Criminal Justice Clinic

Welcome to the Criminal Justice Clinic of the Washington University School of Law. The Criminal Justice Clinic is one of 16 clinical courses available to all law students at Washington University School of Law, where every student is guaranteed at least one clinical course

This web site is designed to provide information regarding the Criminal Justice Clinic for prospective students as well as act as a resource and to provide reference materials for participating students.

Professor Peter Joy with Clinic Student
Professor Peter Joy meets with a student
outside the Criminal Justice Clinic office
in the St. Louis County Justice Center.
Photo by David Kilper.

The Criminal Justice Clinic operates in collaboration with the St. Louis County office of the Missouri State Public Defender System, which is the second largest criminal defense office in the state, and which is located approximately one mile from the law school in the St. Louis County Justice Center. The Criminal Justice Clinic exposes students to real life lawyering skills within the framework of the state level criminal justice system. Clinic students have the opportunity to serve as Rule 13 certified legal interns, and perform the work of a lawyer, representing clients facing criminal charges.

Students work closely with various attorneys in the Public Defender Office as well as with Professor Peter A. Joy their supervising faculty member, on all of their cases. By performing all of the tasks of providing competent representation to clients, students are exposed to the legal and ethical problems that criminal defense lawyers face in practice. Students confront these problems in the lawyer’s role, identify and work to solve their clients’ legal problems as well as any ethical issues, and receive feedback on their lawyering skills. By partnering with the Public Defender Office, this clinical program fully immerses students in the workings of this typical public defender office while still providing students with excellent supervision and adequate time and opportunities to reflect on their work and the work of the lawyers around them.

At the Public Defenders office, students will have the opportunity to be involved in the following activities:

  • Interviewing clients,
  • Investigating crime scenes,
  • Interviewing witnesses,
  • Performing legal research,
  • Writing memorandum and briefs,
  • Arguing motions in court,
  • Participating in trials,
  • And much more

Participating students work from 17.5 to 28 hours (depending on the number of academic credits) per week on clinic matters. Most of this time is spent at the St. Louis County Courthouse or in the Public Defenders office at the Justice Center in Clayton. Students also meet as a class for two hours each week at the Public Defenders office, and meet frequently with full-time supervising faculty members Professor Joy, Professor Hughes, or Professor Forman to prepare for court appearances, review drafts of written work, and to receive feedback on their work.  Clinic students must arrange their other classes so that they have at least three mornings (8:45AM - 1:00PM, Monday - Thursday) available to work in the clinic.

The overarching goal of this clinic experience is to assist students in developing their own effective style of practice. This is a process they will be engaged in as long as they practice law. The clinical method of teaching assists students in the process by helping them to develop the skill of learning from their experiences. The clinical method of teaching is centered on a three-part process for each and every lawyering task:

  • Planning component
  • Execution component
  • Evaluation or critique component (which usually provides guidance for planning the next task)

The lawyering skills emphasized in the clinic include problem solving, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, factual investigation, client interviewing and counseling, communication skills, negotiation and litigation skills, organization and management of legal work, and the ability to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas. The clinic also focuses students on the professional values of providing competent legal representation, improving the legal profession, and examining the legal profession’s role in promoting justice, fairness and morality.

Students or interested parties with questions about the clinic may contact the Clinic Director, Professor Peter Joy by e-mail at; by telephone at 314-935-6445 or by telephone at 314-935-9430.