The Catholic University of America
Virginia Criminal Defense Clinic

The Virginia Criminal Defense Clinic is a four-credit, one-semester course that provides eligible 3D, 3E, and 4E students with a rigorous and intensive exposure to criminal defense practice through a combination of actual trial practice and classroom work. Students are assigned to work at the Public Defender’s Office in Arlington County, VA, where they represent individuals accused of crimes in district court.

After a short orientation, students are given a docket of cases for which they are responsible. Under the supervision of an assistant public defender, the students engage in plea bargain negotiations and criminal representation before the court. In addition, students have many opportunities to evaluate different styles of lawyering by watching criminal trial lawyers in action. To supplement and refine their practice experience, students attend a weekly seminar in which they discuss their pending cases, what they have encountered in court, and substantive trial practice issues. Students must be eligible for certification under the Virginia Third Year Student Rule.

Students enrolled in the Defense Clinic complete their casework and attend clinic seminar classes at the Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s Office in Arlington County is Metro accessible, located at Arlington Courthouse Plaza 1 & 2, 2300 Clarendon Blvd #201, Arlington, VA 22201.


Registration Information

To register, students must complete the application which can be found on the right hand side of this webpage and submit it to Rachel Lawrence at

Preference in allocation of spots will also be given as follows:

Students who applied before and were not accepted to the clinic.
Students in their final year of study.
By the date & time of submission of students’ applications.
 ***Be sure to submit your application as soon as possible to secure your spot.

Please note: Students generally are not permitted to complete an externship and a clinic within the same semester.


Questions? Email Professor Martin at or Rachel Lawrence at