How Do I Become an Attorney General?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2018
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An attorney general is a high-ranking legal adviser to a state or national government. In order to become an attorney general, it is important to get a sufficient and well-rounded education, establish a strong reputation as a licensed attorney, and make connections within the political world. Depending on the specific position, the final step needed to become an attorney general is an appointment from the government, or election by the public.

Building a strong, well-rounded educational background is the starting point for any person who wishes to become an attorney general. For undergraduate studies, it may help to choose a major that involves the study of law, the criminal justice system, writing and analytical skills, philosophy, or government. Toward the end of college, students may want to begin applying to law schools and preparing for law school examinations.

Once in law school, a student must work very hard to stand out among intelligent and dedicated colleagues. Internships, volunteer work, and participation in law-related extracurricular activities can all help a student make contacts and create an outstanding scholastic reputation. Internships or summer jobs with public defender offices can be an excellent way to gain experience with government-related law subjects. Near the end of law school, a student will need to devote many hours to preparing for licensing examinations.


After a student becomes a licensed attorney, he or she must tailor career choices to fit the profile of an attorney general. Working as a public defender or with a local government legal department is a good way to start down the path to become an attorney general. As a licensed practitioner, a lawyer must begin to develop a reputation for honesty, integrity, and authority. In some regions, a judge or military lawyer can also become an attorney general. It may take more than a decade after law school to even become a serious candidate for attorney general.

In addition to building a strong professional reputation, lawyers must also approach their personal behavior with an eye toward career goals. Since an attorney general is a political figure, aspiring lawyers must plan to incorporate integrity into their lifestyle; any brushes with the law or scandals can severely damage a person's chances of becoming a government lawyer. A person who wishes to become an attorney general must also take every opportunity to make contacts within the political world, especially with up-and-coming politicians. While attorneys general must be competent, it is also important to know well-connected political players to be considered for government jobs.

Exactly how a person can become an attorney general depends on the laws of the region. In the United States, the US attorney general is appointed by the President, while state attorneys general may be either elected by the populace or appointed by state legislators and governors. Most other nations also allow heads of state or the legislature to appoint the attorney general.



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Post 3

@Vincenzo -- I don't know if I agree with that. Here's the thing. Quite often, it is the staff of the attorney general's office that keeps the place running. A stuffed rabbit could be the attorney general and the office would still function smoothly because of the staff attorneys that are there.

If a new attorney general has any sense at all, he or she will keep the staff attorney's in place and let them keep doing their jobs. If an attorney general is a dolt and replaces the staff attorneys with a bunch of lawyers who are as dumb as he is, then there will be problems.

In other words, even an idiot who has a law license

can be attorney general if he or she has the right political connections and knows not to rock the boat too much when he or she assumes office. That might not be considered fair, but keep in mind that an attorney general who retains the old staff can't do too much damage, either.
Post 2

@Melonlity -- Some dumb and bad attorneys general have gotten into office over the years, but the truly awful ones might not last more than a term. Voters are not stupid and they know when a politician is doing his or her job or not.

Here is an example. One of the most important functions of the attorney general's office in my state is the consumer protection division. If the attorney general drops the ball there and consumers are not protected from scam artists, then that attorney general will be in a ton of trouble and will be booted out of office by the voters.

Someone might be able to get into office on political connections, but the attorney general who is not effective probably will not hold office for long. So, take heart!

Post 1

Political connections, sadly, is the single most important thing a successful attorney general must have. I know a lawyer around here who is as dumb as a box of rocks, yet the political types say that he has a very good shot at being attorney general one day.

Why? Because he is politically connected. That is just a sad fact of American politics.

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