Which schools are best for criminal defense? Forum

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Which schools are best for criminal defense?

Post by quest909 » Fri May 20, 2022 7:24 pm

Which schools are best for criminal defense? I know, T14, but Im mostly talking outside of those.

Mostly looking at University of Pittsburgh, or University of Florida. I am from western PA and id be happy to practice here or in Florida. Open to other recommendations as im still in undergrad and just doing my research right now.

I was talking to someone who told me he knows a lot of lawyers and he said going to somewhere like PITT for criminal defense is dumb because there are no big criminal firms in Pittsburgh and also PITT isn't known for that as its more of a steel town. That it would be better to go somewhere like Pitt for medical malpractice law or something like that, not criminal law. Is this good advice? He was saying if you want to work in criminal defense and make any decent money you need to be somewhere like downtown NY, Florida, or California to get the high paying clients. To look at the markets for where you want to work. It kind of makes sense.

Therefore, im mostly looking into UPITT because its local, or Uflorida as id like to live in Florida and it sounds like a good place to work for criminal defense.

Are there any schools where you can come out and a good salary like 100k in a criminal defense firm? Is this limited to the T14? Or no matter what do you always have to start as a public defender or hang your own shingle?

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Re: Which schools are best for criminal defense?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Sat May 21, 2022 2:09 am

Finish college, take the LSAT, and then reassess this question. There's no point in thinking about this before you know what your options are.

Your friend is giving mediocre advice and it's obvious he isn't a lawyer. Criminal defense is in-demand everywhere. Sure, the ceiling on income is higher in LA or NYC, but that's true of most jobs—and largely offset by higher cost of living. Moreover, you should probably be optimizing for median income expectations rather than trying to become the next Robert Kardashian.


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Re: Which schools are best for criminal defense?

Post by crazywafflez » Sat May 21, 2022 3:41 pm

Agreed with all the above.
Go to your local school for as cheap as possible. Median income for a public defender or ADA (which you should start at one of the two for a year or two at least), is around 50-70k depending on location.


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Re: Which schools are best for criminal defense?

Post by lavarman84 » Fri May 27, 2022 1:24 am

Your friend isn't giving good advice. Figure out where you want to live. Do well on the LSAT. Go to the best law school in that region that gives you a huge scholarship. The key in criminal defense is minimizing debt and networking while you're in law school. Criminal defense jobs tend not to pay well at the entry level out of law school.

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Re: Which schools are best for criminal defense?

Post by nealric » Wed Jun 01, 2022 11:05 am

One thing to keep in mind that schools don't really have specialties that are particularly meaningful to students. Sure, the U.S. News will publish specialty rankings, but they are mostly a way for 2nd and 3rd tier schools to try to distinguish themselves, and going to a top ranked school in a specialty rarely creates significant career opportunities for the vast majority of students.

The only slight exception to that general rule would be within similarly ranked schools where one has a particularly noteworthy program. There is an argument to be made for attending NYU over UPenn if you know for 100% certainty that you want to do tax. But even then, the pull would be fairly weak as you can always go to NYU for your LLM (which is the program NYU is really known for).

Criminal defense is one area where it's almost all down to local networks. You need to get in with a prosecutor's/PD office and get some experience, and then network your way into a reasonably steady clientele. Only exception would be if you want to do white collar criminal defense. In that case, you need to go to a top-ranked national school and do DOJ/Clerkship/Biglaw/AUSA (or possibly all of the above at some point in your career). White collar is very different because it tends to involve complex business issues which are adjacent to the large business issues handled by large law firms, and fewer of the issues common to more standard DUI/theft/drug type prosecutions. As such, it tends to be a biglaw practice area, while standard criminal defense tends to be done in the solo or small firm setting when done by private practice.

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