Criminal Law

The School of Law offers a unique and varied curriculum for students interested in practicing in the field of criminal law. KU Law students have the opportunity to delve into constitutional and statutory criminal law, explore procedural and substantive issues, learn state and federal law, and gain hands-on experience in the trial and appellate arenas. By taking advantage of the wide selection of courses and clinics, students will be fully equipped to prosecute or defend criminal cases in state or federal court.


In their first year of law school, all students are required to take Criminal Law. Criminal Law provides students with a basic understanding of the elements of various crimes, theories of culpability, and theories of defense. Upon completion of the first year of law school, each student has a strong foundation in criminal law upon which to build greater expertise.

For second- and third-year students who choose to expand their knowledge of criminal law issues, the KU law school offers a variety of opportunities, both in the classroom and in clinical settings:

  • Advanced Criminal Procedure
  • Capital Punishment
  • Criminal Practice in Kansas
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Federal Criminal Prosecution
  • Juvenile Law

Course descriptions

Criminal Procedure introduces students to the constitutional underpinnings of the criminal process, beginning with law enforcement and the investigative stages. Advanced Criminal Procedure expands on the issues covered in the first-year course and emphasizes pretrial and trial proceedings. Federal Criminal Prosecution focuses on federal crimes (such as racketeering, money laundering, fraud and political corruption), the relationship between federal and state prosecution, and the federal sentencing guidelines. Students in Juvenile Law study juvenile courts and principles of law, psychology and physiology related to juvenile offenders. In the Capital Punishment seminar, students focus not only on the constitutional provisions and rules of procedure that apply in death penalty cases but also on policy questions inherent in utilizing death as punishment. 

Clinics & Field Placements

KU Law students have the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to actual criminal proceedings by participating in a number of clinical and field placement programs.

Students in the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies represent inmates incarcerated in state and federal institutions in habeas corpus and appellate proceedings.

In the Legal Aid Clinic, students represent indigent defendants in juvenile and municipal court and handle a wide variety of civil matters as well.

The Criminal Prosecution Field Placement Program places students in state and federal prosecutors' offices, where they assist in virtually all phases of the criminal process, including handling criminal trials.

Students in the Judicial Field Placement Program serve as law clerks for trial judges at the state and federal level, handling criminal and civil cases.

Other Opportunities

First-year students may get hands-on experience by serving as prosecutors or defense attorneys in the university's Traffic Court, which handles all appeals from on-campus traffic citations. Second-year students serve as judges in the court. A number of law students also volunteer to serve as mentors and court advocates for juveniles involved in the criminal justice system in the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for Douglas County. Second- and third-year students may work part-time during the school year in prosecutors' offices or offices handling criminal defense or may serve as law clerks during the summer. A number of offices, including the JAG Corps, come to campus to recruit law students for clerkships or employment after graduation, and many more post openings with the Career Services Office.


Members of the criminal law faculty bring a wealth of experience to the classroom and to supervision in the clinics. Among the faculty are former federal prosecutors, state public defenders and private practitioners. Most of the faculty have served as clerks for state or federal judges, and many have published extensively and are nationally recognized experts.

KU has attracted a number of visiting professors with special expertise in criminal law such as Feridun Yenisey of the University of Marmara in Istanbul, Turkey, and Roderick Munday of Cambridge University in Cambridge, England. Speakers with special expertise in criminal law, such as former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, William Koch of the Koch Crime Commission, and Roger Lane of Haverford College, are frequent visitors to the law school.



Jean Phillips
Director, Project for Innocence
Clinical Professor of Law

Why KU
  • One-third of full-time faculty have written casebooks and treatises
  • 2 KU law faculty were U.S. Supreme Court clerks
  • KU’s Project for Innocence: 34 conviction reversals since 2009
  • 7,600+ alumni in all 50 states, D.C., and 21 foreign countries
  • #18 “best value” law school in the nation — National Jurist Magazine
  • 12 interdisciplinary joint degrees
  • 20th nationwide for lowest debt at graduation. — U.S. News & World Report
  • 80 percent of upper-level law classes have 25 or fewer students
  • More than 600 employment interviews at law school, 2014-15
  • 92 percent overall employment rate for Class of 2014 – top 20 percent nationally
  • 23rd: for number of law alumni promoted to partner at nation’s largest law firms
  • #1 in Kansas and Missouri for July 2015 bar exam performance