Skip to Content

Criminal Defense

Students enrolled in the semester-long Criminal Defense Clinic represent low-income clients charged with a wide variety of misdemeanor crimes and municipal ordinance violations, including assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, theft, and many others. Students learn and apply lawyering skills such as interviewing, client counseling, fact investigation, legal research and writing, oral advocacy, negotiation, and trial preparation. Students also appear regularly in court for arraignments, pretrial conferences, motions hearings, and trial. Through both classes and cases, students have numerous opportunities to explore systemic problems such as racial and economic bias, law enforcement accountability, and access to justice.

I had no courtroom experience and was still deciding if criminal defense work was right for me. The workload was tremendous, the learning curve was steep (I had no clue how to even serve a subpoena), and the emotional investment I made in each of my clients kept me awake many nights as I worried about their future. However, knowing my professors worked just as hard as I was working, and gave me all of the support I could want, got me through that first semester (which included a bench trial and a suppression hearing). Amelia Power, JD’15

Clinic Details

  • Student Information & FAQs

    Fall 2019 Professors Robin Walker Sterling, Christopher Lasch, and Christina Brown-Haugen

    Students enrolled in the semester-long Criminal Defense Clinic represent low-income clients charged with a wide variety of misdemeanor crimes and municipal ordinance violations, including assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, theft, and many others. Students learn and apply lawyering skills such as interviewing, client counseling, fact investigation, legal research and writing, oral advocacy, negotiation, and trial preparation. Students also appear regularly in court for arraignments, pretrial conferences, motions hearings, and trial. Through both classes and cases, students have numerous opportunities to explore systemic problems such as racial and economic bias, law enforcement accountability, and access to justice.

    Are there any prerequisites?

    Evidence is a co-requisite for this clinic. Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Trial Practice, and Evidence Practicum are among the classes that are helpful but not required. A demonstrated commitment to public interest law is desirable.

    Are classes required?

    Yes. Classes will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:50 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Class attendance is mandatory. In addition, students will be required to attend a mandatory orientation beginning Monday, August 12, 2019 and ending Friday, August 30, 2019. The orientation will consist of five full days of classes from August 12-16. You can then expect to meet at least once daily from August 19-23 and August 26-30 for simulations and classes that will be arranged around clinic participants’ schedules. You will engage in significant out-of-class work as well during the entire orientation period. The purpose of the orientation is to introduce students to the substantive, procedural, and ethical aspects of the criminal clinic curriculum, and to familiarize students with SLO and Criminal Defense Clinic procedures. Attendance throughout the orientation is mandatory.

    How many credits will I receive?

    Students will enroll for 9 credits: 4 are in-class credits; 5 are out-of-class credits.

    What kind of time commitment is involved?

    The Criminal Defense Clinic requires a substantial time commitment. The clinic is very intensive and you should expect to spend at least 25 hours per week working on client-related matters. This time commitment will vary somewhat with the ebb and flow of litigation, and you may be required to devote considerable additional time. In addition to the time spent serving your clients, you will spend at least four hours each week in class and at least five hours each week performing class-related work, preparation, supervision meetings with faculty, and other clinic assignments. For this reason and to avoid potential conflicts of interest, CDC students may not take on an internship, externship, any other experiential advantage courses, or work while they are enrolled in the CDC, unless given explicit authorization to do so.

    What are the benefits of taking this clinic?

    The Criminal Defense Clinic offers you the opportunity to integrate professional ethics and values, legal theory, and practice by representing indigent clients charged with crimes. You will learn the lawyering skills necessary to defend a criminal case, including client interviewing, client counseling, negotiation development of a case theory and discovery plan, researching and drafting various motions, fact investigation, and trial skills. The laboratory for learning will be the classroom, supervision sessions with faculty, and Colorado’s jails and courtrooms. You will learn how to work with clients who face a variety of legal, social and economic problems and you will learn the resources that are (or are not) available. Because rules of criminal procedure are closely linked to constitutional rights, many students will be presented with the opportunity to litigate constitutional issues and questions of the remedies available for constitutional violations.

    Where can I get more information?

    Clinical Programs Student Panel- Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 12:00-1:00 p.m. (Room 190)
    Clinical Programs Recruitment Fair for Fall 2019-Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 11:00-1:00 p.m. (Law Forum)
    Clinical Programs Faculty Info Session - Thursday, March 21, 2019, 12:00-1:00 p.m. (Room 190)

    How and when do I apply or register?

    Online Application Dates - Monday, March 18, 2019, 9:00 a.m. until Sunday, March 24, 2019, 11:59 p.m. Applications for the 2019-2020 year will be available at http://law.du.edu/forms/student-law-officeclinical-programs/apply/. Late applications will not be considered.

    How do I respond if offered a position in the Criminal Defense Clinic?

    If offered a position you must accept or decline the offer, in writing, by the deadline given in the offer letter. There are no exceptions to this requirement. If you intend to accept the offer of a position, you must respond by the deadline or your position may be offered to another student. Additionally, you must respond in writing by the deadline even if you are declining the offer – this allows us to offer the position to another student at the earliest opportunity. Please be considerate of other students who may hope to take the clinic if offered a position.

    Laurie Saraceno, the SLO Administrator, will register students who accept positions in the clinic before the beginning of the fall semester.

  • Benefits

    The Criminal Defense Clinic offers you the opportunity to integrate professional ethics and values, legal theory, and practice by representing indigent clients charged with crimes. You will learn the lawyering skills necessary to defend a criminal case, including client interviewing, client counseling, negotiation, development of a case theory and discovery plan, issue spotting, researching and drafting various motions, fact investigation, and trial skills. The laboratory for learning will be the classroom, supervision sessions with faculty, and Colorado’s jails and courtrooms. You will learn how to work with clients who face a variety of legal, social and economic problems and you will learn the resources that are (or are not) available. Because rules of criminal procedure are closely linked to constitutional rights, many students will be presented with the opportunity to litigate constitutional issues and questions of the remedies available for constitutional violations.

    The SLO offers students more than just exposure to a branch of law in preparation for a legal career; it is an opportunity to be a lawyer and work within a law firm under the guidance of experienced attorneys.

  • Course Requirements

    Criminal Defense students meet twice weekly in 100-minute seminar classes. In addition, students will be required to attend a two-to-three-week orientation. The orientation will consist of at least two full days of classes, followed by simulations and classes that will be arranged around clinic participants’ schedules. Students should expect to meet at least once daily as a class and to engage in significant out-of-class work as well during this orientation period. The purpose of the orientation is to introduce students to the substantive, procedural, and ethical aspects of the criminal clinic curriculum, and to familiarize students with SLO procedures and the PracticeMaster case management system. Because ethical considerations require that all supervisors must have assurance of your competence and familiarity with the office before assigning any cases to you, attendance at orientation is mandatory.

    As student attorneys, you will be required to abide by the professional responsibility rules that govern all practicing lawyers. Given the intensive time commitment of the clinic and the potential for ethical conflicts of interest, CDO students may not take on an internship, externship or any other experiential advantage course, including practicums, labs, unless given explicit authorization to do so. If you are employed (particularly in a legal environment) while enrolled in the clinic, you will be required to disclose the name of your employer and will need to take appropriate steps to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest between your employer and the clinic.

  • Time & Credits

    The Criminal Defense Clinic requires a substantial time commitment. The clinic is very intensive and you should expect to spend at least 25 hours per week working on client-related matters. This time commitment will vary somewhat with the ebb and flow of litigation, and you may be required to devote considerable additional time. In addition to the time spent serving your clients, you should expect to spend 2 1/2 hours each week in class and at least 2 1/2 hours each week performing class-related work, preparation, supervision meetings with faculty, and other clinic assignments.

    Cases may carry over to the following semesters and students will still be responsible for them; however, no additional credit hours will be given. Also, students do not receive their final grade until all of their cases are properly transferred or closed.

    Students will earn 9 credits; three are in-class credits; six are out-of-class credits.

  • Potential Clients: Apply for Representation

    The Criminal Defense Clinic accepts misdemeanor and municipal ordinance violation cases from around the Denver metropolitan area. If you are facing a current charge that is a misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation, a student attorney from the Criminal Defense Clinic may be able to represent you. Please complete a Criminal Screening Form and submit here

    NOTE: The completion of a Criminal Screening Form does not guarantee representation by the Student Law Office. Your personal information will not be shared or distributed without your explicit permission. Thank you for your interest in the Student Law Office and the Criminal Defense Clinic. We look forward to speaking to you.

Questions?

FAQs

Key Faculty

 
Lasch

Christopher Lasch

Professor

Learn More

Associate Professor Robin Walker Sterling

Robin Walker Sterling

Associate Professor

Learn More

Contact