Criminal Law Career Guide

By Paul Hellyer
Updated July 2017

crime scene

Ellen C. Brotman, Careers in Criminal Law (2010).
This book has different sections on criminal defense, prosecution, and judicial careers.  It offers insight into the type of person who does well in this field.
KF299 .C7 C37 2010 (OCS)

Thomas P. Casselman, I Talk You Walk: 40 Years of Winning Defense Strategies (2012).
An engaging collection of anecdotes from a Michigan defense attorney.
Publisher's Description 
K5455 .C37 2012 (STACKS)

David R. Dow, The Autobiography of an Execution (2010).
Dow is a law professor who has represented more than 100 death-row inmates on appeal. His autobiography describes many of the cases he's handled.
KF373 .D635 A3 2010 (STACKS)

Richard Gabriel, Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today's Most Infamous Verdicts (2014).
Written by a trial consultant, this case covers several prominent cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Heidi Fleiss and Casey Anthony.
Publisher's Description 
KF220 .G33 2014 (STACKS)

Joan E. Jacoby & Edward C. Ratledge, The Power of the Prosecutor: Gatekeepers of the Criminal Justice System (2016).
This book explains the important discretionary powers that prosecutors exercise in deciding which cases to prosecute.
Publisher's Description
KF9640 .J29 2016 (STACKS)

Norman Lefstein, Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense (2011).
Describes the excessive caseloads faced by public defenders and explores strategies that public defenders can use to address the problem.
Full text on ABA website
KF9646 .L44 2011 (STACKS)

Andrea D. Lyon, Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer (2010).
A prominent defense lawyer describes some of the death penalty cases she has worked on over the past 30 years.  The book includes some discussion of gender discrimination against women lawyers.
KF373 .L963 A3 2010 (STACKS)

M. Gerald Schwartzbach, Leaning on the Arc: A Personal History of Criminal Defense (2016).
Defense attorney Gerald Schwartzbach, who is best known for his defense of actor Robert Blake, recounts some of the most interesting cases of his long career.
Publisher's Description
KF373 .S348 A3 2016 (STACKS)

Susannah Sheffer, Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys (2013).
Based on twenty interviews with capital defense attorneys, this book explores the emotional aspects of defending clients who face the death penalty.
Author's Description
KF9227 .C2 S54 2013 (STACKS)

How Can You Represent Those People? (Abbe Smith & Monroe H. Freedman eds., 2013).
A collection of essays from criminal defense lawyers offering different perspectives on this common question.
Publisher's Description 
KF9656 .H69 2013 (STACKS)

Herbert J. Stern, Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won (2012).
Memoirs of a prosecutor who obtained convictions against mobsters and corrupt politicians in New Jersey. 
Publisher's Description
KF373 .S7 S74 2012 (STACKS)

Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas (Nicole S. Weber ed., 2013)
This legal career guide is based on interviews with attorneys at leading law firms. It includes a chapter on white collar defense.
KF300 .P73 2013 (OCS)


Mark Brodin, What One Lawyer Can Do for Society: Lessons from the Remarkable Career of William P. Homans Jr., 46 New Eng. L. Rev. 37 (2011).
Describes the life and accomplishments of a famous defense lawyer.

Debra L. Bruce, Make Your Criminal Practice More Rewarding, 73 Tex. B.J. 598 (2010). 
Aimed at attorneys working in the private sector, this article offers tips on how to make your criminal practice more enjoyable and financially rewarding.

Terry Carter, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, ABA Journal, June 2010, at 34.
A detailed interview with the district attorney for Manhattan about his legal career.

Joseph I. Cassilly, A Prosecutor Is a Lawyer with Convictions, Prosecutor, April-June 2009, at 4.
A state prosecutor emphasizes the importance of ethics and leadership.

James Castle, Why We Are Defenders, Champion, July 2016, at 51.
A criminal defense attorney lists the beliefs that motivate defenders.

Sanford C. Coats & Chris M. Stephens, U.S. Attorney: The Servant of the Law, Federal Lawyer, March 2015, at 46.
This article explains the roles and responsibilities of U.S. attorneys and features the views of U.S. attorneys including Ann Tompkins, John F. Walsh and Peter F. Neronha.

Sarah Goodrum et al, Representing the Underdog: The Righteous Development of Death Penalty Defense Attorneys, Criminal Law Bulletin, Spring 2015.
The authors present a qualitative study of the traits of death penalty defense attorneys.

Paul D. Hazelhurst, A Federal Public Defender's Perspective, Federal Lawyer, March 2015, at 50.
An assistant federal public defender explains the history of the federal public defender program and describes the work that federal public defenders typically perform.

Brent E. Newton, "How Can You Defend a Person You Know Is Guilty?": Reflections of a Public Defender, 33 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 167 (2009).
A public defender explains why he offers a vigorous defense of clients he knows are guilty.

Julia Reischel, Q&A with Janice Bassil, Mass. Defense Attorney, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Dec. 29, 2008.
This interview with a defense attorney touches upon trial strategy and gender issues.

Abbe Smith, Are Prosecutors Born or Made?, 25 Geo. J. Legal Studies 943 (2012).
A criminal defense lawyer with more than 30 years experience recounts some noteworthy conversations she's had with prosecutors, points out the flaws she sees in their way of thinking, and expounds her own career choice.

Tiffani A. Smith, Tips for Young Lawyers on Succeeding in Public Defense, Criminal Justice, Fall 2016, at 56.

Steven T. Taylor, White-Collar Practices Heating Up--And Making Profits--As Feds Step Up Investigations and Superstar Attorneys Join Firms, Of Counsel, Jan. 2014, at 1.
Describes the state of the job market in white-collar criminal defense practice.

Paula Reed Ward, Struggling on a Static Salary: On An Assistant District Attorney's Paycheck, Bills and Law School Loans Can Stack Up Quickly, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 29, 2012, at C7.
Discusses the starting salaries for public defenders and state prosecutors.


Champion: The Official News Report of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Library has v.13 (1989) to present.
Houston: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Available on Westlaw

Criminal Justice
Washington, DC: ABA Section of Criminal Justice.
Available on Westlaw

Organizations & Websites

American Bar Association, Section of Criminal Justice
740 15th Street, N.W., 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005-1019
tel: (202) 662-1500
fax: (202) 662-1501
The section addresses key issues in criminal justice. Provides members with practical solutions to problems encountered by criminal law practitioners. Publishes Criminal Justice, a quarterly magazine which provides advice to practitioners on techniques for handling criminal cases.

Commonwealth's Attorneys' Services Council
William & Mary Law School Room 220
PO Box 3549
613 South Henry Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185
tel: (757) 253-4146
fax: (757) 253-7159
Coordinates training and educational programs and provides research services for Commonwealth's Attorneys through continuing legal education programs, training seminars, research assistance and various publications.

Innocence Project Clinic
William & Mary Law School
P.O. Box 8795
613 South Henry Street
Williamsburg, VA 23185
tel: (757) 221-7446
"Students in the Innocence Project Clinic participate in the legal investigation and research of inmate claims of actual innocence. Using primary sources including police and forensic reports, court pleadings, transcripts, appellate briefs and opinions, students research and prepare written summaries of the cases referred to the Clinic by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), and their analysis of cases are used as a basis for MAIP to determine which cases to undertake." --From the website.

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
1150 18th St., NW
Suite 950
Washington, DC 20036
tel: (202) 872-8600
fax: (202) 872-8690
Organization of attorneys involved in the defense of criminal cases. Works to maintain the independence and expertise of the criminal defense bar. Sponsors annual Law Student Trial Competition. Maintains a brief bank index.

National District Attorneys Association (NDAA)
99 Canal Center Plaza
Suite 510
Alexandria, VA 22314
tel: (703) 549-9222
fax: (703) 836-3195
Organization serving prosecuting attorneys. Provides educational, informational and technical assistance to members.

National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA)
1140 Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20036
tel: (202) 452-0620
fax: (202) 872-1031
Acts as an information clearinghouse and provides technical and management assistance to organizations which offer civil and criminal legal assistance to indigent persons. Also provides assistance to state and local governmental agencies.  The site includes job listings for attorney positions nationwide.

Photo:  Associated Press