Criminal Lawyer: Learn more about this legal professional (2022)

If you are thinking about taking the entrance exam in Law and have already done some research on the subject, you must have noticed that this is an extremely vast field, full of professional possibilities and different areas of activity, such as Labor , Tax, Business and Criminal Law, for example.

In today’s post, we will talk a little more about Criminal Law and the career of a criminal lawyer, one of the most dynamic and broad professions within Law. Throughout this content, you will discover:

  • what is Criminal Law and its transformations throughout history;
  • what does a criminal lawyer do;
  • what is the profile of professionals in the area;
  • what are the career possibilities within Criminal Law.

In addition, we also list some inspiring films for those who want to pursue a career. Keep reading and learn more about this very interesting subject!

After all, what is Criminal Law?

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Criminal law is the branch of law focused on the resolution of conflicts related to the violation of laws by individuals or legal entities. It is one of the broadest areas and with many possibilities to be explored by those who wish to pursue a legal career , dealing with the most diverse types of crimes, such as trafficking crimes, common crimes, economic crimes (known as white collar crimes) etc. .

To better understand Criminal Law, it is interesting to understand how the branch was formed over recent history. The emergence of sovereign laws to the State was largely responsible for imposing limits on totalitarian forms of government at the time of monarchies – from the liberal revolutions of the 18th century onwards –, which revolutionized the way nations dealt with penalties and crimes. This is the origin of what we now call the Rule of Law.

At that time, there was no differentiation between Law and Law. It was only after the emergence of the Constitutions that the concept of justice as opposed to laws emerged — that is, not everything that is legal is fair. With this, the State of Constitutional Law emerges.

Another important transformation that affected the area of ​​Criminal Law took place in 1948, after the Second World War, with the creation of the International Treaty on Human Rights  . From then on, most nations began to consider not only the Penal Code and the Constitution, but also the rights established by the Treaty.

As you can see, the context in which Criminal Law is inserted — also known as Criminal Law, as it studies criminal laws — has undergone radical changes throughout history, and its application is not limited to laws and codes. Therefore, it is necessary for the professional in the area to have extensive knowledge about the most diverse aspects that involve a criminal process and the subjects involved in it.

During graduation, the law student has contact with several disciplines in the area, such as Criminology, Criminal Procedural Law, Penitentiary System, Economic Criminal Law, Crimes against the person, etc. But that is not enough: given the current context and the transformations of the new millennium, professions linked to Law began to demand global knowledge, which goes beyond the traditional and specific disciplines of each area, such as knowledge linked to international human rights treaties, for example, aiming to understand the contexts and causes more broadly.

Who is the criminal lawyer and what are their challenges?

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As we said, the Criminal area is one of the most dynamic within the Law and one of the main professions in the field is that of criminal lawyer. This is a professional of extreme relevance in the social sphere, since he works in the protection of fundamental human rights, such as individual freedom and the right to come and go.

Unlike other lawyers specializing in other areas , the criminal lawyer (or penalist) does not only work in the office or in court. He is involved in the entire process in the case of an arrest warrant, visiting his client at the penitentiary and reporting to the police station.

Among the main functions of a criminal lawyer, in addition to guiding his client throughout the process, we can highlight:

  • application for habeas corpus ;
  • request for relaxation or revocation of imprisonment;
  • defense in criminal proceedings and police investigation;
  • request for provisional release;
  • resource input;
  • criminal review;
  • request to file a criminal complaint, etc.

Among the main challenges faced by criminal lawyers are abuses of legality, such as preventing unrestricted access to the client. In theory, everyone is equal before the law, but, in practice, even the client’s economic situation changes the way he is treated and even judged before the courts in Brazil.

Another challenging issue for those who choose the profession is the bad impression that a large part of the population has in relation to the criminal lawyer. Especially in cases of great notoriety in the media, the defense attorney ends up being confused with the accused. It is worth remembering that every citizen has the right of defense and, in these situations, it is not up to the lawyer to judge, but to defend the client’s rights.

With regard to professional ethics, the good criminal lawyer must be, at the same time, combative and respectful, keeping the focus on his client, but without adopting a hostile or aggressive posture. This also contributes to transforming the image of this professional in the eyes of society, so that it is seen with more respect.

Finally, it is recommended that criminal lawyers always continue to specialize through postgraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. Studies, both practical and theoretical, will always help in the training of qualified professionals with extensive knowledge, which will lead to fairer processes.

5 areas of expertise of the criminal lawyer

As you can see so far, the area of ​​expertise of a Criminal Law professional is quite broad, requiring a lot of dedication and studies. Below, we list the top 5 career possibilities for criminal lawyers, their responsibilities and how to conquer them. Check out:

1. Private lawyer

The private criminal lawyer acts in private criminal cases, generally speaking, as a defense attorney. Its role is to defend the interests of its clients, always in accordance with the laws in force in the country. Among his responsibilities are to ease penalties or get better conditions for his clients in the face of accusations.

The salary of a criminal lawyer will depend on his performance, as he can be an employee of an office (with a fixed salary) or act independently. Thus, his remuneration will be equivalent to the number of clients and processes with which he is involved.

2. Public Defender

The public defender acts in the same way as the lawyer, but he is a civil servant – that is, paid by the government. According to the laws of Brazil, all citizens have the right to a defense, however, not everyone has the means to pay for the service of a lawyer.

The public defender is the professional who will guarantee the defense of the accused in this situation. In addition, he can also act as a defender in emergency cases, before the accused gets a private lawyer.

This is a highly coveted career due to the high remuneration of a public defender, whose starting salary is around R$20,000.00. In addition, for many, it is one of the noblest careers within the law, due to its important social role.

3. Prosecutor

The prosecutor, also known as public prosecutor , is a government official, acting in the Public Ministry as the person responsible for the prosecution in trials in public criminal actions — that is, crimes against the state or crimes considered serious and that affect the social order. , such as murder or torture.

To become a prosecutor, it is necessary to pass a public prosecutor’s competition, in addition to training in Law, with approval at the OAB and three years of experience in legal practice. The profession offers a very attractive remuneration, with a starting salary of around R$ 27,000.00.

4. Chief Justice

The delegate career is a good choice for those who want a more technical performance to apply their knowledge in the area of ​​Criminal Law. This is a function that requires legal reasoning and extensive knowledge of the laws, in addition to acting very close to the population – which makes the delegate a very relevant social agent.

They are also civil servants, and it is necessary to have a degree, registration with the OAB and a minimum of two years of experience in the legal field (can be police work). The competitions for the position have physical, essay and oral exams. The salary range for the position varies, on average, between R$10,000.00 and R$15,000.00.

In the Civil Police, the delegate’s functions include heading the police station, opening investigations and conducting investigations and expertise. In the Federal Police, the delegate works together with other institutions, in the investigation and selection of evidence.

5. Criminal judge

The judiciary is probably the most coveted career among legal professionals. It is a public office (state or federal) of higher degree and for life – that is, once approved in the competition and after two years of exercising the function, he becomes a judge for the rest of his life.

But this is a position as difficult as it is attractive, since the exams to become a judge are extremely complex, involving objective and subjective theoretical tests, practical tests, titles, oral tests, etc.

Among the functions of a criminal judge are decision-making in cases, analysis of cases, hearings, issuing orders, among other responsibilities. The minimum salary for a judge is around R$ 20,000.00, plus bonuses and benefits. It is estimated that the total remuneration varies from R$40,000.00 to R$150,000.00.

What is the profile of the criminal lawyer?

Below, we list some of the main characteristics and skills that make up the profile of a criminal lawyer. Follow closely:

Good moral and ethical sense

Valuing morality and ethics may seem an obvious obligation for professionals working in the field of Law, however, in practice, this is not always what happens. Often, bad professionals take advantage of loopholes in the law, make dubious interpretations or even try to influence and mislead jurors, breaching the oath taken when becoming a Bachelor of Laws.

Good communication and argumentation

Good communication, both oral and written, is essential for criminal lawyers. The professional must know how to speak correctly and appropriately to the context and environment in which he is inserted, in addition to mastering the grammatical and orthographic rules of the language.

The ability to develop solid arguments through evidence and evidence, demonstrating them logically and clearly, is also indispensable for the professional who seeks career success.


Oratory is directly linked to the communication and argumentation skills mentioned above, but they are not synonymous. Popularly known as “the art of public speaking”, it goes far beyond simple eloquence: you can study techniques and improve your skills over time.

Mastering the techniques and rules of oratory is essential for anyone who wants to pursue a career as a criminal lawyer. This skill will be essential to convey information and demonstrate arguments in a clear, cohesive and coherent manner, especially during hearings and trials.

persistence and dedication

These are two characteristics that the legal professional cannot lack — and they become clear from the very first steps in his career. Graduation, in itself, already demands a lot from the student, with a huge volume of readings and complex subjects.

In addition to all the effort within the Faculty of Law , there is also the examination by the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), which is quite difficult and mandatory for anyone who intends to work in the area.

Finally, those who wish to pursue a public career will still need to dedicate themselves to studies for the competitions, which are usually among the most competitive in the country.

I like studies

As you can see, choosing a career in Criminal Law is synonymous with a lot of study over a lifetime. And in addition to what we have shown above, there are still some areas of knowledge that are quite relevant for the professional who wants to become a criminal lawyer, such as legal psychology, which helps in the interpretation of subjective signs in speech and body language, and Legal Medicine, which brings greater knowledge about what happens during the expertise.

In addition, the professional must have full knowledge of Criminalistics, whose focus is the criminal investigation itself, involving various sciences and investigative techniques. Other very relevant areas are Environmental Law and Digital Law , which are growing every day and whose laws are still under construction.

Inside the area: 3 renowned films to inspire you in your criminal career

1. The Sun Is For Everyone (1962)

Directed by Robert Mulligan, the movie The Sun Is For All is based on the book by Harper Lee and brings a great lesson in persistence in the legal career. The plot takes place in a southern city in the United States in the 1930s, and has as its theme the issue of racism and segregation in the country.

The production tells the story of attorney Atticus Finch, played by Oscar winner Gregory Peck, from the perspective of his children. When taking on the defense of a young black man accused of raping a white woman, Finch is criticized by the entire population of the city, but he remains firm in his role, as he believes in his client’s innocence.

2. A Dream of Freedom (1994)

Another movie classic that involves the legal theme, A Dream of Freedom tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, who is accused of murdering his own wife and sentenced to life in prison.

The film shows his life inside the prison, revealing a little more about how the prison system works in the United States, and also the trial of crimes like Dufresne’s. Throughout the plot, the banker seeks to adapt to his new life inside the prison and builds a strong friendship with Ellis Boyd (Morgan Freeman), also sentenced to life imprisonment.

3. Signature (1993)

This is another great film about ethics in the practice of law. Starring Tom Cruise, the film The Firm tells the story of Mitch McDeere, played by Cruise, an early career lawyer who is invited to work at a large law firm.

McDeere accepts the proposal but, over time, begins to notice numerous irregularities in the company’s performance. And a detail: mysteriously, all employees who disagree with the conduct end up dying.

In addition to the issue of good arguments, the film also sheds light on the commitment needed to work in the field of law, which must go beyond personal interests.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the construction of a successful career is directly influenced by the quality of your academic training. Therefore, choosing the educational institution where you will study your law degree is the first step towards a promising professional future.

Therefore, it is important to look for a serious university recognized by the Ministry of Education, which has a good physical structure, student support systems, adequate teaching material and a specialized and highly qualified faculty.

If you’ve come this far, you already have enough information to know if a career as a criminal lawyer is a good option for your professional future. But don’t stop here: research more in depth about each of the possibilities brought by the profession, learn about the details of the area and seek to talk to professionals who already work in Criminal Law.

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