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Criminal Law

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 these criminal law courses:

  • Criminal Defense:  Investigation and Discovery
  • Criminal Procedure I
  • Criminal Procedure II
  • Crimmigration
  • Evidence
  • Indigent Defense Clinic
  • Introduction to Law and Psychiatry
  • Ohio Innocence Project
  • Sixth Circuit Clinic
  • Trial Practice
  • Trial Practice: Competition Team
  • White Collar Crime

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. The following elective courses would also be helpful.

  • Administrative Law
  • Advanced Decision Analysis
  • Advanced Legal Research
  • Appellate Practice and Procedure
  • Civil Rights Litigation
  • Client Counseling
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic
  • Electronic Discovery: Procedural and Evidentiary Issues
  • Federal Courts
  • Gender and the Law
  • Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Judicial Externships
  • Legal Externships
  • Moot Court
  • Negotiations
  • Pretrial Litigation
  • Witness Preparation

Sample Student Schedule

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

Other Student Learning Opportunities

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Centers and Institutes

Other Student Activities

Student Organizations — sampling

* See complete list of student organizations.

These national organizations offer student memberships:

Volunteer Opportunities — sampling

* Get more information about volunteer opportunities.

Full-Time Faculty

Louis D. Bilionis
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law

Mark A. Godsey
Daniel P. and Judith L. Carmichael Professor of Law and Faculty Director,
Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice/ Ohio Innocence Project

Christo Lassiter
Professor of Law and Criminal Justice

Janet Moore
Associate Professor of Law

Yolanda Vazquez
Associate Professor of Law

UC Alumni Careers

Some places our graduates have worked include:

  • Chicago Public Defender's Office
  • Federal Public Defender's Office
  • Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office
  • Innocence Project of Florida
  • Office of the Colorado Public Defender
  • Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Porter Wright Morris & Arthur
  • Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
  • United States Attorney's Office in Philadelphia and Boston