Steps to Become A Judge

Judges are professionals who apply the law by supervising the legal processes in courts. They also resolve administrative issues, conduct pretrial hearings and facilitate negotiations. As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, their job growth is expected to be 3% between 2018 and 2028.

If you want to have aspirations of becoming a judge in the future, read this article to get all the information you need.

What Does a Judge Do?

Judges play an essential role in the legal system and their services will be needed in future as well. Judges usually perform the following tasks:

  • Researching legal issues
  • Overseeing hearings and listening to the arguments of both sides
  • Studying and examining information from presented documents like claim applications, motions and record
  • Figuring out if the presented information is accurate and supports the charge
  • Ensuring that the procedure or hearing is being conducted according to the law
  • Applying laws to reach a certain decision
  • Writing opinions, instructions and decisions regarding the cases

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Judge

The following steps will highlight the procedure of becoming a judge

  1. Undergraduate Degree

There is no specific major requirement to pursue law during undergraduate school. However, aspiring candidates usually choose subjects like political science, economics, history or business. It could be difficult to get into a law school so it is recommended that students prepare for it during their undergraduate years.

  1. Law Degree

In most cases it is mandatory to be a lawyer before you can become a Judge. Judges begin their careers as lawyers to get experience which is a pre-requisite for many federal and state judgeships. Most of the states require judges to have Juris Doctors (J.D) degrees which is obtained by acquiring legal education for three years at a certified school by the American Bar Association (ABA). Students can also opt for part-time programs which take four years to finish.

During the first year, students are expected to focus on fundamental law coursework while in the last two years they complete elective courses in specialized areas.

  1. Passing Bar Exam

After receiving the J.D degree, aspiring lawyers have to apply to get an admission to the bar. The requirements for each state differ, however having a license is mandatory which is earned by passing multiple exams. Exams may include the state-specific bar exam, multi-state bar exam and ethics exam.

Students can access past examinations from the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ website.

  1. Working as an Attorney

Most candidates work as attorneys before they acquire judgeship. They are responsible to draft court documents, represent clients in any legal proceeding or before a court.

  1. Getting Judgeship

To become a judge, one must either be nominated or elected. To be elected, aspiring lawyers have to submit their names to a judicial nominating committee for consideration. Those who want to be nominated should get a recommendation by a politician or a senator. This requires support from politicians and a strong work experience background. Some judges are appointed for a specific period of time while others are appointed for life long terms.

  1. Completing Your Training

After being appointed, judges need to complete the training introduced by the state. They are conducted by legal organizations like ABA, National Center for State Courts or National Judicial College. For federal court personnel and federal judges, the training is provided by The Federal Judicial Center. During these programs they are required to participate in court trials, complete online exercises and review legal publications.

How Much Does a Judge Earn?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates earned an annual mean salary of $128,550 in 2019. Illinois was the highest paying state for this occupation with an annual mean salary of $190,450.

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