Category Archives: Federal Criminal Law

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.