Is a Prosecutor a Lawyer? (With Definitions and Differences)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published October 23, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are various career paths to explore if you are interested in starting a law career. Understanding the different career paths in the field of law is essential before choosing a profession. Learning about the differences between a prosecutor and a lawyer can help you better understand their particular roles and duties. In this article, we answer the question "Is a prosecutor a lawyer?", highlight the difference between a prosecutor and a defence lawyer, and provide the steps to become a lawyer.

Is a prosecutor a lawyer?

To answer the question, "Is a prosecutor a lawyer?" it's essential to understand the meaning of each term. Prosecutors are lawyers with a law degree, and the court recognizes them as legal professionals. They are responsible for presenting evidence against a suspect during a trial. In comparison, a defence lawyer collects evidence that supports the accused and demonstrates to the court that the accused didn't commit the crime.

Related: 15 Lawyer Job Titles (With Salaries and Job Duties)

Differences between a prosecutor and a defence lawyer

Here are the key differences between a prosecutor and a defence lawyer:

Definition

A defence lawyer defends a company or person against criminal allegations. They can work in private law firms or serve as public defenders for the government. The government selects public defenders to advocate for those who can't afford counsel during their trials. These professionals can work as civil defence lawyers or criminal defence lawyers. Civil defence lawyers assist clients facing penalties from civil cases, such as property damage or family disputes. Criminal defence lawyers defend clients facing criminal charges, such as fraud.

A prosecutor is an elected public official representing a person or a group of people if they pursue legal action against a company or a person. They can accuse a defendant of certain charges and present evidence so that a jury may reach a verdict. These professionals work in a jurisdiction funded by the government.

Related: Why Become a Lawyer? Top 5 Reasons and Tips for Success

Job duties

The duties of a defence lawyer and prosecutor include:

Job duty of a defence lawyer

Here are the job duties of a defence lawyer:

  • Researching and providing mitigating information: Defence lawyers can provide mitigating evidence during a court trial, such as the defendant's mental health. This implies they have meetings with the defendant to understand the event and their possible reasons while investigating the case.

  • Defending and advising clients: Defence lawyers use their skills and understanding of the law to present information to their clients and counsel them on what to say during a trial. They may also defend their clients in a courtroom if they are against a prosecutor's deal.

  • Handling appeals: An appeal occurs if a lawyer or defendant seeks a revision to an official legal punishment, often to make it less severe. For defendants the court finds guilty, defence lawyers may manage their appeals and help their clients achieve a reduced sentence.

Job duty of a prosecutor

Here are the job duties of a prosecutor:

  • Working with law enforcement agencies: Prosecutors work to protect a crime victim and may collaborate with law enforcement agencies to ensure that legal action occurs if required. They can review police reports of a criminal case before a trial.

  • Recommending sentencing: Prosecutors may meet with the judge to discuss the defendant's sentence and provide recommendations about the judgment's duration and severity. While prosecutors may submit comments and suggestions, the judge ultimately decides the eventual outcome of the trial.

  • Arranging plea bargains: Plea bargains are conversations with the defendant and their lawyer. During this process, the prosecutor can propose a reduced sentence if the defendant is willing to accept a guilty plea.

  • Selecting jury members: A prosecutor often participates in jury selection before a trial begins in the presence of a judge. They interview possible jurors and ask them questions to assess their suitability for the case and if their opinions might affect their judgment.

Work environment

The work environment of defence lawyers and prosecutors might differ depending on their company and the nature of the case they handle. Defence lawyers spend most of their time in courtrooms, libraries, and legal offices. They might also travel to visit their clients. A prosecutor's work environment differs as they examine and meet witnesses to gather evidence and decide if they can handle the case. Prosecutors are civil servants, and their offices are typically in government buildings.

Related: How to Create a Lawyer Resume (With Tips and Example)

How to become a prosecutor or a lawyer

You can follow these steps if you want to become a prosecutor or a defence lawyer:

1. Attend a university

Law schools require at least three years of undergraduate study. This program accepts people from various fields of study, so you can choose your preferred major. Common undergraduate majors for lawyers include journalism, criminal justice, political science, sociology, business, philosophy, English, and economics. Regardless of your major, consider taking courses that relate to the law field of your choice. For example, suppose you want to be a prosecutor. In that case, you may study criminology or political science. This can help you acquire an understanding of various relevant subjects. It can also help you develop your writing abilities and reading comprehension.

Related: 7 Degrees for Lawyers (With Step-by-Step Guide and FAQS)

2. Develop your skills

Defence lawyers and prosecutors often depend on various skills to guarantee their success during a trial. Developing those skills can help you handle different court cases efficiently. Examples of such skills include:

  • Analytical skills: Analytical skills involve detecting events that may help you discover and solve complex issues. Consider developing this skill to help you observe, investigate, evaluate, and understand various cases that can produce practical ideas or solutions during a trial.

  • Organizational skills: Lawyers work with documents related to the cases they manage. Being organized can help you manage your time, resources, and energy to meet deadlines and accomplish your goals with reduced stress.

  • Communication skills: Regardless of your position as a lawyer, strong communication skills are essential, especially your verbal and written skills. Developing these abilities can help you to create legal documents that support your claim and assist you in persuading the court to agree with your perspective.

Related: What Are Lawyer Skills? (With Steps to Improve Them)

3. Take the law school admission test (LSAT)

The LSAT consists of five multiple-choice sections, testing areas like your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and analytical reasoning. There's also a written portion that you may submit online. This exam is essential to get admission into law school. You may take practice exams on the LSAT website to prepare for the test. The test schedule and locations are accessible for selection on the LSAT website.

4. Apply to law schools

After receiving your LSAT results, you may begin law school applications. Many law schools require reference letters, official transcripts, and personal statements with your LSAT scores. You might also provide additional information, such as your volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and related internships or employment.

If you attended an international law school, the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) might permit you to practise law in Canada. The NCA determines which extra courses you can take to understand Canadian laws based on your knowledge and skills. You may also be required to pass a few examinations. The NCA awards a Certificate of Qualification if you pass the exams.

Related: How to Get into Law School (A Complete Guide)

5. Earn a law degree

When you gain admission into a law school, you can complete a Juris Doctor (J.D) or Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) program to become eligible to become a bar member. Many law schools provide a J.D. degree, but the curriculum for both degrees is comparable. Each takes around three years to complete and is equally valid in every province or territory. Students often volunteer with legal clinics and non-profit organizations, engage in trial advocacy and client counselling contests, and join social clubs. While getting your law degree, you may study courses such as:

  • legal writing

  • courtroom procedures

  • contract law

  • international law

  • criminal law

  • constitutional law

6. Pass the bar exam

If you want to work in law in a specific province, it's important you pass its bar examination. Many provinces and territories also provide bar exam preparation courses or allow candidates to use reference materials. You might require practical training through an internship before taking the exam. These internships are also referred to as articling. You can work in these internships for nine to 12 months with a licensed lawyer supervising you.

After passing the bar, paying a membership fee and answering questions about your character to become a licensed lawyer is customary. Many provinces might require you to appear in court and take an oath.

Please note that none of the companies, organizations, or institutions mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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