The clients of criminal defense lawyers have their property, their liberty, and sometimes even their lives at stake. Prosecutors on the other side of those same cases are responsible for protecting the community from dangerous criminals and seeking justice for what are often heinous acts. Because of the importance of criminal litigation, criminal lawyers spend a great deal of time in the courtroom and litigating constitutional issues. The issues at stake for both sides make criminal law one of the most exciting, rewarding, and demanding areas of practice. It is also one in which many Cincinnati alumni have excelled.
Defense lawyers work in a variety of practice settings. Many are employed by Public Defender Offices and represent persons charged with crimes who cannot afford their own counsel. Accordingly, they tend to represent people charged with “street crimes,” such as robbery, assault, theft, and narcotics offenses. Many federal judicial districts have Federal Public Defender offices, which represent people charged with federal crimes who cannot afford to pay for counsel. Many defense lawyers are also in private practice either in a solo practice, small firms, or departments of large firms. Some private criminal defense lawyers specialize in certain areas of criminal law such as a member of a large, primarily civil, law firm who handles securities, white collar, and financial crimes.
Prosecutors also work in many different offices with authority to conduct criminal prosecutions. Most prosecutors work for local, county, and state governments. Crime is primarily local, and, therefore, depending on jurisdictional requirements, prosecutors in these offices do the vast majority of prosecutions. However, a substantial number of prosecutors also work for the U.S. Department of Justice either in Washington D.C. or in one of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, which are located in each state. Federal prosecutors prosecute federal crimes such as narcotics, white collar fraud schemes, organized crime, and crimes related to violent gangs. There are also a few state and federal offices with specialized prosecutorial jurisdiction over, for example, tax or environmental offenses.
All students will take Criminal Law during their first year. Those considering a career in this area generally select foundational courses such as Criminal Procedure I, Criminal Procedure II, White Collar Crime, and Evidence in the second year of study. Trial Practice and other classes that teach litigation skills are also helpful. Students can further refine their knowledge and skills in this area by selecting from a list of criminal law courses as their schedules permit.
Because the practice of criminal law so often involves litigation, many students interested in criminal law will also take many classes from the litigation and alternative dispute resolution curriculum.
Linked here is a sample of a student schedule of a fictitious student who is interested in criminal law. This is designed to give some idea of the many ways courses can be woven into a curriculum designed to build your knowledge of criminal and other areas of the law, prepare you to take a bar exam, and help you acquire professional skills. You can create many wonderful schedules that meet your goals. This one is merely a sample, that, frankly, should only be used to spur your ideas of the best curriculum for you. You may also want to discuss your scheduling choices with professors, practitioners, upper-level students and Dean Oliver. Please remember that you must ensure that your schedule will meet all the requirements for graduation. Also remember that the classes listed in this sample schedule may not be offered in the particular semester shown here while you are in law school and that the number of credits may vary from year to year.
Gwen Alum — Student interested in working as a prosecutor
These national organizations offer student memberships:
Anna Lammert '12. Early in her law student career, St. Louis native Anna Lammert focused on international law. Today, however, the recent College of Law graduate is back home studying for the Missouri bar, which is just one more step in the process of beginning a career in criminal defense. (Read More)
Rex Marvel '12. After three years in Cincinnati, (Johnathon) Rex Marvel is off to the other Queen City – Charlotte, N.C. Marvel, a recent graduate of the College of Law, will spend the next three years at the Mecklenburg County Office of the Public Defender, as part of the 2012 Class of Public Defender Corps Fellows. (Read More)
Lindsey Fleissner '12. Lindsey Fleissner ’12 knew for many years that she wanted to be a lawyer. Originally from Akron, Ohio, Fleissner attended the University of Dayton for undergraduate degree, where she majored in psychology. Throughout college, Fleissner’s participation in legal internships and other experiences fed her interest in being a lawyer, and in criminal law in particular. (Read more)
Zach El-Sawaf ’12. Zach El-Sawaf ’12 is a native Cincinnatian. Although he attended the University of Notre Dame for college, where he majored in political science, he ultimately returned to Cincinnati for law school. This wasn’t always his plan, however; El-Sawaf spent a year after college working for Easter Seals, an organization he had worked seasonally throughout college. “Law school was always in the back of my mind, though,” said El-Sawaf. “I always enjoyed arguing, and I had really enjoyed the mock trial experiences I had had during high school. I also knew that a JD would benefit me in any career I chose to enter.” (Read more)
Daryl Osuch '11. Atypical life experiences led Daryl Osuch ’11 to Cincinnati Law. . . . It was criminal law in particular that stood out for Osuch over the course of his first year. As a result, he began to look into the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) as an option for a summer position. In a sentiment that resonates with many, especially those in public interest-related fields, Osuch explained that he was “drawn by a sense of doing what is right.” He continued, “The close connection between the work you are doing—the motions you’re writing, the research you’re doing, and the lives you're affecting—is an incredible draw. You may not be able to help everyone, but for the people you can help, you can change their lives dramatically.” (Read more)
Peter Link '10. Peter Link ’10, a participant in the law school’s Indigent Defense Clinic in partnership with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, has accomplished a task that few lawyers, let alone law students, ever achieve. His appeal in State v. Kenneth Hodge was accepted by the Supreme Court of Ohio, giving him the opportunity to argue an important constitutional issue before the Court. (Read more)
Innocence Reform Bill Crafted at UC College of Law On Verge of Becoming Ohio Law. What one legislator termed "one of the most important pieces of criminal justice legislation in this state in a century" was passed by the Ohio House on Tuesday with broad bipartisan support, putting the bill that began as a winter-break research effort by UC law students on the cusp of becoming state law. (Read more)
OIP Students. After serving 20 years in prison for rapes that he had always maintained he did not commit, 46-year-old Roger "Dean" Gillispie walked out of prison into the arms of his mother and father three days before Christmas — thanks to the persistent efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), operated by the UC College of Law. Since the case became OIP's first one nine years ago, students and Professor Mark Godsey, OIP director and former federal prosecutor, have doggedly worked on it. (Read More)
Some places our graduates have worked include:
Angela Chang '08. Defendants in Denver, Colorado are lucky to be in the hands of recent UC Law graduate, public defender Angela Chang. Chang, '08, received a degree in international business and marketing. (Read more)
Doug Wilson '81. Colorado State Public Defender Doug Wilson told his mother that he was going to be an attorney and represent poor people in Colorado when he was 10 years old... or at least that's the story his mother tells. Whether it's the truth or an urban legend... (Read more)