How to Become a Judge in the U.S.

In the United States legal world, there are many types of careers one can aspire to. Becoming a lawyer is usually the first to come to mind, but there are also many other people needed to help a court system with the ins and outs of its daily procedures. There are stenographers to transcribe records of each trial, bailiffs to keep the order, and clerks who are in charge of managing the records. One of the most challenging careers in the legal system is that of a judge. Judges preside over the court, rule on the procedures of a court case, and in some cases decide the outcome of the proceedings. In other cases, the judge is the decider of any sentencing for the defendant. But in addition to being challenging, this position is considered by many to be the most difficult in the court system to attain.

Most judges start out as attorneys and work their way up from there. To become an attorney requires many years of schooling, starting with a four year Bachelor’s Degree at a college or university. Although many people who aim for this profession major in Pre-Law, the choice of a major is not as important as a high grade point average. It is this GPA which will help the candidate reach the next step in the process, which is acceptance into a law school. One must also take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and earn a high score on it to increase the chances of being accepted.

The next step is to graduate from law school, which takes a minimum of three years. After that comes the Bar Exam, which one must pass in the state where he or she wishes to practice. Upon passing this exam, the newly minted lawyer is now authorized to practice law in that state.

As the vast majority of judges have many years of legal experience under their belt before earning a judgeship, the next step in the process is basically to be the best lawyer one can be. When a person feels ready to become a judge, there are two different options one can take.

One option is to run for public office, as often, judge positions are ones which are elected. As the people in that jurisdiction will want someone with much legal experience, the law degree and years of experience as a practicing attorney comes in very handy in this case. Running for a position as a judge is no different than vying for any other elected office, so the candidate will have to put on his or her politician’s hat for a time. This involves campaigning, raising funds, and basically convincing the citizens that he or she will be an effective and impartial judge (and often proving otherwise of the competition).

The other option is to apply for a judgeship. Some judges are appointed by that government’s executive branch, and these judgeship vacancies are often filled by processes where the candidates apply for the position. This can be a competitive, grueling process, so the prospective judge should be prepared to have to fight for this coveted position.

But once one attains a judgeship, it can be an extremely rewarding career. Some judges are appointed for life, so one would be hard-pressed to find a career with better job security. And while others have to campaign every few years for their jobs, all judges can be proud that they are a vital part of their community and country.


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