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How do I Become a Judge?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A judge is the head of a legal court, presiding over the proceedings and ultimately passing judgment in the case or dictating the terms of a sentence. Depending on the type of legal system a nation has, there are several different ways of becoming a judge. In nations such as the United States, which have common law legal systems, people in this position are attorneys who may have undergone additional training. In a nation with civil law, such as France, judges are specially trained legal professionals who sit on inquisitorial panels or oversee local courts, depending on how the law is laid out.

In either system, being a judge requires an extensive knowledge of the law, and the ability to be completely impartial in a case. He or she should consider the letter of the law, rather than personal feelings, when considering a case, and must be prepared to work long hours for less pay than attorneys conventionally receive. In cases where he or she cannot be impartial, the judge should apply to be dismissed from the trial, to ensure that justice is carried out.

In a common law system, someone who wants to become a judge should start by becoming a lawyer. While becoming a lawyer, the candidate may want to think about what kind of judge he or she wants to be. There are local trial judges who oversee basic criminal trials, state and federal judges. Each step in the judicial ladder requires more knowledge of the law. In addition, there are appeals judges, who specialize in appeals cases. As a trial judge, someone may see a wide variety of cases, while others specialize in family law, bankruptcy, or small claims.

After successfully qualifying as an attorney, many prospective judges practice law for some time before taking the next step. There are two options: someone can run for public office as a judge, or apply for a judgeship. Vacancies in some local courts are filled with attorneys who are elected, and who must run a campaign just like any other politician. Other vacancies are filled through competitive application, which can get fierce, and a judge should be prepared to apply several times before being successful. Once appointed, he or she will take an orientation course, and should plan on taking periodic workshops and classes to retain the position.

In a civil law system, where judges decide the outcome of cases without juries, these legal experts undergo separate legal training. In many cases, a potential judge may choose to qualify as a lawyer before undertaking this training, but it is not required. After qualification, the judge can apply for court positions.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon285387 — On Aug 15, 2012

You do not need to be a lawyer to be a judge.

By anon282738 — On Jul 31, 2012

What options do I have to become a family or criminal judge in the common law system?

By anon278256 — On Jul 05, 2012

An appeals judge can overrule a sentence. Criminals always try to get appeals to get the case they were originally found guilty on dropped.

By anon269909 — On May 20, 2012

I still don't get what an appeals judge does? In the article, it briefly says: "specializes in appeals cases."

What are appeals cases? Add more detail the article, will you?

I am doing judges for my career topic research project, I'm in fifth grade and need an answer ASAP.

By anon166564 — On Apr 09, 2011

Is there any way to become judge before a long period of time?

By anon39504 — On Aug 02, 2009

You have to wait about 10 to 15 years, depending upon the experience and knowledge of the legal system.

By anon14585 — On Jun 19, 2008

Typically how long does an individual have to or shoould practice Law before being considered for the position of a judge or moving toward that next step?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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