Justice From Opposing Sides

UVA Law Students Represent Community in Prosecution, Defense Clinics
April 12, 2018

Students in the Prosecution and Criminal Defense clinics at the University of Virginia School of Law have the opportunity to be active participants in the criminal justice system — seeing and seeking justice from both sides of the law.

Operating under a third-year practice certificate and the supervision of an experienced attorney, students represent actual clients or the commonwealth in pretrial matters and before a judge, typically in misdemeanor cases.

Four current third-year students — Jeremy Bennie, Angie Garcia, Josh Myers and Shanthi Rajogopolan — recently talked about their experiences in the clinics.

For the Defense

The semester-long Criminal Defense Clinic provides a first-hand, experience-based study of the processes, techniques, strategies and responsibilities of legal representation at the trial level. Students interview, investigate, research, negotiate plea deals and advocate for their clients in court. (More)

“We received our first clients in the second week of the semester,” Jeremy Bennie said. “On the one hand, you’ve had one class period, you haven’t even met with your supervisor yet, and you already know you have a client that you’re actually going to be representing in a month.

“On the other hand, that’s what it’s like in the real world.”

The experience was eye-opening for Angie Garcia, too.

“I’m interested in litigation, and this is a chance to get into the courtroom,” Garcia said. “You can see how different judges handle their courtrooms differently, and how different prosecutors’ offices handle the exact same crime differently.”

For the Prosecution

The yearlong Prosecution Clinic exposes students to all aspects of being a prosecutor. 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. (More)

As with the Criminal Defense Clinic, students in the Prosecution Clinic learn to be effective courtroom advocates.

“I had the butterflies in my stomach,” Josh Myers said of his first court appearance. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. … It has been a wonderful experience to get those nerves out in the Prosecution Clinic.”

Shanthi Rajogopolan agreed the experience is “extremely high pressure,” but rewarding.

“You get to represent the community, and that’s something that’s really exciting to be able to do as a law student.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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