What Do Attorneys Practicing Criminal Law Do?
Criminal law attorneys prosecute or defend individuals or organizations charged with committing a crime as defined by law. Often, criminal lawyers will work with their client to reach a plea agreement; if this is not an option, they go to trial. They may be involved in every step of a case, from gathering evidence to selecting jurors to preparing arguments that will be delivered in court.
Criminal law attorneys often work as state or federal prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, and judges. To prepare for such careers, law students should recognize the goals of learning the substantive criminal law and procedure, effective written and oral communication, and strong litigation skills.
“Criminal law practice is at the very heart of our legal system where the interests of the individual are balanced against the interests of the community. The criminal law practitioner must deal with a wide array of issues, including social justice, mercy, and community engagement, all in the context of an intellectually and emotionally demanding practice.” —Professor Victor M. Hansen, Certificate Program Director
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Criminal Lawyer
Earn a Criminal Practice & Procedure Certificate
Directed by a former Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps officer, our Criminal Practice and Procedure certificate program includes doctrinal courses, skill-building classes and clinics that will place you in the courtroom alongside prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, and judges.
The certificate program emphasizes criminal law coursework, developing litigation skills, and other essential practice skills used in the criminal law field. Many of our criminal law students are also active members of the trial advocacy and moot court teams, where they learn how to effectively present arguments, prepare and question witnesses, apply the rules of court, think on their feet, and develop sophisticated legal arguments.
Criminal Practice and Procedure Courses
This certificate is awarded in conjunction with our JD degree.In addition to their foundational legal coursework, students pursuing a certificate in Criminal Practice and Procedure can choose among many exciting elective classes to meet their credit requirements. These may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Criminal Advocacy
- Criminal Defense Ethics
- Juvenile Law
- Mental Health Law
- Privacy and Law Enforcement
- Prosecutorial Ethics
- Trial Practice
- White Collar Crime
- Wrongful Convictions
Note: Criminal Procedure II is also a foundational course that all students pursuing this certificate must take.
Experiential Learning Opportunities
Students in our Criminal Practice and Procedure certificate program must meet an experiential learning requirement. Some of the hands-on learning experiences available to them include:
When you graduate from New England Law with a certificate in Criminal Practice and Procedure, you will:
- Be prepared to work in a criminal law/trial setting.
- Have hands-on experience related to your professional goals and interests.
- Understand the roles of a lawyer in various criminal law contexts.
- Know your professional and ethical responsibilities to your clients—and appreciate the power of the law and your ability to affect the lives and well-being of others.
- Have strong foundational lawyering skills, such as legal research and analysis, problem-solving, and communicating effectively.
Criminal Law Alumni Profile
So much legal work is black and white—but Teniola Adeyemi is fascinated by the gray areas in criminal law.
“It’s thought-provoking,” she says. “There are so many facets to it, so many different, interesting areas it could touch upon. And I felt like it was on the cutting edge in terms of technology and constantly changing.” Now, she gets to dive into that ever-changing criminal law work each day as an Assistant District Attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.
Adeyemi learned just how multifaceted criminal law could be as a student at New England Law | Boston, where she was a Charles Hamilton Houston Merit Scholar and member of the Honors Program. “[Criminal law] made me feel like a detective, and that’s why it really resonated with me,” she says. “You’d establish a standard and then you’d have to figure out, well, what does that mean for my case? How does that help or hurt?”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Adeyemi took advantage of practically every criminal law opportunity she could find as a student: doing three internships with various district attorney offices, joining the Criminal Procedure clinic, and taking classes like White Collar Crime. This persistent pursuit of criminal law experience was partially to figure out what she truly wanted to do with her JD, partially to gain a practical foundation for her career, and partially because of her fascination with the subject.
Adeyemi chose New England Law | Boston because she felt like the school was willing to invest in her. “This was really an environment where you could grow and make good friends and good connections along the way,” she says. “[New England Law] really helped me a lot.” Beyond the real-world experience she gained, her classes taught her the practical skills she needs in the DA’s office, from cross-examining witnesses to delivering closing arguments.
“One of the best parts of the academic programs is that you become comfortable being in court,” Adeyemi says. “It felt good to have a foundation of things that were tried and true.”