How to Become a Judge
A great aspiration for many law students is to achieve a judgeship. The path to such a position is long, arduous, and not well understood. Below is a basic overview of the requirements, experience, and process needed to become a judge in the United States.
First, you are going to have to receive a bachelors from an accredited university. Ideally it would be in a subject such as political science, criminal justice, sociology, history, and the like. This is not a hard and fast requirement however, and almost any degree gives you the opportunity to be accepted into law school.
You now must take the LSAT. These are the standard entrance exams for SAT required for undergraduate studies. Given the extreme difficulty of being accepted into law school, it is important that you score highly on the LSAT. Study courses such as the Kaplan classes will aid you, but it is advised that you dedicate your own time to studying as well.
Speaking of law school, that is the next step. You must obtain a J.D., preferably near the top of your class. It is advisable to attend the most rigorous law school that accepts you, as this will allow you to better prepare yourself for a job in the legal world, and will make you more attractive to firms looking to hire. Once you have graduated, you must pass the bar exam for your state, and then find employment.
At this point, you have to find employment. One option is to apply for entry level positions at firms. These will provide you with steady work, the opportunity for advancement, and most importantly, valuable experience. Another option is to start a private practice. This essentially allows you to be your own boss, and can be a good option for small towns and cities, but the pay may not be as steady and you will have to build a good reputation over time. Finally, you can choose to become a prosecutor. This may not pay quite as well as a job with a firm, but the overwhelming majority of judges were prosecutors first. This also ensures that you spend a lot of time in the courtrooms, whereas an entry level position in a firm will likely have you in the office more often than not.
No matter the position you choose, you have to spend time becoming familiar with the way a courtroom works. You need to understand what makes a judge good or bad at his or her job, and you must know whether or not you truly want to pursue such a position. Additionally, at this point you must begin networking. Make a good impression with everybody you meet: it will aid you in the future. Assume that you are always being observed by those who will decide if you obtain a judgeship. Any display of temper or unprofessional behavior may affect your chances.
Obtaining a Judgeship
The process for obtaining a judgeship varies from state to state, but you will generally have to either apply through a judicial nominating commission or be recommended by another judge or elected official. At this point, the real fun begins. You will be scrutinized thoroughly, and you must be prepared to answer for every slight misdeed you have ever committed.
The chances of you receiving a judgeship on your first try are low, but don’t give up. Apply again and again. If you are denied, step up your game. Get to know your district judges well and appear in court as often as possible.
There is another way to become a judge if this process isn’t working out: popular vote. Some judgeships are awarded through democratic election, so if you have a solid reputation in your community, run for office. For this to work, you must be eloquent and charismatic, but it can be a great alternate path to a judgeship.
Overall, tenacity is key. Only the best of the best get accepted as judges, but if you work hard in school, make a great impression on those already in the judicial system, and have a patient mind, becoming a judge is within reach for you.