Alabama Criminal Defense Clinic
Overview & Methodology
Welcome to the Criminal Defense Clinic. You are in for a terrific experience. As a Clinic
student, you will represent clients in misdemeanor cases (and sometimes minor felonies) in the
Tuscaloosa County Courthouse under direct faculty supervision. In your role as student attorney
you will handle every aspect of your cases, including client interviews and counseling, fact
investigations, legal research and writing, negotiations with prosecutors, motions practice and
advocacy in hearings and trials. You will also work with attorneys in the Tuscaloosa County Public
Defender office on more serious felony cases.
Throughout the year, you will be challenged to think critically and creatively about the law
and case strategy. It is not expected that every clinic student will become a public defender or
practice individual client representation after graduating from law school. But legal reasoning and
research, case investigation and experiential problem-solving are essential skills for every lawyer in
any practice, and you will begin to develop these skills through your clinical practice. The fact that
these skills are learned in the context of real client representation in the clinic enriches and
reinforces the lessons.
The Criminal Defense Clinic is heavily oriented toward teamwork. You will work in pairs on
your own cases, and you will also be expected to be familiar with your classmates’ cases. Each team
will prepare and continually update a Case Analysis Memorandum (“CAM”) that is to be read by all
Clinic students. Through this highly collaborative approach you will learn to develop case strategies
in a variety of scenarios by contributing ideas for every Clinic case.
In class, you will present analyses of your cases and discuss relevant issues with your
colleagues. You will often role-play through simulated interviews, negotiations, and litigation using
actual case facts. Exercises are assigned to give each of you as much litigation experience as
possible, even if ultimately your case will not go to a hearing or to trial.
Throughout the semester, we will cover the following topics (among others):
• Client Interviewing & Counseling
• Investigation & Discovery
• Trial Advocacy
• The Role of the Defense Lawyer
• Ethics & Professionalism
By the end of the semester, you will have a detailed, working knowledge of how to represent
a defendant in a criminal case from start to finish. More importantly, you will be able to do so in a
highly effective and zealous manner that is client-centered, professional and ethical.
II. CLINIC METHODOLOGY
A. Different Kind of Teaching Method
In the Criminal Defense Clinic we practice a three dimensional way of learning: 1) reading
and studying rules, theories, and strategies of representing criminal defendants; 2) performing tasks
(e.g., interviewing and counseling clients; researching legal and factual issues; conducting hearings or
trials); and 3) engaging in feedback/critique of student performance (e.g., review and editing of
written work; review of oral presentations; self and peer evaluation). This is sometimes referred to
as "prepare, do, reflect."
In other words, the methodology of learning in the clinic is different from the usual law
school class. In a clinic, you learn by doing and reflecting on what you have done, not simply by
reading about what other people have done or listening to lectures about how things ought to be
B. Clinic Goals
The Clinic’s goals are two-fold: 1) to train law students through, zealous representation of
clients, to be effective professional lawyers, and 2) to provide zealous and effective representation to
You can expect to develop skills that are fundamental to competent lawyering in any field of
law: problem solving; legal analysis and reasoning; legal research; factual investigation; oral and
written communication and advocacy; interviewing and counseling; negotiation; organizing and
managing legal work; engaging in trial advocacy; and recognizing professional responsibilities and
resolving ethical dilemmas.
C. Clinic Work Structure
Clinic students have legal and ethical responsibility for cases. Because of these
responsibilities, the amount of work required on a case must be judged by the ethical standard of
providing zealous representation to our clients not simply by the amount of credits to be earned in a
While you will have chief responsibility for every aspect of your cases, you practice under my
bar license. Therefore, I am ultimately responsible for and must review and approve all work that
goes out to a court or opposing party and all letters or other communication to a client that includes
legal analysis or advice. My name (as a member of the bar) must be on all documents sent outside
D. Your Role is to Act as the Lawyer for Your Client
In your work as a student attorney, do not approach your work evenhandedly like a
classroom student; be a zealous advocate. In your zeal, you should not, however, lose your
objectivity on the strengths and weaknesses of your case or your professionalism. Learning to judge
good and bad arguments and options, while at the same time fighting as hard as possible for your
client, is a fundamental goal of good lawyering.
E. Relationship with Clients
Your role is to represent the interests of the clients. The client is the boss (Al. Rule of
Professional Conduct 1.2(a): "The client has ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be
served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by law and the lawyer's professional
Keep the client informed (Rule 1.4(a): "A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed
about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information"; Rule
1.4(b): "The lawyer shall give the client sufficient information to participate intelligently in decisions
concerning the objectives of the representation and the means by which they are to be pursued, to
the extent the client is willing and able to do so.").
F. Amount of Work Required
Do not judge your amount of work in terms of credits but instead in terms of what is
necessary to represent your client zealously and competently. Do not use a law school rule of
thumb about how many hours of outside work for each hour of credit. Typically, for the 4 credit
hours for Clinic work, students should expect to average 10-15 hours per week of casework outside
of class. The timing will likely vary depending on the status of your cases. Some weeks you may
only work 6-8 hours while others may require well over 20, e.g., when you are preparing for trial.
Like most things in life, the more you put into your clinical experience, the more you will get
out of it. But if you are feeling overworked, please let me know. Remember, your work in the clinic
is not just about getting good grades or filling credits, it is about representing real clients who are in
desperate need of your help.
G. Division of Labor
You will be assigned to cases in teams of two. At times, you may be working on a number
of different cases. Don't be obsessed with the amount of work other students in the Clinic may be
doing. Each case is different, and cases require different amounts of work at different times during
the semester. I will do my best to see that over the course of the semester, the amount of work is
H. Handling Confidential Information
Rule 1.6 of the Al. Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from revealing
information relating to the representation of a client unless the client consults after consultation.
Therefore, do not discuss cases with persons who are not in the Clinic. If you communicate with
someone who is not your client or is not a member of the Clinic or its staff, you may be waiving
available privileges and violating ethics rules. You could also be hurting your case by letting others
know about facts or issues (or even the existence of the case) that they can later use against your
To ensure confidentiality, do not discuss protected information about a Clinic case in the
presence of anyone not in the Clinic. In addition, do not provide documents or research on Clinic
cases to anyone outside the Clinic or confer about strategies used by the Clinic. You must read,
sign, and abide by “Confidentiality Agreement” that I will provide you and comply at all times with
Rule 1.6 of the Al. Rules of Professional Conduct.
To help ensure proper handling of documents, please type or stamp “Confidential” or
“Attorney-Client” privilege on all written communication with your clients and on other appropriate
documents or letters.
I. Conflicts of Interest
The Clinic clients are entitled to the undivided loyalty of all Clinic attorneys, students, and
staff. Therefore, you must guard against any conflict of interest with a client that may arise from
your responsibilities to another client, former client, or third person or from your own interests. Be
sensitive to any actual, potential, or perceived conflict of interest and immediately report any issue
raising a potential conflict to your supervising attorney. Be particularly mindful that we have a
Domestic Violence Law Clinic at the law school and that we should never be representing a client
who is involved with a case handled by the DV Clinic.
J. Student Practice Rule & Unauthorized Practice of Law
To ensure compliance with the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, avoid the
unauthorized practice of law, act consistent with the Alabama Rule for Legal Internship by Law
Students, and avoid potential legal malpractice problems, Clinic students must follow the guidelines
defining appropriate activities for Clinic students set out in “University of Alabama Clinical Program
Guidelines for Appropriate Activities by Law Clinic Students.”
You will receive a separate "Law Clinic Grade Criteria" document explaining how you will
be graded. You will receive one grade for this four-credit class at the end of the semester. In
assigning grades, we are forced to make distinctions based on effort, preparation and use of law and
facts, drafting of written materials, timely preparation for proceedings/deadlines, issue identification
and problem solving, file maintenance and organization, client relationships and professionalism.
By far, the most significant factor in your grade will be your effort and commitment to the
work of the clinic -- not just the work of your own cases but the work of all clinic cases.
III. OFFICE PROCEDURES
A. Building Use
You may access the Clinic workroom A155 at any time. To gain access, use your University
electronic identification card in the swipe card reader by the clinical program's back door (i.e., the
door facing the bookstore) and then in the workroom's swipe card reader. If you are the last person
to leave the workroom, please make sure the door locks securely and that all lights are turned off.
We share Room A155 with the Community Development Clinic. Nobody other than
students in one of these two clinics is allowed in the workroom. In turn, you shall not enter one of
the other clinical program student workrooms (i.e., Rooms A145, A137 or A139). Failure to adhere
to these rules could result in a breach of confidential information. In particular, you should not
discuss any clinic-related work with students in the Domestic Violence Law Clinic.
Because of limited space and resources, you should not use the Clinic's computers,
telephones, fax machines or copiers for non-Clinic work. You also are not to use the work area as a
social area as it interferes with students working on Clinic matters.
Always clean up your work area when you leave: reshelve any books; put away files; turn off
the computer and printer; put chairs back where they belong; put waste in appropriate trash or
recycling bins. If you are the last one to leave the work area, make sure that all computers, printers,
and lights are turned off. Again, when you leave the workroom and the clinical program area, make
sure the door locks securely behind you.
B. Mail & Messages
The clinic administrative assistants at the front desk, Diane Simpson and Sabrina Williams,
will assist you with mailing out documents but you are always responsible for drafting and copying
letters and providing them with the names and addresses. Certified mail and return receipt
requested forms may be obtained from the front desk. Please try to avoid, where possible, the
necessity of having to send documents by overnight express.
Check your mail, email, and phone messages every day. If you are going to be out-of-town
for a few days, inform me and your peers so they can check your mail/messages.
Address all Clinic correspondence to:
Criminal Defense Clinic
University of Alabama School of Law
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
C. Phones & Fax
The Clinic phone number is (205) 348-8058. You may also provide clients with your own
phone number for ease of communication, but you are not required to do so. To make a local call
on one of the Clinic's phones, dial “9” and then the number. For long distance calls, dial “9”, “1”,
and then the number. Please do not use the Clinic phone for personal calls.
The Clinic's fax machine -- (205) 348-6851 -- is in Room A146, the clinical program's
mail/copy room. Be selective in your use of the fax machine. In most circumstances, if a document
can be mailed or emailed, then you should avoid faxing the document because of the cost of long
To transmit a document on the fax machine: 1) load the documents face down in the fax
machine (always include some type of fax transmittal cover sheet); 2) enter the fax number of the
person to whom the fax is being sent (if a local number, just enter “9" before the fax number; if long
distance, enter “9”, “1” and then fax number); and 3) press the green “start” button.
The photocopy machine is also in Room A146, as well as the high speed Westlaw printer
that is connected to the clinical program computers. The photocopy machine also works as a
scanner. Ask Diane Simpson for help in scanning a document.
My contact information is:
University of Alabama
School of Law
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
Cell: 646-594-4095 9 (please do not distribute)
A computer and printer for use on Clinic work are located in the Clinic's student workroom.
You may also use your personal laptop computers in the student workroom as there is good wireless
service in the room.
For big print jobs, you may print to the clinical programs high-speed printer in Room A146.
The photocopy machine is in Room A146. The Clinic copier is for use on Clinic-related
work; it is not for your personal use or for making copies of materials for other classes or activities.
The Clinic does not provide student supplies such as pens, note paper, etc., but will provide
supplies needed for cases. We have a template for Clinic letterhead and will provide envelopes.
Other supplies such as file folders, accordion folders, and large envelopes may need to be obtained
from Diane Simpson in Room A149.
The law school has a car that is available for out-of-town Clinic travel. Your supervising
attorney can help you with arrangements to use the car. Otherwise, there is no reimbursement for
You are likely to work harder, learn more, and have more fun
in this class than any other in law school. So embrace it and enjoy it!