Criminal Defense Clinic

In the semester-long Criminal Defense Clinic, students represent clients in three misdemeanor cases under the supervision of experienced criminal defense lawyers and study the processes, strategies, responsibilities and challenges of providing indigent clients with excellent representation at the trial level.

Classroom lectures and discussions, readings, guest speakers and other materials supplement and support the primary learning experience of representing indigent defendants in criminal cases pending in the local courts. In addition to providing excellent representation of clients, students also examine the relationship between race, poverty and the criminal justice system as they arise in and affect cases.

Each student has the opportunity to perform all the duties of representing clients, including interviewing, investigation, research, dealing with prosecutors, negotiating, assisting clients in deciding how plead, trial preparation and courtroom advocacy.

Supervising attorneys, each working with no more than four students, mentor students’ case preparation, and all aspects of client representation in weekly conferences. The full clinic meets regularly in seminar sessions, where substantive areas of criminal defense practice are covered, including client communication, evidentiary issues, criminal procedure, sentencing options and ethical responsibilities. During the second half of the semester, the focus shifts to workshopping individual cases, preparing for trials and negotiation.

Bruce Williamson and Bonnie Lepold, both of the local firm Lepold & Martin, teach the fall seminar component, and Lacey Parker of the Public Defender’s Office teaches the spring seminar component.

Students interested in this clinic must rank the clinic in the clinic lottery within the timeline set by the Student Records Office. Students selected for the clinic through the clinic lottery process will be automatically enrolled prior to the regular course lottery.

The positions that the clinic takes on behalf of its clients are independent of the views of the University of Virginia or the School of Law.

Remote video URL
Skills Taught
Interviewing, investigation, research, plea negotiation, representing and counseling individual clients, and courtroom advocacy.
Course Credits