Criminal Law Career Guide

By Paul Hellyer
Updated July 2019

crime scene

Preet Bharara, Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law (2019).
Bharara shares his views on criminal justice, drawing from his long experience as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Publisher's Description
KF8700 .B43 2019 (STACKS)

Alexander Y. Benikov, Defense Lawyer Confidential (2018).
A criminal defense lawyer offers advice for new attorneys on a wide range of subjects, including different career paths for criminal defense attorneys, types of clients
you can expect, and how to interact with courts and prosecutors.
Publisher's Description
KF9656 .B45 2018 (STACKS)

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)

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.
KF220 .G33 2014 (STACKS)

Bennett L. Gershman, Prosecution Stories (2017).
"As a former prosecutor, the author uses actual case stories, some famous cases and many ordinary ones, to show how prosecutors use and sometimes abuse their
extraordinary power to convict wrongdoers while operating within an array of legal and ethical standards." --From the book cover
Publisher's Description 
KF9640 .G47 2017 (STACKS)

Kamala Harris, Truths We Hold: An American Journey (2019).
In this autobiography, Senator Harris discusses her career as a Bay Area prosecutor in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Publisher's Description
E901.1 H37 A3 2019 (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)

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)


Patrick C. Brayer, The Power of the Public Defender Experience: Learning by Fighting for the Incarcerated and Poor, 53 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 105 (2017).
Explores the value of law student internships at public defender offices.

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

Kristin A. Chiriatti, Public Defenders: The Impossibility of Rule 1.14 and How Mental Health First Aid Training Can Contribute to Success, 21 Quinnipiac Health L.J. 103 (2018).
Addresses the problems public defenders face in dealing with mentally ill clients.

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.

Timothy C. Harker, Faithful Execution: The Persistent Myth of Widespread Prosecutorial Misconduct, 85 Tenn. L. Rev. 847 (2018).
Surveys the evidence for and reactions to prosecutorial misconduct. Argues that misconduct is not widespread.

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.

Liane Jackson, Change Agents: A New Wave of Reform Prosecutors Upends the Status Quo, ABA Journal, June 2019.
This article reveals a generational change in prosecutors' offices as younger, more progressive prosecutors show greater interest in transparency and fairness.

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.

Sindhu Sundar, Why BigLaw Loves Mob Prosecutors, Law360, June 6, 2018.
Discusses the career prospects of prosecutors who specialize in organized crime.

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.

Ronald F. Wright & Kay L. Levine, Career Motivations of State Prosecutors, 86 George Washington L. Rev. 1667 (2018).
Based on original interviews with 260 prosecutors, this article identifies career motivations for prosecutors and gives advice on voicing your motivations in the hiring context.



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
1050 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20036
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 23187
tel: (757) 253-4146
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 23187
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)
1660 L St. N.W., 12th Fl.
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)
1400 Crystal Dr., Ste. 330
Arlington, VA 22202
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)
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20006
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