What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do?

In the intricate web of the justice system, criminal lawyers stand as pivotal figures, representing those accused of crimes and navigating through the complex legal landscape. This comprehensive guide, inspired by the insights of experienced practitioners and legal experts, aims to illuminate the multifaceted role of criminal lawyers in Australia.

Understanding the Role of a Criminal Lawyer

Criminal lawyers, whether working in defence or prosecution, uphold the justice system by advocating for their clients and ensuring a fair legal process. Their day-to-day responsibilities vary but include vital tasks such as client consultation, case strategy development, and active courtroom representation.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities

The daily life of a criminal lawyer is diverse and dynamic. Key responsibilities include:

  • Client Meetings: Discussing case progress and strategy.
  • Crime Scene Examination: Gathering firsthand information to build a case.
  • Independent Investigations: Collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.
  • Liaising with Prosecutors: Negotiating charges and plea bargains.
  • Court Representation: Advocating for clients in front of a judge and jury.

Key Skills and Attributes

To excel in this role, a criminal lawyer needs:

  • Comprehensive Legal Knowledge: Understanding of laws and legal procedures.
  • Strong Communication: Ability to articulate arguments effectively and negotiate persuasively.
  • Analytical Thinking: Skillfully interpreting information and devising strategies.
  • Problem-Solving Abilities: Crafting creative solutions to complex legal challenges.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Building rapport with clients and witnesses, crucial for information gathering and case presentation.

Services Offered by Criminal Lawyers

Criminal lawyers provide a wide array of services, catering to different aspects of criminal law. Their expertise spans various types of cases, each requiring a unique approach and specialized knowledge.

Types of Criminal Law Services

  • Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs): Representing clients in cases involving protection orders against abuse, harassment, or violence.
  • Assault Charges: Defending clients accused of physical harm or threatening behavior.
  • Break and Enter Offences: Handling cases involving unlawful property entry and related crimes.
  • Centrelink Fraud: Representing individuals accused of defrauding government benefits.
  • Commonwealth Offences: Dealing with federal law violations such as cybercrime, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
  • Crime Commission Inquiries: Advising and representing clients summoned for inquiry by crime commissions.
  • Dangerous Dog Cases: Advocating in cases where a dog has caused harm, leading to criminal charges against the owner.
  • Drug Offences: Defending clients charged with drug possession, use, or trafficking.
  • Firearm Offences: Handling cases of illegal possession or misuse of firearms.
  • Fraud Charges: Representing clients accused of deceptive practices for personal gain.
  • Malicious Damage: Advocating for clients charged with intentional property damage.
  • Murder and Manslaughter: Defending clients in the most serious of charges, involving unlawful killing.
  • Offences Against Public Justice: Representing those accused of obstructing justice, such as perjury or witness tampering.
  • Public Order Offences: Defending charges related to disruptive or fear-causing behaviour in public.
  • Tax Fraud: Assisting clients accused of evading tax payments or misreporting financial information.
  • Terrorism Charges: Representing individuals accused of involvement in terrorist activities or organisations.
  • Traffic Offences: Advocating for clients in cases of traffic law violations.

These services demonstrate the broad scope of criminal law and the diverse expertise required of criminal lawyers to effectively represent their clients across various legal challenges.

The Path to Becoming a Criminal Lawyer

Becoming a criminal lawyer in Australia involves a structured educational and training path:

  1. Earning a Law Degree: Completing a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) from an accredited university.
  2. Practical Legal Training: Gaining hands-on experience through programs like the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.
  3. Admission to the Bar: Becoming a lawyer of the Supreme Court in your state or territory.
  4. Obtaining a Practising Certificate: From the state or territory’s Law Society, to become a solicitor.
  5. Supervised Practice: Working under experienced lawyers to hone skills and knowledge.
  6. Becoming a Barrister: For those interested in courtroom advocacy, passing the Bar exam and completing the Readers’ Course is essential.

Real-world experiences from practising criminal lawyers provide a vivid picture of the profession. These professionals balance a rigorous schedule, often being on call for emergencies and dealing with a variety of challenging cases.

Challenges and Rewards of a Criminal Law Career

Working as a criminal lawyer is both challenging and rewarding. The role demands resilience and adaptability, as lawyers navigate sensitive and emotionally charged cases. Lawyers in this field often speak about the satisfaction derived from advocating for justice and supporting clients through critical times in their lives.

For many in this profession, the dynamic nature of criminal law, with its varied cases and legal challenges, keeps the work engaging and intellectually stimulating. From courtroom advocacy to intricate legal research, the job offers a unique blend of interaction, analysis, and strategic thinking.

Characteristics and Qualities of Successful Criminal Lawyers

Successful criminal lawyers possess a blend of skills and qualities that enable them to excel:

  • Reading Comprehension: Essential for understanding complex legal documents and case materials.
  • Effective Communication: Critical for courtroom success and client interactions.
  • Critical Thinking: Necessary for developing strategies and analyzing case law.
  • Writing Skills: Important for drafting legal documents and court submissions.
  • Active Listening: Key for client interviews and understanding opposing arguments.

Moreover, these lawyers emphasize the importance of empathy and people skills, which are vital for client relations and effective advocacy.

Advice for Aspiring Criminal Lawyers

For those looking to pursue a career in criminal law, seasoned professionals offer valuable advice:

  • Academic Excellence: A strong academic record is crucial for opening doors in the legal industry.
  • Networking: Building connections through internships and volunteer work can provide a significant advantage.
  • Exposure to Legal Practice: Gaining experience in various legal settings can help in choosing a specialization and understanding the practical aspects of the law.
  • Resilience: The ability to handle challenging situations and complex cases is vital for long-term success in this field.

Aspiring lawyers are encouraged to engage in continuous learning and to embrace the evolving nature of the legal field, especially in response to global changes like the rise of digital court processes.


Becoming a criminal lawyer involves a dedicated path of education, training, and personal development. The role, characterized by its intense nature and profound impact on society, offers a fulfilling career for those passionate about justice and advocacy. By understanding the responsibilities, challenges, and rewards of this profession, one can appreciate the crucial role criminal lawyers play in the justice system.

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