Law alumna’s gift will fund new prosecution law clinic​

The Washington University School of Law will establish a Prosecution Law Clinic in partnership with the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. The new clinic joins 17 other clinical opportunities within the law school’s long-standing Clinical Education Program.

The clinic will be funded by a generous gift from former prosecutor and Washington University School of Law alumna Alicia McDonnell (JD ’95), who hopes to strengthen the ranks of criminal prosecutors by creating opportunities for talented law students to gain hands-on experience essential to a career in criminal justice.

“Prosecutors are a different breed,” McDonnell said. “They don’t do their work for the title, salary or prestige. They believe in public service and are passionate about seeking justice.”

McDonnell, who previously served as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, Mass., has a wealth of experience prosecuting tough cases related to firearms, narcotics, domestic violence and child abuse in one of the most crime-ridden areas in Boston.

The new Prosecution Law Clinic builds on McDonnell’s passion and her experience in Boston, where she also supervised student interns. The Washington University clinic will open in fall 2014 and will be based in the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, located downtown in the Carnahan Courthouse. Co-directing the clinic will be Jane Darst, JD, first assistant circuit attorney, and alumna Rachel Smith (JD ’92), chief prosecutor in the Community Affairs Bureau of the Circuit Attorney’s Office.

Daniel Keating, JD, law school dean and the Tyrrell Williams Professor of Law, expressed his appreciation for McDonnell’s vision and generosity.

“We are grateful for Alicia McDonnell’s generous gift to establish the clinic, which will help our students sharpen their problem-solving and legal-reasoning skills while being exposed to the prosecutors’ unique responsibilities. We are pleased to partner with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, under the strong leadership of Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, as the new clinic addresses a growing student interest in professional experience from prosecutor-mentors.”

“We are extremely excited to embark on this important partnership with Washington University’s Clinical Education Program,” said Joyce, JD. “We hope many of these students will learn vital lessons from our office so they, in turn, can work to support a safe and strong community.”

Supervising attorneys in Joyce’s office also will supervise students and help teach a weekly seminar for the clinic’s students, covering key issues prosecutors face, such as probable cause standards and constitutional review; preparing and working with victims and witnesses; strategies for drug task forces; and thorny ethical issues that young prosecutors may encounter on the job.

In addition to expanding experiential learning opportunities for students interested in careers as prosecutors, McDonnell’s gift will support summer stipends for second-year students who want to work in federal, state or local prosecutors’ offices. Exposure to professionals in the field will assist students in directly applying the lessons learned in the classroom to actual prosecutorial cases.

“The prosecutors in this office will be the best teachers for what really happens in a trial,” McDonnell said. “They’ll demonstrate how to introduce exhibits into evidence, cross-examine a witness, indict a case and sort out the ethical issues. It doesn’t get more real than this — until students become attorneys themselves.