LLM Degree Program in Trial Advocacy - California Western School of Law

LLM Degree Program in Trial Advocacy

LL.M. Degree Program Specializing in Federal Criminal Defense Law

Practicing criminal law, especially in federal courts, requires a wide array of specialized knowledge, skills, and training usually not found in a standard Juris Doctor program. Law graduates wanting to become criminal defense trial lawyers often find themselves underprepared to immediately litigate trials and have few options to find the high quality of training required. To address this problem, co-founder Professor Mario Conte, former director of the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. for 14 years, helped create the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy to train future lawyers on improving their trial skills. Our curriculum and training methods are based on the ones Conte developed at Federal Defenders of San Diego, known as one of the best training programs in the country.

The LL.M. in Trial Advocacy will prepare you for practice in federal criminal court by combining classroom instruction on substantive federal criminal law, skills training, and live client representation in a federal defenders office. Many other trial advocacy LL.M. programs will include coursework on civil litigation. All of our courses focus only on criminal defense law and we believe this helps make us one of the best criminal law LL.M. programs in the country.

Prepare to Defend

  • Gain hands-on experience in our Federal Criminal Law Clinical program
  • Program founded by Former Director of the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
  • Program is focused primarily on motions practice & trial skills
  • Create valuable relationships & experience to jump-start a successful career in Federal Criminal Law

Start Your Career Here

California Western's unique relationship with federal defenders offices nationwide, along with the school’s location in San Diego (the busiest federal district in the U.S. and one of the top-ranked places to live) make our school the perfect place for law graduates to take their skills to the next level. Enrollment is limited to 10–15 students each fall which guarantees a low faculty-to-student ratio. This allows each faculty member to provide personalized attention, feedback, and supervision to each student. The student experience in and out of the classroom has proven to be useful for practice in any state or federal jurisdiction in the country.

Over 90 percent of our graduates have found success in finding jobs at defender offices and law firms all across the country. Currently, we have alumni working in California, Colorado, Texas, Rhode Island, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Washington, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. Employers tell us they are impressed with the high level of experience and knowledge of our graduates compared to other job candidates.

What makes our LL.M. degree program unique?

What sets us apart from other LL.M. programs? Our courses are not repackaged J.D. classes and are only available to our LL.M students. Each course has been designed for the LL.M. program with an emphasis on motions practice and trial skills. The faculty is composed of some of the leading trial attorneys in San Diego. All of our faculty instructors currently have their own federal criminal law defense practice and many are former Federal Defenders.

You will learn federal criminal law, federal motions practice, federal trial skills, applied federal evidence, and federal sentencing. The courses are not your typical survey courses using only casebooks and lectures. Each course incorporates hands-on training and simulations and advanced legal research and writing assignments. For example, each week, students must write and argue motions in simulated pretrial proceedings. Also, students conduct mock trials in front of active federal judges at the District Courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Students also have the opportunity to attend the week-long Federal CJA Trial Skills Academy in San Diego that, normally, only current Federal Defenders may participate in. Students attend advanced trial skills lectures and receive personalized instruction from some of the nation’s leading defense attorneys. Students will write a law review-quality paper on a federal criminal law topic and will have the opportunity to have their article selected for publication in the Federal Criminal Defense Journal.

Being located in San Diego offers special advantages to our students. San Diego is consistently named as one of the most desirable places to live and visit due to its weather, diverse neighborhoods, and famous beaches. The school is located downtown within walking distance of the federal courthouse and the Gaslamp District. There is a close-knit criminal defense community including the opportunity to attend regular meetings of the local Criminal Defense Bar Association. Also, the close proximity to the US-Mexican International Border creates more active court cases and more complex legal issues.

  • Recognized by the Judges Advocate General Corps (JAG)
  • Offers Exclusive Training by SD Federal Defenders Inc.
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Program Highlights
  • San Diego Federal Defenders Clinical Placement
  • All Faculty are Federal Defenders
  • Longest Established Trial Advocacy Program
  • Study on the beach!