Parole Lawyer: Career and Education Information

Oct 20, 2021

Several years of postsecondary study are required in order to become a lawyer. After earning a bachelor's degree, it's necessary to attend law school for three years. After graduating from law school, graduates need to pass the state bar exam.

Essential Information

A parole lawyer is an attorney who practices criminal law. The parole lawyer advocates on behalf of prisoners seeking parole or a release from prison before the termination of a sentence. Parole lawyers also work on behalf of parolees when their parole is threatened with revocation.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Other Requirements State bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 4% (for all lawyers)
Median Salary (2020)* $126,930 (for all lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

A criminal lawyer represents individuals accused of crimes such as misdemeanors (minor crimes like petty theft or jaywalking) or felonies (major crimes like rape or murder). Unlike civil cases, which involve legal disputes and property or financial settlements, criminal courts often result in incarceration for individuals who are found guilty. These same individuals are the ones who later seek parole.

History of Parole Law

In 1837, Massachusetts legislators sought a system other than pardons, which absolved sentences entirely, and enacted the first state legislation authorizing parole. They included the threat of revoking the parole for misbehavior to deter criminal activities. By 1889, 12 other states had enacted similar legislation, and by 1944, all existing states had followed suit.

Career Steps

Parole or criminal lawyers may practice on their own. Alternatively, they may practice in a law firm as an associate (a salaried attorney) or as a partner (a part-owner of the firm). After several years of practice with a firm, an associate may become a partner.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary in 2020 for all lawyers was $126,930. Salaries, however, vary widely among the different law specialties and geographical locations. Lawyers practicing in their own law firm generally earn less than partners in larger firms.


The job growth for lawyers in general is expected to be average, according to the BLS, or about 4% from 2019-2029. Competition for jobs is expect to be strong due to the large number of students graduating yearly from law schools. The best jobs are given to law graduates with superior academic records from the most prestigious law schools.


Lawyers, regardless of their specialties, usually follow a similar educational path: they acquire a 4-year bachelor's degree and then a 3-year law degree referred to as the J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence). Applicants to a law school approved by the American Bar Association are required to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Degree Programs

Although no particular bachelor's degree is required for admission to law school, undergraduate courses such as English, foreign languages, government, public speaking and history are recommended. During the first year and a half in law school, students study basic courses such as contracts, property law, torts, civil procedure and legal writing. Thereafter, they specialize in a particular branch of the law field, such as criminal law.


Students have an opportunity to practice parole law, as well as general criminal law, by enrolling in law clinics offered at many law schools. In general, they work with clients charged with misdemeanors and felons in district and superior courts, conduct investigations, file motions, negotiate with prosecutors and participate in trials.


Lawyers must pass the state bar examination in order to gain licensure and practice law in a particular state. State laws governing crime differ from state to state, so attorneys representing a parolee must be licensed to practice in the parolee's state.

Parole lawyers focus on criminal law. They represent criminals who are incarcerated and are applying for early release from prison. They may also work with individuals released on parole who may have their early release revoked.

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