The clinics at NYLS give students an invaluable opportunity to develop practical legal skills while learning to advance fairness and equity in the law.

Criminal Defense Clinic


Professors Frank Bress and Faith Colangelo

The Criminal Defense Clinic engages students in the actual practice of criminal law under the supervision of Professor Bress and in conjunction with an experienced Legal Aid Society (“LAS”) attorney. Each student is paired with an LAS attorney and works closely with a faculty supervisor and the assigned LAS attorney on the attorney’s felony cases at all stages of the criminal process, from arraignment through trial. Students accompany the attorneys to court, attend and participate in client and witness interviews, conduct investigations, review police reports and other discovery material, draft motions and memoranda of law, participate in the development of a case theory and litigation strategy, and second chair hearings and trials. In addition, students represent clients in misdemeanor cases with the LAS attorney or faculty supervisor present in court. All student work is conducted under the supervision of the faculty supervisors and the LAS attorneys. The faculty supervisors are intimately involved in the students’ cases and work closely with the students and the LAS attorneys in the development of case theory and strategy and in the preparation of the cases. During the fall semester, twice weekly seminars focus on selected topics in criminal law and procedure, evidence, ethics, and lawyering skills. The seminars are a mixture of discussion, demonstration, simulation, and critique. The subject of the seminars is drawn mainly from the cases students are working on, and students are expected to raise and discuss issues they are confronting in their cases. Simulations focus on critical lawyering skills, such as information acquisition through interviewing, direct examination and cross-examination; argumentation; and the presentation of complex fact patterns and legal analysis in affidavits, memoranda of law, and oral argument. During the Fall semester, students are expected to regularly devote 21-28 hours per week to the course, including both seminars and fieldwork, and to spend additional time as required by their cases. Students practice as “legal interns” under a Student Practice Order. To meet the requirements of the Student Practice Order, the first three weeks of class involve an intensive 50-hour program on criminal law and procedure and practice in the New York City criminal courts. During the Spring semester externship, supervision is provided by the same supervising attorney with whom the student worked during the Fall semester, but without the intensive involvement of the faculty member. There are no seminars during the Spring semester. Both the fieldwork and seminar components (CR 85221& 85220) in the Fall semester are separately graded on a letter basis. The externship in the Spring semester (CR 14686) is graded on a pass-fail basis. Grades for both semesters are posted at the end of the spring semester. Pre-requisites may be waived with the permission of the instructor.

The course is open to third-year students only. Enrollment is limited to eight. Registration is binding. Permission of the Professor is required.

Prerequisites: Criminal Law; Evidence; Criminal Procedure-Investigation

Recommended courses: Criminal Procedure-Adjudication; Criminal Procedure-Ethics in Criminal Practice; Trial Advocacy

Note: It is recommended that Trial Advocacy be taken in the spring semester of the third year along with the Criminal Defense Clinic Externship (CR 14686). Trial Advocacy may not be taken in the fall semester along with Criminal Defense Clinic Seminar and Fieldwork (CR 85220 & CR 85221)