J. Steven Beckett

Practitioner in Residence


J. Steven Beckett is a Practitioner-in-Residence and the former director of Trial Advocacy at the College of Law. He has taught skills training courses: Trial Advocacy: Fundamentals of Trial Practice and Client Counseling, Fact Investigation and Interviewing (CFI), and substantive law courses: Evidence and White Collar Crime; and undergraduate courses: Actual Innocence: Defects in the American Criminal Justice System and Law and the Movies. He has been on the faculty of the College of Law since 1987.

Steve is a native of Urbana and is of counsel to the Urbana firm, Beckett & Webber, P.C. that he founded in 1988. He was listed in the 2007-2008 Top 100 Attorneys list by Leading Lawyers Network. He has practiced law in Champaign-Urbana since 1973 with a primary focus in litigation and appeals, both criminal and civil. He appeared in the United States Supreme Court on two occasions, in 1977 (argued) and 1987, with both cases focusing on First Amendment issues. He has appeared in trial and/or appellate courts, state and federal, in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota, and in the 6th, 7th, 8th and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal.

He has published articles in peer review journals on a variety of criminal, civil and constitutional law subjects. He has written or edited books on deposition practice and has also made presentations in symposia, at state and national attorney organizations, and at college and law schools on the same subjects. His text Illinois Criminal Law and Procedure (Stipes Publishing 2016) is in its fourth edition and is used in criminal law courses at community colleges across Illinois. He is a frequent lecturer on the law practice of Abraham Lincoln and his presence in Champaign County Courts. He is a Board Member of the Abraham Lincoln Association and past Chair of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Advisory Board. He has issued many reports on diversity and fairness in the Champaign County Court system.

Steve is a 1973 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. He holds awards from the Illinois Public Defenders Association and the Champaign County American Civil Liberties Union, and was president of the First Amendment Lawyers Association. He has authored several articles, including “Whatever Happened to the Bill of Rights? A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Perspective,” published in the 1992 University of Illinois Law Review.


BA, JD University of Illinois

Areas of Expertise

Courtroom Strategy
Criminal Law
Criminal Procedure
Juries and Jury Behavior

Selected Publications

Illinois Criminal Law and Procedure (Stipes Publishing 2016)

“Whatever Happened to the Bill of Rights? A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Perspective,” University of Illinois Law Review 1992