The requirements to become a child abuse attorney will vary by jurisdiction; however, in most cases, the equivalent of a master's or doctorate degree is required, as well as passage of a standardized examination. Within the United States, in order to become a child abuse attorney, an individual must complete seven years of post-secondary education and pass the state bar examination in the state where he or she plans to practice. Law schools in the United States do not allow students to specialize in a particular area of the law while in school; however, a student who wishes to become a child abuse attorney may wish to take specific classes or complete an internship in that area while in law school.
An aspiring attorney in the United States must first complete a four-year undergraduate education before applying to law school. While all undergraduate majors are considered for law school acceptance, an individual whose ultimate goal is to become a child abuse attorney may wish to consider an undergraduate degree in psychology, social work, or a related field. By the same token, an individual who wishes to become a child abuse attorney should take advanced family law classes while in law school.
After completion of an undergraduate degree, application must be made to law school. Law schools within the United States all offer the same basic curriculum; however, many also offer internship or clinic opportunities for students. An applicant should research these opportunities before applying to law schools, as some may offer internships or clinics that focus on family law or specifically on child abuse issues. A law student should also look into employment or internship possibilities with the local Department of Family and Children Services, or equivalent, while in law school.
After successful completion of law school, attorney hopefuls must apply to become licensed in the state where they plan to practice. While application procedures may vary somewhat from state to state, most states require an applicant to pass the Bar Examination as well as the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination. A background check is also common as part of the character and fitness portion of the application process.
Once licensed, an individual who wishes to become a child abuse attorney may either decide to work for the state or for a firm that defends people accused of child abuse. Child abuse may result in criminal charges or may be the basis for removal of the child from the home under a Child In Need of Services, or CHINS, petition. While the two legal procedures are somewhat different, a prosecutor is involved in both on behalf of the state. Likewise, a parent or caregiver accused of child abuse in either legal proceeding will need a defense attorney to represent him or her. As a result, an attorney who plans to become a child abuse attorney should seek employment with the local prosecutor's office or with a firm that handles a large volume of family law cases.