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Schools for Aspiring Criminal Attorneys: How to Choose

Aspiring criminal attorneys have several factors to consider when selecting a law school, such as academic reputation, alumni success and cost. To practice criminal law, individuals must earn a Juris Doctor degree and pass the state bar exam.

There are many colleges and universities in the United States that can train aspiring criminal attorneys through Juris Doctor degree programs. Students can choose between them based on the educational opportunities they provide.

Top Ten Law Schools

In 2016, these law schools were ranked the top ten in the country by U.S. News & World Report:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition and fees (2015-2016)*
Yale University New Haven, CT Private $58,050
Harvard University Cambridge, MA Private $58,242
Stanford University Stanford, CA Private $56,274
Columbia University New York, NY Private $62,700
University of Chicago Chicago, IL Private $56,916
New York University New York, NY Private $59,330
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Private $58,918
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA Public $48,679 in-state, $52,630 out-of-state
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI Public $53,112 in-state, $56,112 out-of-state
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA Public $54,000 in-state, $57,000 out-of-state

Source: *U.S. News & World Report

School Selection Criteria

Here is some advice for aspiring criminal attorneys who are choosing a law school:

  • Find out about the number and types of courses offered in criminal law, as well as available concentration options and available extracurricular opportunities.
  • Get information about the internship, externship and clinical programs offered by each law school, such as law clinics for aspiring attorneys that allow them to provide public services under the tutelage of experienced lawyers.
  • Students should take a look at the school's connections with private law firms, government organizations and alumni who are criminal lawyers, because these contacts may improve job prospects after graduation.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that there are more lawyers than there are law jobs, so try to attend a highly ranked school, as employers may be more likely to favor candidates from these schools.

Juris Doctor (J.D.) Programs

J.D. degree programs usually take three years to complete. Graduates of programs approved by the American Bar Association are typically qualified to take the state bar exam in the state where they wish to practice. Most law schools teach exclusively through the study of actual legal cases. By the third year, students choose elective courses, join a law clinic and select intern options in their field of interest.

For a successful career as a criminal attorney, it is ideal for students to enroll in a program with strong academic programs and a good reputation.


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