for fair justice.  In here, you will learn the steps to become a judge and other information related to the career.

What is the Role of Judges

Judges preside court hearings, procedures, cases, and trials.  They uphold the rights of the individual involved in the legal process. While lawyers argue in front of the judge, the judge makes sure each party follows the codes of the courtroom and adheres to the standards of the law, which may entail how testimony is presented and how evidence submitted. In non-jury criminal trials, the judges determine the innocence or guilt of the defender, while in civil cases they set rules on the compensation and liability.

Typically, government officials appoint judges to their post. However, they may also be elected by public votes and win their positions. They work for long hours and sometimes travel to hear crucial cases. Their hours are mostly spent on preparing for the hearing. They must also be available on emergency calls and situations.

Service Time

While some judges have limited service time, most others hold their positions for life. In most cases, judges are lawyers with several years of experience in law practice. The type of judgeship one pursues will determine the length of time it takes to become a judge. For instance, a criminal court judge must be at least 25 years old and have a minimum of 4 years of practice experience. On the other hand, a criminal appeals court judge must be above 35 years age and should have 10 years of experience. In short, 85% of the judgeship positions require some kind of experience.

Judges who want to move ahead in their career can seek opportunities in higher courts with greater jurisdiction. You can also continue to practice law even after becoming a judge so that if you ever choose to return to it, it should not be difficult.

Judges reserve their jobs through election or government appointment. Running an election involves registering with a political party and running a campaign.

On the other hand, earning a judicial position through an appointment requires networking with the community and developing connections. In here, attorneys and judges must apply for the position, and then the government official who makes the appointment seeks the suggestions of the judicial selection committee. The local and state bar association may also get involved in evaluating the judgeship candidates and make recommendations.

Having a positive outlook, building a good reputation with your colleagues and community, and being judicially fair and right will help you earn more recommendations and an appointment.

[Also Read: How Much Can You Really Earn As a Judge?]

Steps to Becoming a Judge

Step 1: Gain the Required Educational Qualifications

Obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited law school. The program must be 4 year-long and completed from a reputed law school, such as Yale, Harvard or any other prestigious institution in your country. Although there is no specific educational requirement, most students opt for bachelors of arts degrees, majoring in subjects like sociology, political science, history, economics, and business. You have to prepare very well during your undergraduate studies. Your college performance will determine your ticket to law school. So, getting the highest grades should be your aim. Furthermore, completing an internship at a law firm in your under graduation will just double your chances of reserving a seat at the law school.

Step 2: Apply at a Law School

Since it takes many years to become a judge, the sooner you complete your law education, the better will it be for you. So, attend law school as soon as you complete your under-graduation. Choose a location where you wish to practice law and then apply in law schools from the area.

However, you must clear the law school admission test (LSAT). Just like entrance exams to medical college, it is very important to ace this test. Your competition will be unrealistically high, especially if you are applying in top schools. To ensure that you do well, you must:

  • Think about enrolling in a preparatory center that will help you prepare for the LSAT
  • Consider hiring a private tutor to help you excel the courseware

Apart from the LSAT results, the key to securing a seat in law schools is your level of aptitude. Ability to research and write an intelligent statement, writing eloquently, and thinking analytically are highly regarded skills. You must put in a lot of time in writing samples and making personal statements.

However, if you are dissatisfied with your LSAT score, you can take a retest before applying.

Step 3: Finish Your Law School Proficiently

You must dedicate three years of your life to studying the subject to pass with flying colors and receive the Juris Doctor Degree. You must stand out from your classmates if you want to secure in a prestigious job after this. Remember, most of the judges hold state ranks in their law school degrees. You must ace your school reports, if not the state.

The law school will walk you through the fundamentals of law to elaborate discussions in theory and practice about each element. The first year of law school teaches the fundamentals of law to the students, such as civil procedure, contracts, codes, ethics, and torts. In the next two years, you will learn everything about your chosen electives in detail. Electives are specialized fields in law, such as family law, tax law, criminal law, etc.

You must simultaneously gain experience by working with lawyers while studying law. Practical experience is as important as theoretical classes. Make sure you find out about internship opportunities during your second year and apply for an internship in your area in advance. Your College Career Counsellor is the right person to contact for procuring such vital information.

Step 4: Clear the Bar Examination

The bar test is created to determine a candidate’s knowledge about law and jurisdiction, and whether he/ she qualifies to practice law. Each state’s bar exam differs. Therefore, you must take the test in the state where you wish to practice law.  The bar exam could be difficult to crack. So, we suggest you enroll in a bar preparatory course. Take the examination as soon as you pass out of law school, which means, you must start preparing for the examination during your final year.

If you do not qualify in the bar examination in the first attempt, you can take a retest. However, there are conditions applied. For instance, in some states the number of retests are limited.

Step 5: Gain Further Experience by Working as Attorney

Your real job role in the pursuit of a career as a judge is starting as an attorney.  You must work as an attorney for few qualifying years before attaining judgeship. Attorneys are lawyers that present themselves before a court on behalf of their clients to resolve disputes and claim what protects their clients.

You can choose to become a general law or specialize in one particular field, including civil rights law, divorce law, environmental law, consumer law, corporate law, immigration law, criminal law, and intellectual property.

Instead of running your own firm, you could start by applying for entry-level positions at law firms and offices. Gain relevant experience and understand how lawyers work before moving on to working independently.

Step 6: Get Familiarized with Courtroom Proceedings

In order to become familiar with the way the court operates, you must choose to become a prosecutor or a government attorney. If you start enjoying the courtroom environment and get drawn towards the system of prosecution, arguments, judgments and more, then pursuing a career as a judge is the best option for you.

The more time you spend in the courtroom, the better opportunities for interaction with standing judges you’d receive. You will need their support and recommendation in the future. So make sure you spend enough time with these officials, be a regular member in courtrooms, and maintain a high-profile presence in your court system.

Most judges who apply for the role and get selected have plenty of prosecutorial experience. However, to be a prosecutor or not is your personal choice. It is not a mandatory requirement to become a judge.

Step 7: Learn the Qualities to Become a Good Judge

You must possess every skill and trait that makes a man or woman righteous – an ideal candidate for a judgeship. It is not only about interacting with important people and attending the court regularly. It is also about honing the skills and displaying the traits that make you authoritative and honorable to take tough legal decisions.

An honorable and righteous judge possesses the following traits:

  • He works with dignity and patience, especially when under pressure.
  • He does not lose temper in heated moments during trial proceedings.
  • He does not pass a biased judgment or reveals an unfair statement.
  • He is respectful towards other members of the law system, including judicial assistants, opposing counsel, and court reporters.
  • He does not disrupt court proceedings for the sake of promotion or career advancement.
  • He is empathetic towards all people.
  • He is a good listener who does not dissect people based on their cast, creed, gender, nationality, and status.
  • He is legally accurate, thoughtful, considerate, kind, balanced, and responsible
  • He shows patience when opposite counsel presents their long list of arguments.
  • He believes in gender diversification and equality.

Step 8: Apply for Judgeship in Your State

You have to apply for the position through a judicial nominating commission. You can also be recommended by politicians or senators depending upon your rapport with them and your career performance.

The application process is very lengthy irrespective of the road you choose. Depending upon the jurisdiction, at the end of the process, you will be either elected or appointed as a judge.

While some federal judges are appointed for lifelong terms, federal, state, and local judges have fixed serving terms or renewable terms.

In your application, you must reveal everything about your past mistakes (if any). You must be ready to face the consequences after your revelations, including harsh press rehashing. You will be interviewed, where they will ask about your involvement in previous lawsuits, the counseling you have received for substance abuse, and other things related to the role.

It is important that you get your application evaluated by the bar association in addition to applying for a judgeship through state supreme court. Bar associations have several powers, including recommending you for a judgeship. So take the application seriously. They can choose to not recommend you as well. Therefore, make sure you leave a perfect impression on the bar council.

Most people do not obtain judgeship in their first attempt. So do not become disheartened if you do not clear. In fact, it is believed that failing in the first attempt is normal and a prerequisite. You can reapply again while continuing to garner support from the right people. Do not forget to refine your qualities and skills. Make sure you traverse the right path and show your talent when and as needed.

Remember that getting support from fellow judges counts a lot in your selection process. So, get to know them and earn their respect. Interact with them in conferences, meetings, and other events.

Step 9: Complete Introductory Training

After being elected or appointed, you must complete an introductory training program to qualify as a practicing judge. Here, you will be participating in court trials, completing online exercises, and reviewing legal documents and publications. You must train throughout your career to make sure you adhere to the latest changes in the law.

These general tips will help you lay your foundation stones. Modify your process based on your state’s or country’s jurisdiction. For further clarifications regarding the career, comment on the space provided below.