How to Become a Judge

Judges perform some of the most important roles in the legal process. They preside over trials and court hearings, uphold the rights of individuals in legal proceedings, and supervise the legal process. A judge ensures that a trial is conducted according to established procedures, including which evidence is permissible in court and how testimony is given. For criminal trials that are not held in front of a jury, a judge decides whether a defendant is innocent or guilty; similarly, for civil cases, judges determine which party is liable and the amount of fair compensation. In this article, we’ll cover how you can become a judge.

Steps to Becoming a Judge

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree
Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam
Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney
Step 5: Obtaining a Judgeship
Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a judge starts in college. An aspiring judge doesn’t necessarily need to pick a specific major for attaining their bachelor’s degree. However, many of those looking ahead for a career in the legal field will focus on degrees that are more applicable to being accepted to law school. These majors commonly include business, criminal justice, history, political science, philosophy, and so forth.

Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree

After attaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring judges must follow the career path of an attorney. Therefore, they will attend an American Bar Association-accredited law school, where there’ll be awarded a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. This process generally takes 3 years.

Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam

Once an individual has earned a JD degree, prospective attorneys must apply for admission to the bar in their state/ jurisdiction where they wish to practice law. This requires passing the bar exam, which is a series of tasks that ensures an attorney can perform the most basic of tasks required by an attorney.

Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney

Because judges typically “police” the behavior of the trial and attorneys, most judges work as lawyers before acquiring their judgeship. This gives them first-hand and relevant experience to resolve common disputes in court, as well as conducting legal research, drafting court documents, and so forth.

Step 5: Obtain a Judgeship

To become a judge, a lawyer must be appointed or elected by a judicial nominating commission or high-ranking politicians (i.e. senators, governors). An attorney applies for a judgeship by submitting their name for consideration. If the person has a strong history of legal practice and support from politicians/judges, they may be appointed. As a career, many judges have fixed and renewable terms of office; however, some—especially on the federal level—can be appointed to life-long terms.

Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Once a judge has been elected/appointed, they may be required to complete training programs to ensure that they are educated on the newest developments of the law. As a trainee, judges participate in court trials, complete online exercises, and review legal publications to ensure that they are up to the demands of the job. Judges are required to continually complete education courses throughout their careers to stay abreast of the legal changes.

These programs may be state-administered by legal organizations like the American Bar Association, National Center for State Courts, and the National Judicial College; for federal judges, the Federal Judicial Center provides training for federal judges (and other federal court personnel).

If you want some more tips on how you can get started on becoming a judge, here is a great video I found for you to view.