One of the largest job categories for public interest graduates is public defender offices, many of which hire classes of entry-level attorneys. The National Legal Aid and Defender Association and PSJD are excellent sources for finding public defender offices throughout the country. Additionally, a large number of public defenders interview at the Equal Justice Works Career Fair in October. OCPD puts together a handout which provides guidance on preparing for a career as a public defender, as well as a list of alumni public defenders who are available to speak with students.
Like prosecutors, public defenders look for students who have taken Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence, have strong interpersonal skills, and have gained significant oral advocacy experience through clinics, internships, moot court, etc. In addition, the offices look for people who are zealously client-protective and respectful of the client’s decision-making prerogatives. Unfortunately, the majority of public defender offices will not hire individuals until after they have passed the bar.
If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact Jill Frost, Director of OCPD, at (202) 319-5132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.