Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law Clinic

The criminal justice system needs repair. Though crime rates have fallen over the past four decades, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. More than 2 million people are behind bars. As a result of certain laws and policing practices, minorities and low-income residents are disproportionately likely to be arrested and imprisoned, often for non-violent crimes.

USF’s School of Law teaches students how to navigate the complicated criminal justice system to both ensure justice and to best advocate for their clients. Second- and third-year students represent people charged with misdemeanor offenses in San Francisco Superior Court. They also represent San Quentin State Prison inmates who were incarcerated for crimes they committed as teenagers and are now eligible for parole.

Under the supervision of USF law professors, the students handle nearly every aspect of a client’s case, including client and witness interviews, investigations, court appearances, client counseling, motions practice, suppression hearings, motion to return property hearings, trials, appeals, and writs of mandate.

Students attend a weekly seminar together with students in the Racial Justice Clinic. In the seminar, students learn the skills necessary to defend a criminal case from investigation to closing argument. The seminar also has a variety of dynamic and accomplished guest speakers who share their knowledge and experience.

robyn hallThe most rewarding part of working in the clinic was the amount of real experience we gained from working on cases from beginning to end,  from interviewing the client to writing the motions and arguing them in court. The most challenging part was that I was in court for the first time, but Professor Bazelon was there for every step of the way. This experience confirmed that I am capable of litigation, something I didn't think I would like, but now have found that I am suited for it and look forward to progressing further in criminal defense or my other interest, family law."


Our Stories


Lara Bazelon

Full-Time Faculty
(415) 422-6202

Lara Bazelon is a professor of law and the director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinical Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. From 2012-2015, she was a visiting associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School and the director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent. Professor Bazelon was a trial attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles for seven years. Prior to that, she was a law clerk for the Honorable Harry...


BA, Columbia University, JD, New York University


Advanced Legal Writing, Clinical Education, Criminal Procedure, Ethics, Habeas Corpus, Trial Advocacy, Wrongful Convictions

Erin O'Donnell

Part-Time Faculty
(415) 422-6194

Erin O'Donnell has been a private criminal defense attorney since graduating from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2000. She started her career at Pier 5 Law Offices working with the notable J. Tony Serra. After honing her skills at Pier 5, she opened her own office and continued her work as a criminal defense warrior. She has almost two decades of criminal defense work in state and federal courts. Erin works with Professor Lara Bazelon in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Law...


California State University, Long Beach, BA , USF School of Law, JD


Criminal procedure, Criminal defense investigation, Plea negotiations, Motion work, Criminal trial practice