The courts are an important factor in keeping fabric of society intact. Judges exercise considerable power in the judicial processes of the country and are held in high esteem in the public’s eye. However, since their role demands a lot of responsibility complex decision making, there are a number of academic and professional stages that you will have to go through in order to increase your prospects of becoming a judge.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a judge?
Judges oversee the legal process in courts. They play a critical role in implementing the law, resolving disputes and fundamentally serve as the stewards of the legal process. Some of their responsibilities include:
Researching legal issues
Reading and evaluating information from claim applications, and records
Presiding over hearings
Resolving disputes between parties
Determining if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
Applying laws or precedents to reach judgments
Writing opinions, decisions, and instructions regarding cases, disputes and claims
As a judge, you may use different forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and to prepare for trials. You will listen to arguments and determine whether the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, you may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or set conditions for their release. Besides, you will have the authority to approve search and arrest warrants.
Before you pursue this line of work, you must know that it’s not as easy as it sounds. You must know that any example of poor personal judgment going forward will quite likely be discovered and discussed in the press and within communities.
Suitability of this Career
This profession can be suitable for you if you:
How to Become a Judge
Get a Law Degree
Want to make decisions that affect people’s lives
Have a passion for public service
Want to embark upon a new personal and professional challenge
Wish to gain new legal skills
Aspiring judges typically need a law degree. Besides, they also need to pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. A law degree can be compared in about 7 years after high school – 4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school. The coursework in law degree programs may include instruction in the following topics:
Some judges are appointed or elected into judge positions while others are appointed to serve on contract basis. Judicial nominating commissions screen applicants for judgeships in a number of states and for some federal positions as well.
Gain Work Experience
Before you may be elected or appointed as a judge, you must learn the necessary skills through years of experience as practicing lawyers. Though few states allow those who are not lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships; opportunities are better for those who have experience as lawyers.
Get the Training
Judges must go through training before they are elected or appointed to serve as a judge. Judicial education and training for judges is offered by The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, and the National Center for State Courts. In these programs, you will get a chance to participate in court trials, review legal publications and complete exercises. Once you go through these trainings successfully, you will be ready to serve as a judge.
Get a License
As most Judges are lawyers before they get to this position, they already hold a license to practice law.
Skills for Judges
Aspiring judges should have a variety of skills that are critical to this line of work. Some of the skills essential for judges include:
Decision-Making Skills. Judges must be able to evaluate the facts, and make the right decisions.
Critical-Thinking Skills. Critical thinking skills are also essential for judges as they are required to apply rules of law.
Listening Skills. Judges must pay close attention to what is being said so that they may evaluate information in an effective manner.
Reading and Writing Skills. Reading skills are critical to this line of work since judges need to evaluate and distinguish important facts from large amounts of sometimes complex information. Besides, aspiring judges should have strong writing skills so that they may make the right recommendations and decisions on appeals and disputes in a clear and effective way.
Judges should also be able to manage stress as this work can be quite challenging at times.
Challenges of Being a Judge
Being a judge does not mean enjoying prestige and power alone. You must also be prepared for:
Criticism in Media
Frustration with certain kinds of cases
The most difficult challenge is the public life that you may lead.
What are the Job Prospects for Judges?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 43,200 judges in 2012, all employed by federal, state, and local government.
Most job openings are due to judges leaving the occupation as a result of retirement. Though competition is strong, you if have the right skill set and experience, you may be able to qualify for this occupation.
How is the Work Environment?
As a judge you will have to mostly work in offices and courtrooms. Sometimes you may have to travel to different counties and courthouses. You may have to sit for long periods which can be physically demanding at times.
What are the Wages and Benefits?
The median annual pay for judges in 2012 was $115,760 (BLS). In addition to basic compensation, judges may enjoy a number of benefits such as:
Did You Know?
Reduced or waived bar association dues
Invitations to judges' nights, banquets, and the like
Many people avoid court trials as they can be costly and opt for arbitrators, mediators, or conciliators. These professionals play a role to some extent similar to judges and reach decisions that may be binding, requiring applicants to hold up their end of the bargain.
Becoming a judge is an opportunity to serve the community, a chance to deliver justice. Though, this is very selective position, but for those with the education, drive, experience and commitment, becoming a judge offers a respectable position with suitable pay and perks.