National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Logo of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is committed to preserving fairness within America's criminal justice system by protecting the rights of Americans and promoting due process around the world.

The NACDL is a professional organization and advocacy group. With more than 40,000 members worldwide which includes more than 9,000 national members in addition to members in 90 affiliate organizations at local, state and international levels.


Founded in 1958, the association encourages due process for even the least among us who may be accused of wrongdoing as well as compassion for witnesses and victims of crimes and just punishment for the guilty. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) encourages, at all levels of government, a rational and humane criminal justice policy for America.

NACDL is designed specifically to support criminal defense lawyers at all levels, to expand their professional potential, as well as continue the progressive movement for the security of justice. The organization bases its efforts on three underlying principals:

  1. Ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime;
  2. Foster the integrity, independence and expertise of the criminal defense profession; and
  3. Promote the proper and fair administration of criminal justice.

As the foremost legal fraternity on criminal defense, NACDL provides members with some of the most acclaimed resources in the legal industry. NACDL provides cutting-edge CLE courses, supplies study materials to members who wish to expand their knowledge and skills in criminal law and makes available extensive publications covering dozens of topics, including hard-to-find government publications. These resources are often essential to the success of a criminal law practice.

Recent Policy Achievements of NACDL

NACDL works to influence policy as it affects the practice of criminal law. This non-profit organization is well known for its work in public defense, white collar policy and anti-death penalty activity. The most recent and important policy achievements of NACDL include:

  • efforts to reform state and federal discovery laws and lawsuit seeking the secret discovery manual of the Department of Justice;
  • work with the recent Clemency Project, the new First Amendment Strike Force, and the Mass Defense Project;
  • efforts to make sure federal statutes have an adequate criminal intent requirement
  • the report on the policies that should govern police-worn body cameras; and
  • several reports about struggling public defense systems in South Carolina, Indiana, and Louisiana.

These policy achievements help the criminal defense bar provide an effective voice for justice and due process for those accused of a crime.

Membership in NACDL

A membership with NACDL allows lawyers to have access to an abundant amount of resources including news of interest to the profession and continuing legal education (CLE) opportunities. Membership in NACDL includes opportunities to connect with peers and colleagues, to learn and expand skills in criminal defense methods, to save with member-only discounts from NACDL sponsors and to influence public policy.

Criminal defense attorneys join NACDL because the membership typically provides a far greater value than then cost of the dues year.

NACDL offers membership levels for all types of legal professionals, from law students to new lawyers, military and other members of the legal community. Benefits of membership include a listing in NACDL's Member-to-Member Directory which provides full contact information for all members and is accessible to members only.

The up-to-the-moment NACDL online membership directory is available through the website or through the app for iOS and Android, NACDL Edge.

The NACDL also has a free, public Find-A-Lawyer Directory that makes it easy for prospective clients to find an attorney. It can be linked to your website. As of June of 2015, the directory was getting between 3,000 to 5,000 hits per month according to a recent publication by NACDL.

Another benefit of membership is access to the 2017 NACDL Member Handbook. The number of directories printed is based on pre-orders. The 2017 Member Handbook is available to current members exclusively. The Member Handbook is offered at cost which is $21.22, including shipping.

The types of membership categories include:

  • Regular ($329 per year)
  • Law Student ($65 per year)
  • New Lawyer ($185 per year)
  • Associate ($195 per year for allied non-lawyer)
  • Law Professor ($169 per year)
  • International ($185 year)
  • Federal Public Defender ($139 per year)
  • State Public Defender ($139 per year)
  • Sustaining ($479 per year)
  • Judge ($195 per year)
  • Military ($169 per year for active duty)
  • President's Club ($699)
  • Life Member ($6,500 with a one-time contribution or 5 installments over five consecutive years)

Membership Benefits of Joining NACDL

The benefits of membership in NACDL include:

  • Resources for Lawyers
    NACDL members have access to information on a wide range of topics and practice areas, such as tools and information for members in the ‘Topics A-Z’ section, opportunities to converse with colleagues in the topic-specific discussion lists, a brief and motion bank, an expert database, updates on major legal developments of interest to the criminal defense bar, and more.
  • News and The Champion
    Along with the most recent legal news and other publications, members have access to NACDL's renowned journal, The Champion. Published ten times per year, The Champion gives timely, informative articles and interviews written for and by criminal defense lawyers, featuring the latest developments in DUI/DWI, grand jury proceedings, habeas, search and seizure laws, death penalty, the exclusionary rule, federal sentencing guidelines, white-collar crime, and more. Members can also receive access to the Daily Criminal Justice Briefing news service. These publications provide articles commentary pertinent to the criminal justice system for adults and juveniles.
  • CLE Events
    NACDL members can attend CLE events at discounted rates. NACDL offers video and audio recordings of all its CLE seminars at a discounted rate for members at the NACDL Store. CLE events include the Annual Meeting & Seminar, the DUI seminar, and the White Collar seminar. Members also enjoy access to educational materials in webcasts, audio/video programs and manuals.
  • Discounts from NACDL Sponsors
    Members may take advantage of numerous amounts of exclusive discounts from NACDL Affinity Partners. Members can redeem discounts on exceptional savings including essential expenses such as insurance, legal research, online databases, NACDL credit cards, and more.

Other benefits of membership in the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys include:

  • opportunities to attend conferences or other symposiums;
  • access to the online Brief and Motion bank;
  • assistance from the NACDL headquarters;
  • opportunities to serve on the NACDL Committees or the Board of Directors;
  • opportunities to write articles for NACDL publications;
  • speaking opportunities at NACDL conferences / trainings seminars;
  • referrals from potential clients to others using the membership directory
  • access to the Life Member or Find-A-Lawyer directories.

Past Presidents

Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award

NACDL's most prestigious award, the Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award is awarded to one criminal defense attorney per year, who best exemplifies the goals and values of NACDL and the legal profession in general. The annual award was established in 1981 in honor of the late Robert C. Heeney of Rockville, MD, NACDL's 18th President.

Past Recipients

Marshall Stern Legislative Achievement Award

NACDL presents this award to the member who best demonstrates a commitment to the legislative method by guiding the Association's legislative strategy through the years. In honor of the truly unique and extraordinary achievements of the late Marshall Stern as he so eloquently embodied this arena.

Past Recipients

Contact Information

NACDL Headquarters
1660 L Street, NW
12th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 872-8600
Fax: (202) 872-8690

This article was last updated on Wednesday, July 18, 2018.