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Clinical Education at UT Law

Real Cases. Real Experience.

Criminal Defense Clinic

Student Experience

“The Criminal Defense Clinic served me well as a valuable stepping-stone from the world of legal theory to the world of legal practice, all while allowing me to help real people deal with difficult legal problems. Because the human element becomes front-and-center when navigating the criminal justice system, the Clinic and its wonderful supervising attorneys provide a unique opportunity for students to learn how to walk the tightrope inherent in being an ethical advocate. The Clinic had me engaging in difficult discussions with clients and high-stakes negotiations with prosecutors, and my time working in the Clinic stands out to me as the most memorable and rewarding experience I have had in law school to date.”
—Jim Hartle, ’13

“I think the disconnect between the classroom and actual practice is one of the most frustrating parts of law school. While I’ve had many valuable educational experiences at UT, the Clinic is the one thing I’ve done during my tenure in which I felt like a lawyer—with all the joy, frustration and terror that goes along with it. From the time I saw Bill Allison speak at orientation, I knew I wanted to be in the Criminal Defense Clinic. I had a feeling it would be one of the most important experiences I would have at school. I had no idea how right I was. It was amazing.”
—Elizabeth Fitch, ’12

“Participating in the Criminal Defense Clinic was a defining point of my time as a law student.  Getting the opportunity to actually represent clients not only provides a means to learn substantive law, but it provides a glimpse at the importance of lawyers as problem solvers and the dramatic impact a good lawyer can have in the lives of their clients.  Practicing law in the Clinic has given me the means and the motivation to learn skills like client control, investigation, and negotiation that can’t be taught in the same way anywhere else in the law school.  Similarly, it has motivated me to improve my skills with legal research, trial skills, and legal writing.  Learning about these skills in a classroom doesn’t compare with having to find the right statute or case or to convince a judge or jury to find for your client when it really matters.
“The collegial atmosphere and the daily work in the Clinic are what really make it such an important experience.  Learning through experience, both your own and that of other Clinic students, makes the issues that lawyers constantly deal with accessible and compelling. Nearly every week issues of professional conduct arose that were more engaging than any Professional Responsibility class hypothetical could be.  There’s really no other place where you can approach these kinds of issues with the same level of guidance and support from supervising attorneys who are experts in the law and teaching people how to practice it.  Being a student attorney in the Clinic has helped me realize both how to be a lawyer and why I want to be one.”
—William Cowardin, ’11

“The Criminal Defense Clinic was the most rewarding aspect of my law school education.  I joined the Clinic to experience real-life client interaction, and to learn about criminal law.  The Clinic surpassed all of my expectations.  I learned valuable lessons in managing criminal cases from start to finish, and also gained important skills in dealing with clients, prosecutors, and judges.  I was given a lot of responsibility for my cases, with the knowledge that my attorney supervisors were carefully reviewing my actions and were available to answer any questions I had.  I actually got to represent my client in a jury trial --and won!-- which was the most rewarding, challenging, and informative experience I have had to date.  I highly recommend the Criminal Defense Clinic to anyone who is looking to learn skills that cannot be taught in the classroom.”
—Laura Garrett, ’10

“Working as a Student Attorney for the Criminal Defense Clinic was bar none the most rewarding experience of my law school career. My work on real world problems for actual clients instilled in me a love of the law I would otherwise have left law school without. There is simply no way to compare a four-hour timed exam to an opportunity to vigorously advocate on a client’s behalf in the courtroom. In the classroom, Bill Allison and the Clinic supervisors were more encouraging, involved, and interested in my progress than any professor I have had.
—Jennifer Ann Gillespie, ’11

“I can confidently say, without a doubt in my mind, that the Criminal Defense Clinic was the single best thing I did at UT Law.  The supervisors are top-notch and consistently find a way to reward the students with experience, supplemented by valuable anecdotes from both other students and the supervisors themselves.  I would recommend the Criminal Defense Clinic wholeheartedly to anyone interested in understanding how things actually work in the criminal justice system.  Just days into the semester, I was able to negotiate with prosecutors, analyze DWI sobriety tests to ensure adequate procedure was followed, and meet with a Spanish-speaking client to get his side of the story.  I have never before or since felt so liberated by the possibility of doing good for persons in need.  If given the opportunity, I would volunteer to help in a heartbeat.  Law is not in a 900-page textbook or 80 page fictionalized hypothetical.  Law is real and happening every day in the Clinic.”
—Eric M. Leventhal, ’11

“Reading the law is where we all start on our journey to become lawyers. For me, though, the law didn’t start to make sense until I actually worked on a live issue with a real client in a court of law. There is no better way to build an understanding of the law than to get in there and mix it up.”
—Perry Minton, ’08