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Career as Criminal Lawyer

Criminal lawyers practice law and argue cases to defend or prosecute individuals, corporations and government from charges that are criminal in nature. These include charges that are defined in India’s Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), such as violence, embezzlement, drug-related crimes and crimes under the influence. The job of a criminal lawyer extends from arguing to advising the client and also playing a part in the process of investigation. A lawyer is supposed to investigate the case at hand, develop a defence or prosecution strategy, negotiate with the other side on charges and draft arguments. India is currently seeing an improved judicial scene and the requirement of lawyers is bound to increase with the ever-increasing number of cases pending Practising criminal law in the country, hence, provides numerous opportunities for growth in both the public and private sectors.

Job Profile

Career as Criminal Lawyer

A career in criminal law is among the most coveted careers in the law field. Criminal lawyers  can work independently in the Indian judicial system. The performance and cases taken up by lawyers are the major factors in deciding their promotion to serve  in more prestigious courts; for example, from district to state, and from state to central level. The prestige of the case taken up by lawyers also decides the compensation received, as does the length of the case. Mostly, lawyers first choose to serve as an intern or associate under a more experienced lawyer to acquaint themselves with practical factors and considerations related to the criminal law field. They may then choose to start  their independent law practice.

The job of a lawyer can be significantly hectic and taxing. Early morning  and late nights are a regular part of a lawyer’s practice. These are generally accompanied by large volumes of reading, writing and travel. Lawyers may be required to handle multiple cases at the same time, and have to wait long weeks and months for hearing dates.

Apart from independent practice, other opportunities available for criminal lawyers are in the government sector, the private sector and academia. Criminal lawyers may serve as prosecutors for the government. They are appointed by the state or central government, and argue cases on behalf of them or their clients. In the private sector, criminal lawyers may advise corporations on matters such as legality, ethics and law compliance.

Role and Salary

The roles and salaries offered to a Lawyer can vary widely with the company as well as position. For Freelance Lawyers, compensations can differ widely with case and client. Fixed employment opportunities are also available for individuals with a degree in criminal law, as advisors, consultants and associates. Academia also provides fixed employment opportunities for graduates in Criminal Law opportunities for graduates in Criminal Law.


Salary (Per Annum)


Mostly self-employed

Legal Advisor

Rs 5,00,000


Rs 6,00,000


Rs 6,00,000


Rs 8,00,000

Law Officer

Rs 8,00.000

Legal Consultant

Rs 7,00,000

Legal Associate

Rs 9,00,000

Future Growth Prospects and How to get there faster

India has a widely reported shortage of courtrooms, which has been clogging up the country’s judicial system for decades now. As per various reports, there are only 18,400 courtrooms available in the country at the lowest level, which means a shortage of at least 4,000 rooms. Furthermore, the working judicial strength in terms of manpower is less than 70% of what is required. More than  three crore cases are currently pending in India’s lower courts, and more are added every day. Add to this the pendency and shortage in tribunals and other purpose courts, the situation is grim, but also provides immense opportunities for growth in the profession of law. As the government ramps up the redevelopment of the judicial system, the requirement of lawyers is bound to increase, providing great scope for growth in the field.

Pros and Cons of being a Criminal Lawyer


  •  Opportunities for growth provided by the criminal law field are exceptionally high as compared to other fields in law.

  •  An opportunity to save lives, and work for prestigious organizations and companies.

  • Potentially high-paying career.


  • Long working hours, full of reading, writing and arguing cases.

  • Highly competitive field.

  • Requires a significant amount of travel, especially at lower levels

How do I get there?

  • The essential requirement for admission to a bachelor’s course is the completion of a senior secondary certificate from an accredited education board. There are no essential subject requirements in Class XII. Admission is generally based on the score achieved in the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) or university-specific entrance examinations.

  • For Masters’ courses, the admission requirement varies with course. Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy courses generally require a law or arts degree from an accredited college or university. Admission is through an entrance test. The Master of Law degree requires a corresponding bachelor’s law degree.

  • To become a Lawyer, aspirants need to pass the All India Bar Exam (AIBE), a national level examination held by the Bar Council of India twice a year. The general criteria to clear the Bar exam is 40% for General and Other Backward Classes candidates, and 35% for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates.


The Bachelor of Law degree is the basic requirement to become a Lawyer. Further specialization can be achieved through an appropriate postgraduate degree.

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

  • Three year Bachelor of Law (LLB)

  • Five year Bachelor of Law (LLB)

Masters’ Degree Courses

  • Master of Law (LLM) in Criminal Law

  • Master of Law (LLM) in Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Criminology and Criminal Justice

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Criminal Law

  • Master of Science (MSc) in Criminology

How much does it cost?

A degree in law, whether from government or private universities, can cost significantly higher than other degrees and certifications. Courses at the bachelor level in government institutes start at around Rs 60000 per annum, while in private institutes they may go up to more than five times this amount. Master’s course also costs roughly the same, though stipends can cushion the load significantly.

What are the Top Colleges where one should be studying to become a Criminal Lawyer?

India is home to several prestigious law colleges. These colleges offer bachelor, master and doctoral courses as well as diploma and certificate courses in law.

Rank of College

Name of College

Programme Fees (Annual)


National Law School of India University, Bangalore

Rs 170000 (LLB)


National Law University, New Delhi

Rs 85000 (LLB)


NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad

Rs 125000 (LLB)


National Law University, Jodhpur

Rs 85000 (LLB)


Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, Delhi

Rs 85000 (LLB)

Books and other Study Material

  • Supreme Court on Criminal Procedure Code and Criminal Trial By Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik

  • V.G. Ramachandran's Contempt of Court By V.K. Mehrotra

  • International and European Criminal Law By Helmut Satzger

  • Scientific Techniques in Criminal Investigation By Bridges, Vollmer & Chief Justice M Monir

What if this career does not work out for me? What are the other options for a person with these credentials?

In case a career in Criminal Law does not work out, various options such as a career in academia, or as a consultant to a company remain open. While opportunities in the latter are few and far between, academia can be a relatively stable option, though requiring higher qualifications, such as, a doctoral degree.

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Content on this page is by Career Expert
Mrs. Kum Kum Tandon
MA (Psychology), M.Ed, Diploma in Educational Psychology, Vocational Guidance & Counseling (NCERT, Delhi) | View Complete Profile

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