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Defense Attorney: Your Legal Career Guide

— November 30, 2023

Working as a defense attorney can be challenging, but many individuals love the unique challenges that this legal career brings and find it very fulfilling.

Defense attorneys are commonly what individuals think of when they consider lawyers, as these individuals are seen inside and outside of courtrooms defending clients and working on both civil and criminal legal cases. If you are considering a career as a defense attorney, or you want to learn more about defense attorneys, you’re in the right place. Our legal career guide gives you essential information about defense attorneys and how you might start a career in this field.

What Does a Defense Attorney Do?

In the complex world of criminal and civil legal cases, a defense attorney is hired to represent their client’s best interests. This means that they are working towards the best outcomes for their client, even in criminal cases where the defendant may be facing serious consequences for their suspected actions. Typically, a defense attorney will specialize in either criminal or civil cases, as this allows them to gain the most experience in their chosen field and represent their clients to the best of their ability.

As part of their job, defense attorneys will meet with their clients, understand their legal needs, provide counsel on their client’s legal options, and conduct research. They will also prepare documents for court as needed, advise their client on how to act in court, and attend trials or other court dates as part of their representation for their client.

How Do I Become a Defense Attorney?

Defense attorneys are popular in the world of crime TV shows, and many individuals find that working as a defense attorney is a fulfilling career. If you want to become a defense attorney, you should know that you will need to obtain the proper education, including three years of law school, and pass the bar exam.

In general, the steps to becoming a defense attorney include completing an undergraduate degree, preparing for law school, taking part in LSAT prep classes, and submitting applications, completing law school to obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, and passing the bar exam in your chosen state. Once you are admitted to your state’s bar, you are legally eligible to work as a lawyer, and you can finalize your employment with a firm or state or federal organization.

Do I Need a Legal Education to Be a Defense Attorney?

You do need a legal education to be a defense attorney; virtually every legal job out there for defense attorneys requires at least a J.D. degree, though some might require experience in the field or other advanced degrees. 

While you are in law school, you can make sure that you focus on criminal and civil defense law in addition to securing internships or externships in the defense legal field so that you have the right connections to pursue this career upon graduation and passing the bar exam.

What Is the Average Defense Attorney Salary?

Lawyer at desk writing; image by advogadoaguilar, via
Lawyer at desk writing; image by advogadoaguilar, via

Defense attorneys have a wide salary range due to the number of factors that can affect the pay scale of this job. Items such as working for a private firm or a government organization, your years of experience, and your geographical location all greatly affect what the average salary for a defense attorney is. For a number more specific to your location or the location you wish to practice in, you should search for average salaries in that area.

In general, defense attorneys can make anywhere from $40,000 to $700,000 per year, with the median average of United States defense attorneys landing around $180,000 to $370,000 annually.

Where Can I Learn More About Defense Attorneys?

If you are interested in learning more about practicing as a defense attorney, you can ask around local lawyer’s offices and see if they will give you insight into this career. You may also be able to work as an assistant for a defense attorney to gain familiarity with the field, or, if you are already in law school, speak to your advisor and professors about the pros and cons of working in the defense attorney field.

Pursuing a Career as a Defense Attorney

Working as a defense attorney can be challenging, but many individuals love the unique challenges that this legal career brings and find it very fulfilling. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a defense attorney, keep in mind you will need to complete law school and put in a few years of effort before you are able to secure a position as a defense attorney. However, many individuals find this career worth the effort. Learn more about defense attorneys by reaching out to a law school, local law office, or law clinic near you.

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