Criminal Defense Clinic

In the Criminal Defense Clinic at Columbia Law School, students engage in practice and analyses of criminal law, focusing on local power hierarchies and the role of misdemeanor systems in communities. 

Students in the clinic represent individuals facing misdemeanor charges in New York City courts. Under supervision, students counsel and appear in court with clients. Students also serve as advocates on related matters, such as incarceration conditions and collateral consequences of criminal records. 

As part of class-wide policy advocacy work, students support local organizations that aim to minimize the reliance on misdemeanor regulation and surveillance in communities of color, develop alternatives to criminal law punishments, or address the impacts of criminalization. The clinic experience enables students to utilize a diverse set of lawyering tools, collaborate with interdisciplinary experts, and consider the nuanced role of attorneys in supporting transformative grassroots advocacy.

The clinic seminar focuses on theoretical approaches to defense and community lawyering and developing defense advocacy tools.  In class and in weekly supervision meetings, students reflect upon and discuss their fieldwork. Through simulations and conversations with experts, students think expansively about the role of defense attorneys.