Criminal Defense Clinic

Clinic Description

The Criminal Defense Clinic focuses on state and municipal criminal law and its impacts on people charged with crimes. The course engages in practice and analyses of criminal law that center discussion of intensively regulated low-income communities, racial justice, local power hierarchies and the role of misdemeanor legal regulation.

Instructor: Amber Baylor, Clinical Professor of Law
Experiential Credits: 7 credits (3 for the seminar; 4 for fieldwork)
Available in: Spring 2025

The Seminar

The clinic seminar focuses on theoretical approaches to defense and community lawyering, developing defense advocacy tools, and gaining context for systemic issues in local criminal law. Students will think expansively and critically about the role of defense attorneys and organizations in seminar, through simulations, rounds, and conversations with experts. The course asks students to consider how public defense lawyers work towards a transformative vision of more humane cities.

Students in the clinic can expect to:

  • Develop client-centered, trauma-sensitive lawyering practices;
  • Analyze misdemeanor criminal regulation and systemic injustices;
  • Build trial advocacy tools, including written and oral advocacy;
  • Engage in in-depth fact investigation, including visits to scenes and interviews of witnesses;
  • Reflect on recent criminal law reforms and their impacts;
  • Explore and engage in community lawyering practices, both with individual clients and organizational partners;
  • Think expansively about defense advocacy and the role of defenders;
  • Learn to build client narratives and hone negotiation skills;
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary experts.


Students in the clinic represent individuals facing misdemeanor charges in New York City courts. They work with clients, client’s families, community organizations, and experts in various disciplines to provide holistic defense. At times, students will advocate on related matters, such as conditions of incarceration and consequences of criminal records.

The students engage in a class-wide advocacy project supporting Harlem-based organizations working towards minimizing reliance on misdemeanor regulation and surveillance, developing safety alternatives, or addressing the impacts of criminalization. The project work allows students to gain a diverse set of lawyering tools, collaborate with non-lawyer experts, and consider the nuanced role of attorneys in supporting transformative grassroots advocacy.

Students meet weekly with the professor to reflect upon and discuss their substantive work, lawyering styles, and professional goals.

Important Information

The course is open to 8 students. Both J.D. and L.L.M. students are eligible. Preference will be given to students that have taken, or are currently enrolled in, Criminal Investigations and Evidence. Please email Amber Baylor ([email protected]) to discuss the clinic in more detail.