CriminalStudents with an interest in criminal law pursue a path in either prosecution or defence work. Lawyers on the prosecution side work in provincial Crown Attorneys’ Offices as well the federal Public Prosecution Service of Canada. Criminal defence practice can vary based on the types of clients a criminal lawyer takes on: youth, low-income recipients of Legal Aid certificates, or corporations and individuals accused of white-collar and quasi-criminal offences. The nature of the work can also be very different depending on the level(s) of court in which a criminal lawyer appears: trial work requires a great deal of client contact and focuses on the presentation of evidence in court, while appellate work is more focused on research, as well as written and oral advocacy. Defence lawyers can either establish a solo practice (which requires the desire and/or willingness to be a small business owner) or become a member of a firm. Some criminal lawyers focus their work in the public interest or legal clinic arena; others may become involved in public policy or legislative work.

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What courses can I take?

Courses to consider in the upper years*

  • Evidence
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Advanced Criminal Procedure
  • Crime & Punishment: mandatory minimums, the death penalty and other current debates
  • Wrongful Convictions
  • Mentally  Disordered Accused
  • Sentencing and Penal Policy
  • Youth Criminal Justice
  • Trial Advocacy
  • Constitutional Advocacy
  • Joint degree: JD/MA in Criminology

*Not all courses are offered in each academic year. Please consult the Course Calendar and Upper Year Courses by Subject Area resources.


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How can I get hands-on experience?

Experiential opportunities

  • Downtown Legal Services Criminal Law Clinic (for credit, paid summer positions or volunteer)
  • Appellate Criminal Litigation Externship
  • Barbra Schlifer Clinic Externship
  • Gale Moot
  • Callaghan Memorial Moot
  • Arnup Cup Competition

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How else can I get involved?


  • Criminal Law Students’ Association
  • Pro Bono Students Canada projects (e.g. METRAC Women and Youth Legal Information Project, John Howard Society, Justice for Children and Youth)
  • Litigation Association Club
  • John LL.J. Edwards Memorial Lecture

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How can I connect with employers?

Work and networking ideas

Networking opportunities

  • Informational interviews (go to UTLC > Resource Library > Interviews for guidance)
  • Events hosted by professional associations such as the Criminal Lawyers’ Association
  • Lawyers Doing Cool Things

Fellowships & internships

Past paid Donner Fellowship placement sites include:

  • Innocence Canada (formerly Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted)
  • Justice for Children and Youth
  • Legal Aid Ontario
  • Parkdale Community Legal Services

Paid opportunities

Employers offering paid summer and articling opportunities in this area include:

  • Crown Attorneys’ Offices
  • Department of Justice / Public Prosecution Service of Canada
  • Innocence Canada
  • Goldblatt Partners
  • Henein Hutchison LLP
  • Hicks Adams LLP
  • Ministry of the Attorney General - Crown Law Office – Criminal
  • Ontario Superior Court of Justice clerkship

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What resources can I look at?

Online career resources and events

The following resources are available to current UofT Law students and alumni through UTLC:

  • Guide: Pathways to a Career in Criminal Defence
  • 1L Summer Employment Guide
  • Recruitment Guides: Students can find recruitment guides on UTLC listing criminal law positions for 1L summer, 2L summer and articling recruitment cycles for a range of legal markets
  • General Articling Guide
  • Government Interview and Information Guide
  • CDO Event: Career Information Sessions (current students only)
  • Upper Year Student Directory to connect with students who have worked for criminal law employers

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