Extracurricular Opportunities for Aspiring Public Defenders at Michigan Law

There are a number of extracurricular opportunities at Michigan that can help aspiring public defenders develop their skills, learn more about defender careers, and find mentors and friends. The following is a list of textracurricular opportunities at Michigan Law that aspiring public defenders can take advantage of:

Faculty-Sponsored Groups

  • MDefenders: This is a special group designed specifically for aspiring public defenders and was created by faculty here at the Law School who have an interest in mentoring and training future public defenders. The group meets monthly as a whole to discuss important issues that face public defenders. In the past, these monthly meetings have included conversations about how to handle a public defender caseload, how to talk to others about your job, how to develop rapport with your clients, and how to address issues surrounding race, class, and justice in the criminal justice system. In addition to these monthly discussions, the MDefenders group has training sessions on how to apply for public defender jobs and how to handle the interview process. This group also has advocacy training sessions to help students improve their courtroom skills. Finally, there are social activities for aspiring public defenders to get to know one another. Interested students should email Professor Eve Primus at ebrensik@umich.edu.

Student Organizations 

  • There are a number of student groups at the Law School that aspiring public defenders are often drawn to. We encourage you to attend the Student Organization Fair that occurs at the start of each year, and talk to other MDefenders about their experiences. Interested students can find more information about all student organizations here. Some opportunities unique to Michigan Law include the Student Rights Project, a collaboration between the Law School, the School of Education, and the School of Social Work to provide representation and advocacy for youth facing school disciplinary proceedings; and Wolverine Street Law, which provides "Know Your Rights" programming at Bryant Elementary School, Parnall Correctional Facility, the Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center, the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, and the Conviction Integrity Unit​.  

Moot Courts/Mock Trials

  • Herbert J. Wechsler National Criminal Moot Court Competition: This is a national moot court competition that focuses on topics in substantive criminal law and is held every year at SUNY Buffalo Law School. The Criminal Law Society sends a Michigan team to this competition every year so interested students should contact the Criminal Law Society for more information.
  • Henry M. Campbe​ll Moot Court Competition: The Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition has been an annual event at the Law School for more than eighty years. Winning it is one of the highest honors a Michigan law student can achieve. The Campbell Competition, open to all interested second- and third-year students is a test of the contestants' skills in the art of appellate a​dvocacy, both oral and written. Each year the students who serve on the Campbell Board construct a hypothetical case which involves a topic of current social concern and raises difficult unresolved legal questions. (Historically, the case often addresses criminal procedure issues.) The record of this case is distributed to potential competitors early in the fall semester. Participants submit written briefs on the issues of the case and then take part in oral arguments in the preliminary round late in the fall term. Students work in pairs to complete their briefs, but participate individually in oral arguments. Evaluation is based upon both oral and written performance. The quarterfinal round is held early in the winter term, and a semi-final round is held after Spring Break. The top two competitors advance to the final round held in early April. The panel of judges for the final argument includes members of the Federal Bench. All competitors learn a tremendous amount of substantive law while developing their written and oral advocacy skills. Interested students should be on the look-out for signs about a first meeting in September of the academic year.
  • Trial Advocacy Society: The Trial Advocacy Society is a hands-on group that focuses on the skills required to try cases in court. The centerpiece of the organization is the mock trial program where teams of students compete against teams from other law schools using a simulated fact pattern. Using those mock trial cases as examples, the teams develop effective strategies for presenting evidence to juries while also practicing technical elements of court presentation and the rules of evidence. Team members are responsible for crafting direct and cross examinations as well as opening and closing statements. Membership in the Trial Advocacy Society is open to all students. An open tryout process is held to determine the composition of the competitive teams. Anyone seeking more information or who has questions can email mlawmocktrial@umich.edu.


  • Michigan Law Review: The Michigan Law Review is the law school’s flagship journal. It publishes eight issues annually. Seven of each volume’s eight issues are composed of two major parts: Articles by legal scholars and practitioners, and Notes by law students. One issue in each volume is devoted to book reviews. Students can join this journal starting in their second year.
  • University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform: The Michigan Journal of Law Reform is one of the country’s foremost academic journals dedicated to promoting legal reform. Across its four issues, annual symposia, and online publication (Caveat), the Journal identifies the critical problems facing domestic decision-makers and presents responsive solutions. In every medium, the Journal provides content that is timely, novel, and focused on reform. Students can join this journal starting in their second year.
  • Michigan Journal of Race & Law: The Michigan Journal of Race & Law is a legal journal that serves as a forum for the exploration of issues relating to race and law. To that end, MJR&L publishes articles, notes, and essays on the cutting edge of civil rights scholarship from a wide variety of scholarly perspectives. In addition to having been recognized as one of the leading civil rights journals in the country, MJR&L has also been consistently ranked among the top 25 specialty journals overall. Students can join this journal starting in their second year.