Howard received his Bachelor of Arts degree in the Social and Behavioral Sciences from the University of South Florida in 1975. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1978.
He has practiced both as a government lawyer and in the private sector. While in private practice, he was a partner in the law firm of Brackey, Finkelstein and Dallas, and specialized in criminal defense. In 1987, Finkelstein's license to practice law was suspended after he pleaded no contest to drug possession and driving under the influence. Prosecutors also accused him of using his position as an attorney to obtain a court order that allowed him to retrieve drugs confiscated from a client.
As a public defender for most of the past 34 years, he has represented indigent citizens charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanors to murder. As a Chief Assistant Public Defender, Howard was instrumental in forming the first drug court in Florida  and initiating a misdemeanor and felony mental health court in Broward County.
He also serves as the on-air legal analyst for WSVN Channel 7 News for the past 17 years. In that capacity he has provided gavel to gavel legal commentary in the case of the State of California vs. O.J. Simpson and has provided ongoing commentary during the USA vs Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma bombing trial, the President Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Princess Diana investigation, Bush vs Gore legal battle for the Presidency, the “nanny” murder trial, INS vs Elian Gonzalez, the Terry Schiavo right to die case and the Marv Albert and Michael Jackson trials. His televised commentaries during the O.J. Simpson trial made him a star on local Florida television. WSVN-TV still uses his "Help me, Howard" feature.
Howard has been recognized by many organizations for his work and his community service. Some of those awards include being honored as "Man of the Year" by the Deerfield Beach Democratic Club (2013), the Advocates of Distinction Award from the Center for Independent Living of Broward (2010), the Samuel M. & Helene Soref Community Service Award, Samuel M. & Helene Soref Jewish Community Center (2008), the Civics in Action Award, Broward League of Women Voters (2008), the Stars of the Rainbow, Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida (2008), the “Elected Official of the Year”, Coalition to End Homelessness (2007), the Distinguished Achievement in Public Service Award and Presidents National Medal of Patriotism Award, the American Police Hall of Fame (2005), the Profiles of Excellence Award, Henderson Mental Health Center (2004), the Independent Spirit Award, the Center for Independent Living (2002), the Southern Caribbean University Service Award (2001), the Venetian Toastmasters Communicator Award for Outstanding Community Service (2000), the Citizen of the Year, the National Association of Social Workers (2000), the Humanitarian of the Year, the Broward County Young Democrats (1999), the Harry Gulkin Award for Honesty and Integrity from the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (1996), the E.P.I.C. (Exceptional People Impacting the Community) Award, the Mental Health Association of Broward County (1996). In addition, the Broward County Commission has declared May 21, 2000, February 8, 2003 and September 12, 2003 as Howard Finkelstein Appreciation Day.
- Broward Country public defender official biography
- Website of law office of Broward Country public defender
- Michelle Reuss, Attorney Given Probation, Fine For Drug Charges, [South Florida Sun-Sentinel],
- Karla D Shore, Broward Public Defender Praised, [South Florida Times],
- Glenn Garvin, Casey Anthony verdict outrage: critics blame Nancy Grace, Geraldo Rivera and other media figures, Associated Press, July 7, 2011.
- Dan Christensen, Broward public defender demands attorneys for poor in minor cases, Miami Herald, January 13, 2011.
- WSVN7 News, County public defender honored as "Man of the Year", WSVN-TV, September 22, 2013.