Criminal Law and Advocacy

Students who earn the certificate for this concentration encounter a variety of experiences to help develop an understanding of criminal law and procedure in both a theoretical and practical context. They explore both the substantive criminal law as well as the constitutional overlay of criminal procedure. In addition, they experience aspects of criminal trial and motion work. Development focuses on advocacy skills: litigation, negotiation and other alternate dispute resolution methods that apply in a criminal context.

You’ll develop cutting-edge trial skills, such as the innovative use of visual persuasion techniques in the courtroom, and you’ll examine ethical issues unique to criminal practice settings. You’ll experience the criminal justice system in action in our clinics and externships, which will refine your ability to engage in both prosecution and defense work. You can advocate for real clients at the trial or appellate levels, represent the government, or help judges in criminal cases. You also can work on national criminal justice reform projects, such as advocating for more humane treatment of children charged with crimes, or challenging the death penalty. 

Your negotiation and litigation skills will be honed through participation in mock trials and courtroom simulations, and every year we host the Northeast Regional Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition. Our active Criminal Law Society sponsors several networking events and activities focused on helping you connect with legal professionals.

For specific information on the program offerings, please contact:

Professor Sarah French Russell
Director, Criminal Law and Advocacy Concentration
275 Mount Carmel Avenue, Hamden, CT 06518
Phone: 203-582-5258
Fax: 203-582-3244

Criminal Law and Advocacy Concentration


To be eligible for the Criminal Law and Advocacy Concentration, you must take Evidence (LAWS 311) as one of your core electives. Credits for this course do not count toward the 21-credit concentration requirement, but the grade in this prerequisite does count toward the concentration GPA requirement in determining whether or not the certificate is awarded with honors. All students must also successfully complete the required course of Criminal Law (LAWS 113).


1. Course Work

To receive the certificate for this concentration, you must earn 21 Criminal Law and Advocacy specialty credits, divided as follows (not all courses are offered every year):

Clinical Requirement:

You must earn at least 3 credits through participation in the following programs. No more than 6 clinical credits count toward the 21-credit requirement for the concentration, except with the permission of the concentration director. The credit allotted to course work in conjunction with a clinic counts as a course credit, not as a clinic credit.

Defense Appellate Clinic (LAWS 299 & LAWS 300) 6
An externship placement at a site dedicated to criminal defense or prosecution3-6
A judicial externship placement in a court at which the director can certify has a significant criminal docket3-6
Required Course Work:

In addition to LAWS 311 (credits for which do not count toward the 21-credit requirement), you must take the following courses. Credits for these courses will count toward your 21-credit concentration requirement.

LAWS 315Trial Practice2-3
LAWS 431Criminal Procedure - Adj.3
LAWS 432Criminal Procedure Inv.3
Select one of the following courses:2-3
Alternative Dispute Resolution

The remaining credits needed to satisfy the requirements for this concentration should come from the following designated courses:

LAWS 292Independent Research Project W2
LAWS 293Independent Research Project W3
LAWS 315Trial Practice2-3
LAWS 316Advanced Trial Practice2
LAWS 318Mock Trial 21-2
LAWS 338Visual Persuasion in the Law3
LAWS 360International Criminal Law3
LAWS 367Counterterrorism Law2
LAWS 384Juvenile Law3
LAWS 386Domestic Violence: Law, Practice and Pol2
LAWS 387Adv. Juvenile Law: Delinquency Proceedings2
LAWS 4102
LAWS 412Habeas Corpus2
LAWS 423State Constitutional Law2-3
LAWS 429International Human Rights2
LAWS 4393
LAWS 515Alternative Dispute Resolution 12-3
LAWS 525Moot Court I 31
LAWS 551Federal Criminal Law2
LAWS 599Intro to Representing Clients2
LAWS 602Law and Forensic Science2
LAWS 6053
LAWS 6152
LAWS 636Sentencing, Prisons, and Reentry2

2. Writing Requirement

You must write a substantial paper (or a series of shorter writings that, taken together, comprise a substantial amount of written work) on a topic or topics related to Criminal Law or Procedure. (If you write a substantial paper, you may use that paper to satisfy the law school's Advanced Writing Requirement, as set forth in the Academic Regulations, section I.D., as well as the Criminal Law and Advocacy certification program.) A paper written for a journal may qualify if the concentration director approves the topic. A brief written for a moot court competition or within an externship position may qualify if the student can attest that the work was his or her own. The concentration director must approve the topic and the format for the written work used to satisfy this requirement. Note: It is possible for completed work to count for more than one concentration if there is sufficient coverage of both subject matters.

3. Honors

Students who achieve a GPA of 3.2 or better in the course work used for the concentration will receive certificate for the concentration with honors.

4. Options

If you have excess credits, you may designate any course or paper as not counting toward the concentration, so long as it is not required for the concentration, and you meet the concentration requirements with another course. If you have more than 21 credits, the concentration director will count the courses with the highest grades in determining whether or not to bestow the honors designation. Note that the GPA calculation includes all courses required for the concentration, including LAWS 311 — Evidence.

5. Waiver

The concentration director and the associate dean for academic affairs may waive any requirement for the concentration (other than the GPA requirement), if both agree to do so. Any waiver requests must be submitted in writing with the application for the concentration.