How to prepare for a career in Criminal Law

Criminal Law Practice Pathway

The Law School’s criminal law curriculum is rich and diverse. Students with strong interests in criminal practice will find much from which to choose. It is not necessary (and usually not desirable) to become a specialist in a specific area of criminal practice while in law school. It usually makes more sense to take a few courses in one’s principal area of criminal practice interest and to sample other criminal law courses, perhaps on topics or from perspectives with which you are not familiar. Students should pursue a broad legal education that will widen their intellectual horizons and prepare them to recognize challenges, problems and opportunities that will inevitably arise throughout their careers.

Core Courses

All students will, of course, take Criminal Law in their first year of law school.  Students who are interested in a career in criminal practice are well-advised to use their 2L year to take the following courses, which are essential foundations for a career in criminal practice:

Criminal Procedure
Evidence 
Professional Responsibility in Criminal Practice 

Many students interested in criminal practice use their 2L summer to work in a prosecutor’s or public defender office, and the above courses provide an important foundation for doing the work that will be expected of a student intern at a prosecutor’s or public defender office, and also for understanding and critically evaluating what one observes and experiences in practice and in court. Additionally, some states have a student practice order that allows 2L’s to stand up and argue in court, and some of those practice orders require that the student has already taken Evidence and/or Criminal Procedure.

Advanced Courses

Students who plan to enter a career in criminal practice should also plan to take a clinic. Advice on when to take a clinic.

Beyond these essential courses, students should take courses in the areas of criminal practice that are of particular interest to the student. See courses arranged by practice area

Internships and Summer Jobs

Students considering a career in criminal practice generally should seek to intern for the summer and/or during the semester in a prosecutor’s or public defender’s office in order to: 1) explore whether they enjoy the work; 2) gain valuable experience for the post-graduate job search; and 3) make an impression on potential future employers.  It is most useful to spend a 2L summer in such an office because 2Ls are given more responsibility and thus gain more experience. More about term-time internships and summer jobs.