Our alumni are well trained, highly marketable, criminal defense law attorneys and employed all over the country. Many of our alumni regard the LL.M. degree program as the reason they were hired for their current job. Being “prepared to defend” in the courtroom and having such extensive training in trial advocacy sets them apart from their peers during interviews. Here is what our LL.M. alumni have to say about their experiences:
Vishad Dewan, LL.M. '11, J.D. Santa Clara University School of Law
“Ever since entering law school I had wanted to be a criminal defense attorney; additionally, I wanted to be a trial lawyer. To that end, I took every elected class which remotely addressed trial techniques and tactics. Once graduating, I felt confident in the basics of trial work, but not competent enough to adequately go to trial. Finding a trial skills program like the LL.M. degree program at California Western was like discovering a gold mine. There is a staggering amount of knowledge and experience waiting to be tapped. Indeed, my experience at California Western has made me not only a more competent attorney, but also more confident in my abilities. Just as importantly, my time in the LL.M. program ignited a rather indispensable relationship with the instructors; this relationship has paid dividends time and time again since I graduated from California Western.
This program will teach you advanced trial techniques; will help you understand and apply federal criminal law; will open your eyes to different methods to use in your cases; and, it will drill into you the competence necessary to write motions, make oral arguments, and prepare for your trials. Most of all, the Trial Advocacy program creates relationships with numerous successful, effective and fearless criminal defense trial attorneys--relationships you may take advantage of once advocating for your own clients. In fact, I approach my cases with more confidence knowing that, at any time I have a question, I can contact Professors Mario Conte, Justin Brooks, or any of the other outstanding instructors in this program.
You will get out of this program what you choose to put in. If you work hard and take advantage of all the opportunities presented, you will graduate with confidence in your abilities. And just as importantly, you will graduate knowing that you will be part of a community specifically designed to support you in your career.”
Matt Belcher, LL.M ’06, J.D., Texas Tech University
"After spending my first summer in law school interning with the Federal Defender’s Office in Lubbock, Texas, my mind was made up; I wanted to be an Assistant Federal Public Defender. There was only one little problem, I had next to no criminal litigation experience. What was I to do? As law school graduation approached, I saw two possible options (1) I could get a job with one of the few state public defender’s offices in Texas; or (2) I could stay in school one more year and try masters of law program in Trial Advocacy at California Western School of Law in San Diego. While the decision was a hard one to make at the time, the choice I made to attend the LL.M. program was by far the best move I could have made!
My worry in attending the program was that I would be sacrificing a year of hands-on trial experience. While I was conducting mock trials, my friends were out in the real world trying cases in front of real juries. What I did not know then, however, was that while I was being taught by some of the best criminal law attorneys in the nation, my friends were learning on their own and, for the most part, they were learning very bad trial habits. On the other hand, I was learning how to successfully defend serious federal criminal charges and being equipped with the skills necessary to not only step into the high stakes realm of federal criminal defense, but to do so effectively.
After graduating from the LL.M. degree program in 2006, I took a job with the Wichita County Public Defender’s Office in Wichita Falls, Texas. With the skills and knowledge I learned from the LL.M. program, I quickly began trying serious felony cases culminating in the outright acquittal of a client charged with capital murder. Shortly after this huge victory, I accepted a job as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Fort Worth, Texas. I am by far one of the youngest (if not the youngest) AFPD hired in this district and I owe a large part of my success to the time I spent in San Diego learning how to win at trial."
Matt currently works at the Federal Public Defender in Denver, Colorado.
Javier Gonzalez LL.M. '04, J.D. Harvard Law School
"I chose to enroll in California Western’s LL.M. in Trial Advocacy program after practicing transactional corporate law for two decades in three different states. Why? I wanted to experience the thrill of the courtroom and ultimately, I felt deep satisfaction in defending the constitutional rights of those accused of federal crimes."
Gonzalez currently has his own practice, Law Office of Javier J. Gonzalez, in La Jolla, Calif.
Kara Hoopis LL.M. '06, J.D. Roger Williams University School of Law
"Spending two semesters focused exclusively on improving my federal criminal defense trial skills was an invaluable experience. The first part of the program consisted of studying with professionals who have spent their careers devoted to trial advocacy on behalf of the indigent accused. The second consisted of working alongside appointed counsel in federal criminal cases as part of my clinical placement. Working at the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. was the highlight of the program because I was able to participate in one of the finest training programs for new attorneys engaged in the practice of federal criminal law. While the nation was debating immigration legislation, I was able to work alongside the attorneys whose daily responsibilities include protecting the rights of the people charged with immigration crimes. My one semester with these attorneys was, by far, the most valuable education I have received in my career."
Shannon Jackson LL.M. '05, J.D. Michigan State University College of Law
“The LL.M. program’s approach, which combines classroom instruction on federal criminal law, advocacy skills training, and the clinical placement experience, expanded the learning process beyond the law school classroom. If you learn by doing, then this is the program for you. I went from being completely unprepared to even speak with a person charged with a federal offense to being an attorney absolutely prepared to conduct a federal criminal trial from beginning to end with no reservations as to my abilities. I can say this only because of the instruction I received from the professors in the program, the assignments, and the experience I received while practicing in federal court under the supervision of the attorneys at the Federal Defender Program at Chicago. All these experiences were then polished by going through the federal defender trial skills academy, held in San Diego at the conclusion of the LL.M. program. I highly recommend this program if you are serious about wanting to be a trial lawyer."
Jackson currently works at the Orlando Public Defender’s Office.
Stephanie-Louise Jamieson LL.M. '11, J.D. Santa Clara University School of Law
“The LL.M. program in Trial Advocacy is much more than an academic experience. Although the program emphasizes federal criminal law, the life and career skills that are taught are universal and can also be applied in any state court. After the rigors of earning my LL.M. degree, I am always prepared, punctual and professional, whether walking into an arraignment or a trial. The program taught me to think in multiple dimensions, attacking a case from all fronts with a plan for every reasonable contingency.
As a young solo practitioner, I have the challenge of convincing clients to hire me, then repeatedly proving to them that they made the right decision every step of the way. The LL.M. degree does so much more than adding a few letters to my business card. It has given me the confidence to work on cases from start to finish. Within my first year of practice, I handled major felony trials knowing that I could be successful using the solid foundation of skills taught by the talented faculty in the LL.M. program.
Like any post-graduate program, you get out of this LL.M. what you put into it. I am proud to say that my efforts resulted in such an extraordinary payoff.”
Nora Milner LL.M. '04, J.D. University of Denver School of Law
"I chose the LL.M. program in Trial Advocacy at California Western specifically because it provided hands-on experience that transfers to the real world of federal litigation. I did not want a program that only emphasized academic learning. I wanted to know the actual criminal procedures in federal court. I felt that the two mock trials in which I participated were of the caliber that I could then go into federal court and be prepared to undertake cases. I was also very impressed with the trial knowledge of the faculty and their willingness to share of their time and experiences. Overall, the degree program was immensely helpful and a powerful tool for me to enter into the world of federal criminal litigation. I was sincerely proud to receive my LL.M. degree from California Western and it occupies a place of honor in my office."
Milner is currently Senior Partner with Milner & Markee LLP in San Diego.