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Lawyering for the Accused

Founded: mid-1960s, in partnership with the Defender Association of Philadelphia

The Criminal Defense Clinic, in partnership with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, combines hands on trial experience with an educational seminar component tailored to developing litigation skills.

Students try cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Philadelphia Municipal Court under the close supervision of a senior trial attorney from the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Students first receive an intensive introduction into trial techniques, Pennsylvania criminal law, procedure and evidence. During this period students are also assigned mock cases to help prepare them before their first court appearance, in addition to observing actual preliminary arraignments, preliminary hearings, and trials.

Students are then assigned to represent defendants in different cases, under close supervision. They interview and counsel clients, develop case theories, negotiate with opposing parties, prepare pretrial motions, and conduct misdemeanor trials and preliminary hearings for felony cases. Students are given the opportunity to interact with their clients, members of the judiciary, District Attorneys, witnesses and complainants.

In addition, students also attend periodic seminar sessions to discuss selected facets of defense work, lawyering skills and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. They also thoughtfully examine the relationship between race, poverty and the criminal justice system.