Entry-Level Public Defender Hiring: What’s the Secret?
Posted: March 22nd, 2018
Living a life of public service and being a public defender is a high calling. On a human level, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs a lawyer can have. On a practical level, public defenders acquire significant transferable skills: experience “standing up” in court; confidence interacting with clients, opposing counsel, and judges; the ability to juggle multiple priorities and cases. But how does one obtain a rewarding public defender job post-graduation?
Many public defender offices hire entry-level classes each year, so their hiring is fairly regularized. Some offices begin a hiring process in the fall for their class in the following fall. For example, offices in New York hire pre-bar because law graduates in New York can practice so long as they take the first bar exam after their graduation. In other states, such as California or Maryland, offices do not make hiring offers until after applicants have passed the bar, but they may hire 3Ls into “law clerk” positions pending bar exam results.
Other Tips for the Post-Grad Hiring Process: References
Because the post-graduate hiring process can be competitive, a great recommendation for students would be to ask one professor or previous employer if they would be willing to make a phone call or send an email before the employer contacts them (in other words, ask the reference to do “outreach”). This technique demonstrates to the employer that a reference thinks very highly of the applicant. Note that this technique should only be used once per application; please consult with your career counselor if you wonder when the best time is for requesting a reference. It is usually most effective around the time of an interview. For example, the Criminal Defense Practice of New York Legal Aid prefers to receive calls from students who need recommendations after they have been notified of an interview with him but before the interview takes place.
Need more information on applying to public defender jobs? Check out the NC Public Defender Directory in order to contact your local office. You can also check out PSJD’s complete resource list on Postgraduate Fellowships and the NC Court System – Public Defenders Information.