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


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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!

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. Aspiring criminal defense trial lawyers often find themselves underprepared to immediately litigate trials with few options for the high quality training required. To address this problem, program 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 improve the trial skills of future lawyers. Our curriculum and training methods are based on those 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 prepares students for practice in federal criminal courts by combining classroom instruction on substantive federal criminal law, skills training, and live client representation in a federal defender's office. Many other trial advocacy LL.M. programs include coursework on civil litigation, but our courses focus only on criminal defense law.  We believe this helps make us one of the best criminal law LL.M. programs in the country.

Prepare to Defend

  • Provides hands-on experience in our federal criminal law clinical program
  • Founded by Former Director of the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.
  • Focused primarily on motions practice and trial skills
  • Creates valuable relationships and 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 ratio allows each faculty member to provide personalized attention, feedback, and supervision to each student. Our students' experience in and out of the classroom has proven useful for practice in any state or federal jurisdiction in the country.

Our graduates have found success in defenders' 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 our graduates' high level of experience and knowledge compared to other job candidates.

What makes our LL.M. degree program unique?

What sets us apart from other LL.M. programs? Our courses, only available to our LL.M. students, are not repackaged J.D. classes. 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 practices and many are former federal defenders.

Students will learn federal criminal law, motions practice, trial skills, applied evidence, and sentencing. The courses are not your typical survey courses using only casebooks and lectures. Each course incorporates hands-on training, 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, in which only current federal defenders may participate normally. Students attend advanced trial skills lectures and receive personalized instruction from some of the nation’s leading defense attorneys. Students write a law review-quality paper on a federal criminal law topic and have the opportunity to submit their article for publication in the Federal Criminal Defense Journal.

Our location in San Diego offers special advantages to 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. Close proximity to the U.S.-Mexico international border creates more active court cases and more complex legal issues.

Recognition

  
  • Recognized by the Judges Advocate General Corps (JAG)
  • Offers Exclusive Training by SD Federal Defenders Inc.

Program Highlights

  • San Diego Federal Defenders Clinical Placement
  • All Faculty are Federal Defenders
  • Longest Established Trial Advocacy Program
  • Study on the beach!