Prosecution Clinic

Prosecution Clinic

Prosecution Clinic student and Joe Platania

Prosecution Clinic

This yearlong clinical course exposes students to all aspects of the prosecutorial function, provides students with hands-on courtroom experience and pushes students to think about issues surrounding the American criminal justice system.

Through a combination of classroom lectures, discussions, guest speakers and field placement in one of several local prosecutors’ offices, students explore a range of practical, ethical and intellectual issues involved in the discharge of a prosecutor’s duties and responsibilities.  

The highlight of the clinic is the students’ experiences interning in the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Offices for Charlottesville or Albemarle County, or one of 16 other surrounding Virginia jurisdictions within 30-75 minutes of the law school. Students who prefer experience in a federal office can seek placement in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond.  For the full academic year, students are assigned to one of these participating prosecutors’ offices, where they are expected to work on pending cases and in court approximately 10-15 hours per week. Most of the students’ responsibilities and duties are at the trial court or pretrial level, but may include writing appellate briefs and research assignments. Students are expected to work out a suitable schedule with the office to which they are assigned, and many offices require or strongly recommend that students split their weekly commitment over two days. Students must be willing to work in whatever office is assigned and are responsible for their own transportation and commuting costs.

In the fall semester, field placement is supplemented by classroom lectures, discussions, and speakers, so that students are prepared to appear in court and handle a range of criminal matters. Specifically, lectures focus on Virginia crimes, defenses, procedure, and criminal case issues, such as warrants, bond hearings, competency issues, motion practice, trial preparation, and sentencing. Experienced guest speakers help complement and illustrate the issues raised in the lectures. In the spring semester, classroom time is devoted to discussion of issues students are experiencing in the courtroom and which are reflective of system-based issues generally. Such discussions and speakers may address topics such as race and the law, gender and the law, criminal justice and sentencing reform, the role of forensic science, mental health issues, diversion courts, or other issues students wish addressed more in depth.

Throughout the year, students also are required to observe certain court proceedings and participate in a ride-along with a police officer. There is a take-home test in the fall semester and a major paper (10-12 pages) due at the end of the spring semester. The paper is not a research paper and will not satisfy the upper-level writing requirement. Students receive four credit hours in the fall and four in the spring semester.

Selected students will be notified prior to the lottery enrollment process commencing in July. Because spaces in the program are limited, and because of the need to perform background checks in some instances that require deployment of significant resources, the application sheet includes a formal representation which must be signed by the student that he or she will honor the commitment to undertake this program, if selected. 

ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENT: Enrolled students who do not attend the first class will be dropped. 

PREREQUISITES: Third-year status, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Criminal Adjudication or Criminal Investigation or Criminal Procedure Survey, and Trial Advocacy.  Either Trial Ad or one of the criminal procedure courses may be taken first semester third-year as a “co-requisite,” but not both. Students must be eligible for and obtain a Third-Year Practice Certification from the Virginia Bar prior the beginning of the fall semester, so that they can appear in the courtroom.

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.

Skills Taught
Client and witness interviews, factual development, legal research, preparation of pleadings and negotiation
Course Length
CR/NC (fall); H/P/F (spring)
Course Credits
8 (4 fall/4 spring)