Academic Programs

Second Year Students

Each year, the criminal clinic accepts 18 upcoming 2Ls into the program. They must commit themselves to participate in the clinic for two semesters: spring 2L year and fall 3L year. As a prerequisite to their participation, these students must take a course in Evidence and a course in Criminal Procedure in either the first or second semester of their second year.

Notes on the criminal clinic selection process:

Upcoming 2L students who apply to the criminal clinic and are not accepted may reapply the following year for the 3L program. These students will have preference over upcoming 3Ls who are applying for the first time. For a description of the third-year track of the Criminal Clinic, please click here.

Spring 2L Semester

In the spring of their 2L year, students selected to the Criminal Clinic participate in two courses: Trial Advocacy and Criminal Trial Practice I.

  • Trial Advocacy (3 credits) meets once a week for three hours. The class focuses on courtroom skills in the context of criminal trial litigation.
  • Criminal Trial Practice I (5 credits) meets for two hours each week and requires students to be available one morning a week to be in court. The classroom component of this course introduces Massachusetts criminal procedure and provides basic instruction in lawyering skills such as case planning and investigation. Students are assigned to cases handled by senior members of the Criminal Clinic and are expected to conduct tasks out of court such as legal research, fact investigation, witness interviews and preparation. One morning a week, these students are in court observing and second seating the cases they have helped to prepare.

Fall 3L Semester

In the fall of their 3L year, students continue their participation in the Criminal Clinic by taking three courses: Professional Responsibility, Criminal Trial Practice II, and Issues in Criminal Justice.

  • Professional Responsibility (3 credits) meets for two hours a week and focuses on ethical issues that arise in the context of criminal trial litigation. Students are graded based upon an examination, as well as on short papers that are assigned throughout the course of the term.
  • Issues in Criminal Justice (3 credits) meets for two hours a week and explores issues that the students encounter in the cases which they litigate. Students analyze the role of the parties in the criminal justice system and institutional problems that play a recurring role. Students are graded based on class participation and a paper.
  • Criminal Trial Practice II (8 credits) presents advanced issues in criminal practice, such as motions to suppress and sentencing advocacy. In conjunction with their class work, students are assigned to either the Prosecutor Program or the Defender Program component of the clinic. Each student is expected to devote at least two mornings a week to their work in court. Students are graded based upon how well they perform with the cases they are assigned and on an examination.

Defender Program

Students in the Defender Program are assigned to represent indigent defendants charged with criminal offenses in either the Boston Municipal Court or the Boston Juvenile Court. In both locations, the students act as defense counsel under the supervision of a clinical professor. The work in court provides students with exposure to lawyering experiences such as investigation, interviewing, counseling and trial advocacy. Primary emphasis is on the development of trial skills, and students spend the first part of the semester acting as defense counsel in misdemeanor cases of increasing complexity. Later in the semester, representation in felony cases is possible, as well as exposure to a number of other aspects of the criminal justice system. At all times, case assignments are based upon an individual assessment of a student's progress and demonstrated competence.

Prosecutor Program

Students in the Prosecutor Program act as prosecutors in the Quincy District Court, for the Norfolk County District Attorney's office. The students have responsibility for all aspects of the cases they are assigned, under the supervision of the clinical professor. Students are exposed to a wide variety of experiences, including investigation, interviewing and trial advocacy. Students spend the first part of the semester representing the Commonwealth in misdemeanor cases of increasing complexity. Later in the semester, representation in felony cases is possible, as well as having an opportunity to appear before a six-person jury session. At all times, of course, case assignments are based upon an individual assessment of a student's progress and demonstrated competence.