What are the Different District Attorney Positions?

Dale Marshall
Dale Marshall
District attorneys represent the state's case in criminal trials.
District attorneys represent the state's case in criminal trials.

A district attorney (DA) generally has a number of legal professionals working under her supervision, often classified as assistant district attorneys (ADAs) or deputy district attorneys. In addition, most district attorneys’ offices employ paralegal staff, high-level administrative staff and general clerical staff. Larger DA’s offices are often structured to permit ADAs to concentrate on specific types of crime, such as narcotics crimes or misdemeanors; they may also employ other specialists, such as investigators and victim counselors, as well as other administrative and technical staff. District attorneys in the United States are usually elected by the people of a county as their government’s chief legal officer, and the entire complement of staff in the office assist the district attorney in the prosecution of criminal cases and in representing the government against lawsuits.

The most well known of the district attorney positions are the ADAs and deputy DAs, who act for the DA, under her direction and supervision, in the prosecution of criminal cases tried in the county. Because they engage in litigation and represent the people in court, they must be lawyers admitted to the bar of the state they’re working in. Law students and newly graduated lawyers who haven’t yet passed the bar exam are sometimes hired by DA offices on a provisional basis, but they cannot appear in court as prosecutors. Newly hired lawyers generally start on misdemeanor cases and other minor cases until they develop the experience to work on major cases. Lawyers who work for DAs often have a significant workload that doesn’t involve court appearances, including such things as legal research, preparation of briefs, legal memoranda and statements of fact.

District attorney positions aren’t limited just to lawyers. Paralegals are not lawyers, but have legal training and experience, and can play a crucial role in the operation of a DAs office, assisting with research and document preparation. Many DAs offices rely on county or municipal law enforcement for support on investigations, while some employ their own investigators. Larger DA offices may also employ victim counselors, generally college-educated professionals with special training in psychology and counseling. Senior administrative staff, sometimes called legal secretaries, generally have received specialized training in the administration of a legal office. Some DA offices also employ a dedicated finance staff or information technology (IT) staff; others will rely on the county’s resources.

In general, a DA is elected for every county in the United States, and each hires some staff into the district attorney positions. New lawyers often seek employment in a DAs office because it gives them a good introduction to the administration of justice in a practical environment, as well as the opportunity to be litigating in a courtroom shortly after passing the bar. There’s competition for district attorney positions, especially in the larger metropolitan areas of the country, but a competent lawyer can be confident of finding a job in a DAs office.

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    • District attorneys represent the state's case in criminal trials.
      By: Gina Sanders
      District attorneys represent the state's case in criminal trials.