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To become a county prosecutor first requires the right educational background, which consists of a four year undergraduate degree and graduation from an accredited law school. A county prosecutor is the highest law enforcement officer for the county being served. Once the requisite education is complete, hands on experience and community involvement in the chosen county can be important factors in securing the post. In most US jurisdictions, county prosecutors are elected by the citizens of the county. Experience and a reputation for fairness and integrity in the community and among legal peers are essential.
No particular field of undergraduate study is necessary to be accepted to a law school. But a course of study that emphasizes verbal and written communication skills and logical thinking can be helpful in the future. Whatever the undergraduate degree chosen, academic performance during undergraduate years is an important step in gaining admittance to law school.
In most US law schools, criminal law and procedure are required courses. Instruction in legal research and writing is now mandatory in virtually all programs of study. There are many internship opportunities available in county prosecutor offices. If the goal to become a county prosecutor includes a particular county, this could be an ideal place to clerk or work as an intern. It offers a chance to gain a working knowledge of the office and to get to know some of the judges in front of whom you might practice.
Depending in the size of the county, the length of time it may take to become county prosecutor will vary. The career arc for a prosecutor is usually to begin as an assistant prosecutor, or as some jurisdictions refer to it, an assistant state’s attorney or district attorney. Generally, the first assignment of a new assistant prosecutor is traffic court. It is a way to learn courtroom procedure and rules of evidence in situations where liberty or public safety is usually not at stake.
While not considered glamorous, initial assignments like traffic court can be a good place to make an impression. Most people at some time or another will make an appearance in traffic court. The way in which they were treated by the assistant prosecutor will probably be remembered.
For someone who has chosen to become a county prosecutor, staying with the same office will lead to advancement and experience in misdemeanor and then felony cases. This presents opportunities for jury trials, during which a prosecutor’s abilities can be assessed by members of the community. A reputation for personal integrity may be the most important asset to become a county prosecutor. An old legal saying has it that the prosecutor “represents all the people,” including the defendant.