Author Archives: Jeff Chinn

Welcome to the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy

We are not accepting applications for the 2016/2017 school year. We will be reviewing applications for the 2017/2018 school year after January 1st 2017.

If you have any questions in the meantime please contact our program coordinator, Heidi Cruise at or call (619) 515-1574.

Thank you for your interest in our program. We look forward to hearing from you.

Exclusive Training with the Federal Defenders Office!Prepare to defend and start your career in criminal defense law by getting your LL.M. degree in Trial Advocacy from California Western School of Law in San Diego. Our LL.M. degree program, with a focus on Federal criminal law, teaches you trial advocacy skills not usually taught in J.D. courses. Upon graduation, students will know everything there is to know about litigating a criminal trial including motions practice, developing theories and strategies about a case, and advanced trial advocacy techniques. Students gain the skills employers look for when hiring new criminal defense attorneys.What Makes Cal Western’s LL.M. in Trial Advocacy Unique?The LL.M. in Trial Advocacy program enhances your criminal defense and trial skills by delivering a modern, experience-oriented degree that prepares criminal defense attorneys to be successful at the Federal, State, and Private level.The program’s core curriculum was designed with an emphasis on developing vital criminal litigation skills that are crucial for courtroom success. What truly sets Cal Western’s Trial Advocacy program apart is their focus on providing students with real world, hands-on experience through their highly regarded:

  • Week-long Federal Trial Skills Academy
  • Federal Defenders Office Clinical Placement 

“The LL.M. program in Trial Advocacy is much more than an academic experience. Although the program emphasizes federal criminal law, the life and career skills that are taught are universal and can also be applied in any state court. After the rigors of earning my LL.M. degree, I am always prepared, punctual and professional, whether walking into an arraignment or a trial. The program taught me to think in multiple dimensions, attacking a case from all fronts with a plan for every reasonable contingency.” 
Stephanie-Louise Jamieson LL.M. ’11

Why should you get your LL.M. degree in Trial Advocacy from California Western School of Law?

    • Our entering class is limited to 10-15 students each year. This allows for personalized instruction and feedback from our experienced faculty, all of whom are practicing criminal defense attorneys and are current or former Federal Defenders.
    • Our courses are not repackaged J.D. courses. Our courses represent the essential skills taught in the best trial advocacy training programs – learning advanced litigation techniques, understanding pre-trial procedures, improving oral advocacy skills, researching and writing motions, applying the Federal Rules of Evidence, and knowing the complexities of sentencing law.
    • Work side-by-side with the Federal Defenders Office in our clinical placement program. Gain hands-on experience with practicing federal defenders or with private criminal defense firms. The LL.M. program’s connections with Federal Defenders offices allows for placement in San Diego or anywhere in the country. Students will have the opportunity to appear in court alongside their supervising attorney and take an active role in ongoing litigation cases.
    • Our alumni are employed in federal and public defender law offices all around the country, as well as private law firms. The trial advocacy skills learned through the coursework, along with the clinical placement, make our graduates highly marketable and give them the ability to go “straight from the classroom to the courtroom.”
  • We’re located in San Diego! San Diego, with its beaches, sunny weather, and cultural attractions, is consistently named as one of America’s favorite places to visit and live. The ability to enjoy numerous outdoor activities year-round support San Diego’s title as “America’s Finest City.” The proximity to the Mexico border also gives the city a distinct international feel and provides criminal defense students an opportunity to train with the busiest Federal Defense Office, here in San Diego.
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  • Recognized by the Judges Advocate General Corps (JAG)
  • Offers Exclusive Training by SD Federal Defenders Inc.
Program Highlights

  • San Diego Federal Defenders Clinical Placement
  • All Faculty are Federal Defenders
  • Longest Established Trial Advocacy Program
  • Study on the beach!
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Why I Chose the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy Program at Cal Western

Recently, we asked one of our current LL.M. in Trial Advocacy students to talk about his decision to attend the program. The student, Victor Rivera Rios (’13), told us some interesting things about himself and his journey here from Puerto Rico:

“The reason why I joined this Masters Program is essentially the same reason why I decided to become an attorney, to help others in need.

Even though I always leaned towards being a trial attorney, due to my personal preference of going to court, addressing judges and other attorneys face-to-face, opening and closing arguments, direct and cross-examinations of witnesses and, of course, dressing the part; the real factor behind my decision to participate in this program was because of Prof. Justin Brooks (director of the LL.M. program).  I first met Prof. Brooks when I took his “Wrongful Conviction” seminar in Puerto Rico.  Little did I know, at the time I signed up for the seminar, that I was going to meet this selfless attorney. For Prof. Brooks, it’s all about those people who find themselves in the deepest trouble imaginable; that of having the whole government machine overpower you in the courts and facing the risk of serving long term imprisonment, which can ruin your life. His message invoked in me a certain advocacy fire I haven’t felt since my punk rocker days in high school. Eventually, I decided to suit up and lend my services to the little guys facing the United States government over in the Southern District of California. In order to get to know the ins and outs of this jurisdiction, I signed up in California Western’s LL.M. in Trial Advocacy.

The program is not a walk in the park and is, in fact, very intensive.  Our small group of attorneys are taught by the best and brightest from the offices of the Federal Defenders of San Diego. The professors thrust case files and evidence at you in order to study it, organize it, and prepare legal briefs and motions to file for class, which we treat as an actual court hearing. Focusing more on the actual practice rather than theoretical, the program gives you the tools and arguments one must become familiar with in order to better defend your client in a criminal case. This will make me become an effective counsel and help those in desperate need of assistance.

To attend this program, I relocated from my hometown of San Juan, PR. I exported my car over to Jacksonville, FL, and embarked on a road trip to the west. Accompanying me were my two trusty companions, Indy and Lola, two Brussels Griffons that I have taken under my wing. We visited New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Big Bend National Park, White Sands National Monument and Tucson. Driving across the continent of the U.S. was daunting but in the end was a good eye- opening experience to meet new people and get to know the different places located in this vast country. Who knows where I’ll end up in the future, once I finish this LL.M. and partake in helping others under the prosecutorial sword of the United States in Federal Court, which could be anywhere.”

Victor Rivera Rios (’13)

Click here to find out more about the LL.M. in Trial Advocacy Program.