Crime and Punishment

So You Want To Work At A Criminal Law Firm? Heres What You Need To Know

Criminal law firms have long been the subject of TV shows, films and other forms of media because there is something inherently interesting about the process of a trial. Add into that mix the extremely high stakes that can determine the future of those involved for life, and there is no wonder why becoming a criminal defence lawyer seems like an exciting career. However, in reality, working for criminal law firms is a much different experience and requires quite stringent qualifications. If you are considering a career change, then here is what you need to know before you commit to criminal law.


In Australia, criminal law is almost entirely relegated to individual state and territory regulations, so that means that each individual state and territory has its own rules for how to become a lawyer. There are a number of similarities in most cases, and all states require you to have a bachelor's degree in law. There are many different varieties in these degrees, and you should choose one that provides a pathway to criminal law. After that, most states require you to graduate practical training to show that the theoretical knowledge you learnt in your degree can be applied. After that, you simply need to apply to the legal registering authority in your state to become certified to practice law.

Difference From Media Portrayals

While many media portrayals show parts of the research phase of trials, they severely underplay this part of the process. The majority of work at criminal law firms is pouring over evidence and researching any possible tangential leads that could be used for (or against) your case. You almost never get the surprise elements that are common in the screen depictions of law, such as a secret witness, evidence being submitted after the trial has started and confessions on the stand. In most cases, the team that has best prepared before the trial begins has already won the case, and this process can take months or even years, not the days that it seems like on television. 

What's Next?

If you are still keen that is fantastic; criminal law firms are always looking for enthusiastic junior lawyers to join their teams. There are a few tidbits that you should know before you start, including:

  1. Barristers are the type of lawyer that appears in court. Solicitors are also lawyers but mainly deal in legal paperwork, not trials. 
  2. The process of becoming a lawyer can take four to six years in Australia.
  3. Many criminal law firms recruit from similar universities, so check which one has the best post-degree employment rate.