Learn the real-world practice of criminal law.

Students enrolled in the Criminal Law Clinical Program learn first-hand what it means to be a criminal law attorney. They conduct investigations to formulate trial strategy, file pre-trial motions, participate in plea bargaining, try cases and make sentencing arguments. Students follow their cases from beginning to end; in recent years some clinic students have even taken their cases to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Students can choose from the following:

  • Prosecutor Program
  • Public Defender Program (Adult)
  • Public Defender Program (Juvenile)

The Criminal Law Clinical Program is a two-semester Program. During the first semester of participation, students (called ‘juniors’) act in a supporting role on cases handled by ‘senior’ members of the Program. The ‘seniors’ are second semester students who carry full responsibility for their own cases, and are assigned to either the Prosecutor Clinic or the Defender Clinic.

Students begin the Criminal Law Clinical Program as either a 2L or 3L. The requirements for each ‘track’ are different, so please read carefully below. All students participating in the Criminal Clinic are eligible for the Concentration in Litigation and Dispute Resolution.

Second-year track

The 2L track begins either fall or spring semester of a student’s second year and is completed in either fall or spring semester of the third year.

Pre-/co-requisites: Students must take a course in Evidence and a course in Criminal Procedure in either the first or second semester of their second year.

2L year requirements

Students participate in two courses: Criminal Trial Practice I and Criminal Trial Advocacy.

3L year requirements

Students take Criminal Trial Practice II, during either the fall or spring semester.

Optional fall courses: Whichever semester students do their clinical work, we offer two optional courses in the fall specifically designed for Criminal Law Clinical Program students: Professional Responsibility and Issues in Criminal Justice.

Third-year track

Available to third-year students, this track begins with classroom work in the fall semester and culminates in trial work in the spring semester.

Pre-/co-requisites: students must have completed, by the end of the first semester of 3L year, a course in Evidence, a course in Trial Advocacy, and a course in Criminal Procedure.

Fall semester requirements

Spring semester requirements

Criminal Trial Practice II (5-8 credits) examines 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 Clinic or the Defender Clinic. Students in the Prosecutor Clinic choose be in court one or two days a week (earning 5 or 8 credits, respectively), Monday through Thursday. Students in the Defender Clinic receive eight credits and must be available to be in court two days a week.


Defender Clinic

‘Senior’ students in the Program are assigned to either the Defender Clinic or the Prosecutor Clinic. In the Defender Clinic, students represent indigent defendants charged with criminal offenses in either the Boston Municipal Court or the Boston Juvenile Court. Students act as defense counsel under the supervision of the 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. At all times case assignments are based upon an individual assessment of a student’s progress and demonstrated competence.

Prosecutor Clinic

THIS CLASS IS RESTRICTED to students who have formally applied to and been accepted to the Criminal Law Clinical Program. Criminal Trial Practice II is for students in their second semester of the Program and who have been assigned to the Prosecutor section. Students act as prosecutors in the Quincy District Court on behalf of the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office, handling felony and misdemeanor cases of increasing complexity under the supervision of the clinical professor. Students are exposed to a wide variety of experiences, including investigation, interviewing and trial advocacy. Students litigate evidentiary hearings and conduct every phase of a jury or bench trial. Students collaborate but serve as the lead prosecutors on their own cases. Case assignments are based upon an individual assessment of a student’s progress and demonstrated competence. Students in the Prosecutor Program may choose to be in court either one or two days a week, Monday through Thursday. Those in court only one day receive 5 credits, those in court two days receive 8 credits. NOTE: The Criminal Clinical Program satisfies the upper-class professional skills requirement and counts towards the 6 credit Experiential Learning requirement. GRADING NOTICE: This course does not offer the CR/NC/H option.

Faculty & Additional Information

The Criminal Law Clinical Program is taught by:

For more information, please contact Program Director David Rossman. Applications are available each April for participation the next academic year.