Criminal Law

Justice for all.

In books and on television, lawyers are often shown prosecuting or defending an alleged criminal before a judge. The reality is that criminal justice advocacy is far more complex than what happens in a courtroom.

As a student in Oregon Law’s Criminal Practice Program, you will develop a strong foundation in the fundamental issues of an individual's liability, security, responsibility, liberty and constitutional rights. Through hands-on coursework, externships, and clerkships, you will gain the skills  to prepare you for a broad range of careers, including working in the public sector as a prosecutor or defense attorney, in private practice, and in criminal justice advocacy practice anywhere in the country.

Criminal Law Concentration


Alumni Highlight — Laura Coffin, JD ‘07

Alumna Laura Coffin, JD 07

Laura began her career as a trial attorney with a local public defender’s office. Then she worked as a state appellate defender, arguing cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court. In 2018, she became an assistant federal public defender, with responsibility for handling criminal cases at all levels of the federal court system.

“The University of Oregon’s Criminal Law program excelled in connecting its students to some of the best local practitioners. Our local defense bar is filled with highly skilled, dedicated lawyers who respect the caliber of Oregon Law’s students and generously give their time to mentor those students interested in criminal law. From the Defense Clinic with Tom Fagan to my first OCDLA conference in Welches, I connected early on with lawyers who taught me the thousand lessons – when to fall on my sword, how to keep the prosecution honest, how to uphold ethics and zealous representation where the rubber hits the road – that I credit  enormously for getting me to where I am today.”



Recent Oregon Law graduates have worked as prosecutors and defense attorneys in federal, state, and local court systems across the US. Some graduates have become federal and state judges, attorneys general, and leaders of nonprofit organizations working in the area of criminal law.

Common Criminal Law careers include:

  • Prosecutor
  • Public Defender
  • Privately retained defense attorney
  • Policymaker
  • Criminal Justice Administrator/Analyst
  • Civil Rights Litigator
  • Federal Law Enforcement Agent


Sample of Criminal Law Coursework

FIRST YEAR (1L) (Assigned)

Civil Procedure
Constitutional Law I
Criminal Law


Constitutional Law II
Legal Profession
Criminal Adjudication 
Criminal Investigation
Race, Gender, Bias, and the Law
Women and the Law


Children and the Law
Federal Income Tax I
International Criminal Law
Domestic Violence Seminar
White Collar Crime
Politics and Advocacy in the Supreme Court

Criminal Law Research Projects

  • Oregon Child Advocacy Project (OCAP)
  • 1L Fellowship: Criminal Law


Practical Experience

Types of available practical experiences


Legal Research and Writing


Trial Practice
Judicial Field Placement
Interviewing and Counseling


Criminal Defense Clinic or Criminal Prosecution Clinic
Federal Jurisdiction
Writing in Law Practice
Criminal Justice Field Placement


Professional Development

At Oregon Law, we take your future seriously. As a law student, you will take a required professional development seminar your first year.

You will also receive individualized, tailored professional development coaching from a professional who will guide you to make strong career choices throughout your time at Oregon Law.

Professional Development Seminar
Explore Criminal Law practice areas
Meet with career counselor
Join UO Law Linkedln group
Apply for summer field placements-- examples: US Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender
Narrow career exploration to specific employers/locations
Seek out networking opportunities
Join OCDLA (Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association) as a student member and attend CLE seminars at a reduced rate
Criminal law summer field placements-- examples: Law firm summer clerk, US Attorney, Distric Attorney, Public Defender
Apply for jobs and post-JD opportunities



Criminal Law Association
Moot Court Board
Multicultural Law Student Association


Intraschool Moot Court competition
Join Public Interest Public Service Student Organization


Join Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association as a student member
Moot Court Mock Trial

Faculty Highlight — Tom Lininger


Professor Tom Lininger

Tom Lininger teaches Criminal Adjudication, Criminal Law, Evidence and Legal Profession. He earned his BA at Yale and his JD at Harvard. He worked as a federal prosecutor for seven years, and Oregon’s governor appointed him to chair the state’s Criminal Justice Commission. He has written about procedural issues arising in the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault, among other categories of crimes. The US Supreme Court has cited his scholarship on criminal procedure.