How to Become a Judge

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How to Become a Judge

The position of judge comes with a certain prestige and reverence. As a judge, you would preside over court hearings and trials and supervise legal proceedings to make sure they are conducted fairly under the law.

A judge may oversee criminal and civil cases, which involve anything from traffic offenses, civil disagreements to business disputes, to high profile criminal cases.

Their tasks will include such things as- determining how evidence is submitted and testimony was given; ruling on a defendant’s guilt or innocence in non-jury criminal trials, issuing instructions to a jury regarding evidence or the law or determining liability and compensation in civil cases.

If you are interested in a legal career and seek a position of authority, being a judge could appeal to you. Most judges come from careers as lawyers, however, there are 40 states where non-lawyers can have limited-jurisdiction judgeships.

It is an interesting and challenging career which requires a strong character and demonstrated the ability to be respectful, fair and just, as well as to exhibit patience and diligence.

Judges can be elected by the public or appointed by governments. They are professionals who are often required to work long hours in preparation for hearings and sometimes their work involves travel. It is not uncommon that they also need to be on call for emergency situations.

However, Judges are well paid with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporting as judge’s average salary is almost $95,000. Judges are primarily employed by state and local governments.

Here we give you a guide on how to become a judge.

Step 1: Undergraduate Degree

First, you will need to obtain an undergraduate degree to qualify for law school.

Law schools do not require any specific major, but good choices that are popular amongst law students and provide a good grounding are political science, history, economics or criminal justice studies.

Step 2: Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

You will need to score well on the LSAT if you are to be accepted into law school.

The LSAT tests competencies in reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. There are many resources online to prepare you for the kinds of questions you’ll encounter on the test.

Step 3: Law school

As we said, most judges commence their careers as lawyers, and prior legal practice is a prerequisite for many state and federal judgeships. To become a lawyer you must complete a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, which is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). A Juris Doctor is generally 3 years of study, but there are some part-time programs available which can be done over a longer period.

The first year of law school is usually spent focussing on the fundamentals of legal studies, including criminal law, contracts, torts, and civil procedures. In the final two-year students complete studies in specialized topics like family law or tax law, and participate in Law clinics.

Most law schools also provide their students with opportunities to complete an internship, which is a valuable way to get hands-on experience and networking opportunities. For many students, internships assist greatly with finding employment after graduation.

Step 4: Pass a Bar Exam

In most cases, you will need to apply for admission to the bar to practice law and gain work experience. You will need to apply for the state or jurisdiction that you wish to work in.

The exact testing and licensing requirements vary across different states, but it often includes the Multi-state Bar Exam – a 200-question, 6-hour exam – which tests knowledge on numerous law fundamentals, such as criminal law, contracts, and torts. An ethics exam and state-specific exams are also generally required.

Past examinations are available for sale online from the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). These give the student a good idea of what to expect on the bar examination.

How to Become a Judge

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

To become a judge, you must have plenty of experience in the legal field. Judges have often spent many years working in legal firms and practicing law, either as a defense attorney or a prosecutor. Attorneys represent clients in a court or during other legal proceedings to resolve disputes. Their tasks may include conducting legal research, drafting court documents and appearing in court.

During the time you are gaining your work experience you should keep in mind that you cannot just become a judge on your own. Judges are either elected or appointed, depending on the district or location, and you will require the support of politicians to obtain a judgeship.

You should aim to build your reputation and form relationships with influential people who will be able to recommend or nominate you for a judgeship. Only those legal professionals with outstanding reputations and extensive legal experience will be nominated for judgeships.

Step 5: Obtain a Judgeship

Senators or other politicians can recommend lawyers for judgeships, or a lawyer may nominate themselves for consideration by submitting their names to a judicial nominating commission. State or local judges are generally appointed to fixed or renewable terms of office, whilst some federal judges are appointed to life-long terms. Judges often retire or teach in law schools one their term is finished.

Step 6: Complete Training

There is often some further specific training required after election or appointment as a judge. This may involve state-administered training programs led by legal organizations, such as the ABA, National Judicial College or the National Center for State Courts. Trainees will review legal publications, complete online exercises, and participate in court trials. It is generally required that judges complete continuing education programs to keep their knowledge up-to-date during their term.

Some top schools for getting you on your way to being the judge.

Considering studying political science online? These are the top three picks according to

  • The University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida

This BA in political science program has three specializations to select from- pre-law, American politics and policy, or international relations and comparative politics. All lectures are online and can be watched at a time that suits the student. UCF matches each online student with a success coach who is available to guide them from the admissions process to graduation.

  • University of Memphis (UM Online), Memphis, Tennessee

A 120-credit bachelor’s in political science is available which students can complete online, on campus, or in a hybrid format.

  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

UMass offers a fully online Bachelor of political science. The course requires applicants to have at least 24 previous credits, and they can transfer up to 75 credits. The program offers a pre-law concentration, which includes coursework in law and the courts. Course options also include environmental policy, women and public policy, international relations, public administration, and the politics of football.

A couple of the top Law Schools to Aim for are:

Yale is widely recognized as providing top law education. You can complete an MBA alongside the JD, and it offers over 20 law clinics for gaining hands-on experience

Law students pursuing a traditional J.D. at Stanford customize their education early with electives, and can also complete a variety of combined degrees.

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Indu has been educator since last 10 years. She can find all kind of scholarship opportunities in the USA and beyond. She also teach college courses online to help students become better. She is one of the very rare scholarship administrator and her work is amazing.