As with most careers, choosing to specialize your legal career helps separate you from the next candidate. Specializing in criminal law can be a great way to narrow your field, while still leaving yourself open to a wide variety of possibilities. Criminal law is highly competitive, but offers a great deal of job security. You may also become a board certified specialist with your state which shows potential clients or firms that you went above and beyond to gain even further credentials. Many law schools have reorganized their curriculum in order to allow for increased specialization. Recent graduates are expected to come trained in the field of law and law schools are working hard to determine just what kind of training will help them become successful. Here are some of the top recommended schools if you are considering specializing in criminal law.
- Stanford University, California
What makes Stanford unique is that they take a full spectrum approach to criminal justice. Stanford has a wide range of projects, one of which includes the Justice Advocacy Project. This project assists released prisoners and helps aid them in adapting to the community again. It also focuses on policy analysis and reform and analyzes inmates serving lengthy prison sentences for minor crimes. They recently released a report focused on race and gender diversity in the California state prosecutor’s offices.
- Harvard University, Massachusetts
According to US News & World Report just last year, Harvard University tied with Stanford as the second best law schools in the U.S. Harvard offers a real- life approach where students work with law professors on real cases. Their Criminal Justice Institute allows students to represent those accused of crimes in local courts.
- University of California – Berkeley, California
Berkeley has much to offer students because they place a lot of emphasis on research studies. Berkeley has conducted the largest study of California’s famous three strikes law. They have also conducted many empirical studies regarding capital punishment and are well known for their Death Penalty Clinic. They offer field placements, advocacy classes and a wide range of clinics to students in their programs.
- University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan highlights real world experience as part of their curriculum. They give their students a large amount of leadership when it comes to clinics that involve clients with legal needs. They guarantee each law student at least one upper level clinic as part of their program. They have 18 clinics to choose from including criminal appellate practice, child advocacy clinic, and the Michigan Innocence clinic to name a few.
- Yale University – New Haven, Connecticut
This Ivy League school does not issue grades in a traditional sense. The grading scale is honors, pass, low pass, credit or fail. Yale Law School has a wide variety of workshops students can choose from. They offer workshops such as the Cultural Coalition Project, Debating Law and Religion, and legal theory workshops. Yale keeps class sizes smaller, so if you are looking for a more personalized learning approach, Yale is a great option.
If you decide to pursue a career in criminal law, it is always good to have a mentor. Find someone who you admire and respect that is specializing in a similar area of practice. There will be many opportunities to find a mentor if you attend a college that offers multiple clinics and real world opportunities. Asking someone to become your mentor is one of the biggest compliments they could receive, and helps with any questions or concerns you may have during your own journey. While attending law school, getting involved in a number of clinics and research studies can help you narrow down a specialty practice even further.