How to Become a Prosecutor (With Duties and Skills)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 28, 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.
Prosecutors are legal professionals who work with law enforcement agents to lead investigations into different offences and convict offenders by proving their actions in court. To become a prosecutor, there are various standards to meet. Understanding these requirements helps you determine your suitability for this career path. In this article, we explain how to become a prosecutor, list their responsibilities, define their work environment, and provide a list of key skills.
How to become a prosecutor
Learning how to become a prosecutor helps you understand the necessary steps and skills this career requires. Here are steps you can take to work as a prosecutor:
1. Complete a formal education
After earning a secondary school diploma, which equips you with the essential communication and comprehension skills for this career, you may apply for an undergraduate degree in different fields. For example, this may be a degree in literature, political science, or economics. Earning a human rights or legal studies degree may provide you with foundational knowledge about laws and policies necessary for your career as a prosecutor.
The process of earning an undergraduate degree equips you with critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that may be essential for a prosecutor, who researches different cases. It also teaches you the process of how to conduct research. In addition, by completing group projects in college, you learn how to work in a team to achieve a goal, which further prepares you for your career.
2. Pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The LSAT is an assessment that determines your admission into law school. It typically predicts your performance in your first year of law school and helps admission officers ascertain your academic strengths. It contains multiple-choice questions that test your analytical and problem-solving skills and a theory section that evaluates your communication skills. Before taking this test, it may be helpful to complete practice tests. You may also sign up for preparatory classes or study groups and review various online materials that can help you prepare for the assessment.
3. Apply to a law school
Create a list of different law schools in multiple provinces that may be suitable for you. Consider each school’s program, size, location, and faculty composition before applying. You may also evaluate its admissions requirements. There are law schools that offer programs in specific areas, such as constitutional, commercial, criminal, aviation, and entertainment law. To become a prosecutor, consider specializing in constitutional and criminal law to improve your expertise. Checking the admissions deadlines also helps you adequately prepare your application and send the necessary documents on time.
4. Complete your law degree
The Juris Doctor is the first-level law degree and is a three-year undergraduate program. It’s one of the basic requirements of becoming and practicing as a prosecutor in different provinces. In your first year, you typically take introductory classes in courses such as criminal, property, constitutional, and contract law. You may also gain foundational knowledge about specialized areas of law and learn more about legal writing, research, and advocacy.
Engaging in extracurricular activities usually allows you to volunteer with human rights organizations and understand client counselling techniques. During the program, you may work in different firms and government departments, where you may analyze sample cases.
5. Complete the articling process
Completing the articling program is necessary for becoming a prosecutor. Articling is the process of working with an experienced and licensed lawyer for ten months. This ensures you gain experience in the legal sector and understand the technicalities of handling legal issues. You can also network with legal experts during this program. To become a prosecutor, it may be advisable for you to complete the articling process in a government office. Working as a clerk to a judge may also be helpful for your career path. You may work part time and complete this program in any province.
As an alternative to completing the articling program, you may complete the law practice program (LPP) to gain legal experience. During the LPP, you attend training classes for four months and also work in a legal firm for four months. Both of the abovementioned programs typically help you gain practical experience working as a litigator who handles court cases.
6. Pass the final assessments
At the end of your law degree, you may complete final assessments to gain admission to the bar. There are two types of examinations that you can complete to practice as a prosecutor. The barrister examination evaluates your knowledge and experience in different legal areas, including family law, civil litigation, criminal procedure, and public law. The solicitor examination assesses your knowledge of real estate, wills, and business law.
In many provinces, lawyers may identify as both barristers and solicitors. Both examinations test your understanding of ethical and professional standards. After completing these assessments, you may receive your license to work as a prosecutor in a particular province.
Responsibilities of a prosecutor
Prosecutors may handle different court cases and also provide legal advice outside the courtroom. Here are the various responsibilities of a prosecutor both inside and outside the courtroom:
receives, analyzes, and investigates cases from law enforcement agents
assesses evidence and severity of the offence to determine what cases to prosecute
uses available evidence to apply for search warrants
completes pre-trial hearings as the government’s representative
makes recommendations regarding sentences for convicted offenders
orders lab reports to gather evidence for a specific case
prepares and presents evidence in court to convict an alleged offender
drafts formal charges and advises the police and other investigators
Prosecutor work environment
Prosecutors typically work long hours in government offices where they screen different cases and public complaints. They may work extra hours preparing to represent the government in a trial. These professionals also prepare motions and gather evidence while preparing for trials. They communicate with victims, witnesses, and other legal professionals. It may be essential for prosecutors to maintain consistent availability, as emergencies may arise that require their attention. Prosecutors typically work with legal assistants while researching and conducting investigations.
Here are skills that you may possess to work as a prosecutor:
Prosecutors communicate with law enforcement officials, victims, and witnesses while preparing for a trial. Practical communication skills allow them to relate properly with these individuals and set trial expectations. They also allow them to empathize with clients, interview them, and outline significant parts of their complaints. Using their written communication skills, they may also write letters to judges, draft motions, and file formal cases.
Critical thinking skills allow prosecutors to analyze cases and make logical conclusions. They use these skills to investigate complaints and assess the available evidence. This allows them to determine what cases they can prosecute and helps them select an appropriate approach to conducting trials. Analytical skills enable them to verify witness statements and use logical reasoning to prove specific points during a trial.
Prosecutors typically receive different complaints, investigations, evidence, and case files. Possessing organizational skills helps them learn how to arrange files accordingly. It also allows them to gather evidence, order it appropriately, and prepare comprehensive case files for court trials. Organizational skills provide clarity for prosecutors concerning a specific case.
Prosecutors typically conduct research while analyzing a specific case. They assess general laws and statutes that may affect the case. These professionals also review previous cases that share similarities with their current investigations. This allows them to prepare for court trials and predict judgements based on available evidence.
Public-speaking skills are necessary for prosecutors who frequently present their points and defend their clients in court. They use these skills to interview witnesses during trials. These professionals also require such skills to present opening and closing statements during a trial to gain favourable judgements. They use clear and persuasive language when communicating with judges, jury members, and legal professionals.
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