By: Katherine Storms
What is a Prosecutor?
What Does a Prosecutor Do?
Some daily tasks and responsibilities would be doing research, analyzing information, talking to people and government officials, and more. For this reason, any and all lawyers must be fair, just, skilled at research/problem-solving, communication, have a strong sense of civic duty, practice discretion about clients, and have the need for justice. These types of lawyers may be assigned to one part of the law (i.e. criminal, sex crimes, corporate crimes, etc), or they may be responsible for any and all cases to come their way.
What Kind of Education Does a Prosecutor Need?
In order to become a lawyer, one needs an undergraduate degree (a Bachelor's) and a law school degree. Commonly, one must earn a Juris Doctor, or JD, from an institution approved by the American Bar Association. Additionally, a prospective lawyer must take and pass the BAR exam for any state in which they choose to practice law. However, this is the bare minimum, for the higher in the government a lawyer is, the more training the lawyer must undergo. Possible majors before entering law school include but are not limited to: Criminal Justice, History, Government & Politics, or English.
Is it a Hot Field? What's the Salary?
The job outlook is mediocre, for there is an expected increase of 10% between 2010 and 2020, which translates into 20,000 new job listings annually. The pay rate is contingent on the lawyer's experience, location, and career advancement. Seniority is really important in the field of law. However, there is a median salary, which was $62,000 in 2014 for entry-level prosecutors.
What is it Like to Work in a Prosecutor’s Office?
What are Some Related Courses and Extra-Curricular Activities?
- AP Government: teaches students the fundamentals of American government and politics, including hierarchies, public policies, precedences set for political incidence, and a general overview of our executive, legislative, and judicial bodies
- AP Human Geography: a class relating to everything in the world but physics, biology, chemistry, and advanced math. This class teaches students about the people of the world, trends, cultures, languages, religions, and so many other things key to interacting with others
- Language classes: teach communication and simple, concise thinking and speaking- skills necessary in a court of law and speech-giving
Relevant extra-curricular activities include Debate Club, Key Club, S.A.G.E. (Sexuality and Gender Equity), National Honor Society, and Spanish Honor Society.
- Debate: fundamentals of research, arguments, and how Congress works. Includes skills like refuting, questioning, and dealing with pressure from being questioned
- Key Club: a club meant to help students find opportunities to volunteer, helping their community, as well as improve their senses of selflessness and awareness
- S.A.G.E.: develop understanding and empathy for the unique struggles many people deal with on a daily basis regarding identity and self-acceptance
- National Honor Society/National Spanish Honor Society: meant to recognize excellence and outstanding students in high schools and develop superiority in the categories of scholarship, leadership, service, and character
Work Experience/Internship Opportunities Available to High School Students
- Daniel Landau- teacher and Debate coach at Grayslake Central. I have known Mr. Landau for two years and he knows my passion for arguing and using evidence to further any argument made, in Debate or in life.
- Chris D'Amico- teacher and Debate coach at Grayslake Central. Mr. D'Amico also knows that I love to research on possible bills and communicate my ideas in order to formulate a strong argument.
- Jeffrey Barry- teacher at Grayslake Central, my former English teacher. Mr. Barry could contribute about my analytical skills in regard to literature, which does not directly correlate to analytical skills in the real world, but it is definitely a starting point to be able to look at text and gauge an overall argument from many different elements put together.
Plan A: Notre Dame University to Columbia University
- Average Tuition: $46,237/year
- Average ACT score: 33
- Average GPA: 4.11
- Admission Rate: 22%
Columbia University: get law degree/Juris Doctor (JD)
- Average Tuition: $62,700/year
- Median GPA: 3.71
- Median LSAT: 172
I chose Notre Dame because it is one of the Little Ivies, meaning it's a very good school with a high-quality education program. It also is not far from home- just a 2.5 hour drive. Columbia is also an exceptional law school with a reputation for having a large majority of the students pass the BAR exam the first time it is taken.
Plan B: University of Minnesota for Both
- Average Tuition: $26,304/year
- Average ACT: 31
- Average SAT: 1470
- High School Rank that is Preferred: 81-96%
University of Minnesota- Law School
- Average Tuition: $42,231/year
- Median GPA: 3.79
- Median LSAT: 164
I chose the University of Minnesota because they offer a program in which nonresidents can pay the in-state resident tuition fees. The qualifications are just to meet nonresident standards, outlined in the link below. The law school is also one of the top 25 in the entire country.
EXTRA: Interview With Ms. Jennifer Lindt, an Assistant State's Attorney at the State Attorney's Office: Highlights
"The biggest change I hope to make in society is through helping victims. I believe society is changed often by small steps such as an impact on a single person’s life."
Any tips on managing stress, anxiety, and the workload?
"I definitely have a stressful and heavy workload, but I also have an incredibly fulfilling job. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing a victim has seen justice on his or her case or at the very least people fighting for him or her. This helps with the day to day stress in a lot of ways because a little of that goes a long way. I also have hanging in my office reminders from cases over the years such as a picture colored by victims for me which remind me why we do what we do."
To be objective or to be emotional? What about passion?
"Staying objective is a necessity in order to be focused on what needs to be done, what are the true strengths and weaknesses in any case, and simply to keep your sanity...That being said, most prosecutors have a deep passion for their work and I am certainly no exception."
Do you ever feel a trial is unfair? If so, what do you do?
"Absolutely, there have been times I felt a trial was unfair. There have been times I have walked out of a courtroom after a trial on one of my cases or one of my colleagues and wondered if the jury had been listening to the actual evidence or what a judge was thinking. I have felt completely dumbfounded by jury verdicts and judicial rulings. However, most of the time this is not true. Frankly, often times there is nothing I can do about it. While a defendant has several layers of appeals by which he can proceed, a prosecutor cannot appeal a not guilty finding by court or jury. It’s an all or nothing process."
Why a Lawyer?
What Have I Learned?