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Juvenile lawyers are defense attorneys who represent minors who have committed criminal infractions. Some juvenile lawyers also work as child advocates, raising public awareness of legal and social issues involving children and teens, and representing their best interests to the court. Juvenile lawyers must fulfill the same educational requirements as other attorneys. They must complete three years of law school beyond college, pass their state’s bar examination, provide the board of bar examiners with character references, and pass a criminal background check.
Seek out volunteer opportunities. Professors from John Marshall Law School recommend that prospective juvenile lawyers volunteer within the juvenile justice system prior to pursuing a career in juvenile law. Volunteering allows students to develop professional contacts and gain experience in the field while helping out their communities.
Take the appropriate law school coursework. During your three years of law school, focus on classes that will give you the skills you need to practice juvenile law. They include criminal law, administrative law, trial advocacy, family law and appellate procedure. Some law schools also offer specialized coursework and practicums covering juvenile law and child advocacy.
Contact organizations that hire juvenile lawyers. While many juvenile lawyers work in private practice, they are also employed by a variety of governmental and nonprofit organizations, including public defenders’ offices, Legal Aid, offices of guardians ad litem, child welfare agencies, and juvenile courts.
Participate in professional development programs that will give you the specialized skills you need to secure a position as a juvenile lawyer. John Marshall Law School explains that juvenile lawyers must be strong listeners, negotiators, and have a strong sense of empathy. In addition to continuing legal education courses that keep you up-to-date on the formal developments in the juvenile justice field, take courses in social work, counseling and mediation so that you can better meet the needs of your clients.
Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.