Federal Defender Clinic Goals and Structure

Indigent client representation is extremely rewarding. By the end of the year, you will be a skilled practitioner with plenty of litigation experience under your belt. You will have the benefit of learning from very experienced federal public defenders, will argue against skilled federal prosecutors, and appear before federal judges.

The Federal Defender Clinic provides students with the opportunities to represent indigent clients in federal misdemeanor cases, draft legal memoranda, argue motions, and develop a working knowledge of criminal and sentencing statutes. Enrolled students will attend monthly Petty Offense Calendar before magistrate judges where they will be assigned cases, then hone their skills in client counseling, plea negotiation, case analysis, oral advocacy, litigation, and trial techniques.

This year-long Clinic has two components: a two-hour weekly seminar called Federal Pretrial/Trial Seminar and the Federal Defender Clinic. The seminar is held on the McGeorge campus while the clinical work is conducted in downtown Sacramento at the Federal Defender's Office and the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse. Court appearances may occur on any day of the week but are primarily Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. Students handle caseloads in teams of two.

Clinic Student Testimonial

"Not only did the Clinic shape and solidify my conviction to work in public interest, but it also honed real-life lawyering skills. I was able to share these professional skills with public defenders in Santiago, Chile in a two-week summer training program. With those two unique and challenging experiences made possible by McGeorge, I now look forward to a third one, working as a trial attorney." — Matt Fleming '11,Trial attorney at the Federal Defender's office in San Diego


Federal public defenders and adjunct professors Rachelle Barbour, Linda Allison, and Tim Zindel teach the seminar. Both Professors Barbour and Zindel have tried numerous federal cases to verdict and have argued cases before the Ninth Circuit. Professor Linda Allison supervises the Clinic with assistance from Professor Barbour. For more information, contact Professor Barbour at Rachelle_Barbour@fd.org. 

Prerequisites for Enrollment

A written application is required for this Clinic.

To qualify for the Federal Defender Clinic students must enroll in both the Clinic and Seminar, must have completed Criminal Law and Evidence, and have either completed or be concurrently enrolled in Trial Advocacy and Criminal Procedure. This Clinic is limited to third- and fourth-year students.

Legal practitioners Rachelle Barbour, Linda Allison and Tim Zindel teach the weekly seminar. Rachelle Barbour and Tim Zindel are currently serving as an assistant federal defenders. Senior Litigator in the Office of the Federal Defender Linda Allison has principal responsibility for supervising the daily clinical work of students at the Federal Defender's Office.

Unit Credit and Limit on Enrollment

  • The Federal Defender Pretrial/Trial Seminar is a two-semester, four-unit (two units per semester) graded course.
  • The Federal Defender Clinic is a two-semester, six-unit (three units per semester) graded course, which requires a 150 hour commitment.
  • Enrollment in the Federal Defender Clinic/Seminar is limited to eight students.


Contact Melissa Brown, Director of Clinics