Interview with Public Defender

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eberl032
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Interview with Public Defender

Postby eberl032 » Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:01 pm

To those who have interviewed for a summer internship with any public defender:

What types of questions were asked?

What might I want to know prior to the interview?

What focus are the public defenders looking for in my answers?

Anything else one should do to prepare for this kind of interview?

Thanks

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Lawlcat
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Lawlcat » Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:27 pm

* Why do you want to work at the PD's office? (Everyone in every organization asks this. But they really want to see serious interest. People who become public defenders are usually pretty damn dedicated.)
* Have you thought about applying to the DA's office?
* You seem inclined toward public interest work; why? What are your goals?

A few offices, I've heard, will actually pitch hypotheticals at you, especially ethical ones. Some will ask if you've had experience working with mentally-handicapped people or those with psychological problems.

Also: some offices try for a really "holistic" approach, e.g., not just helping people get fair sentencing or at trial but also getting people connected to employment programs, educational programs, counseling, food stamps, rehab, and the like.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:56 am

Lawlcat wrote:* Have you thought about applying to the DA's office?

--ImageRemoved--

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Tanicius
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Tanicius » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:21 am

Lawlcat wrote:* Why do you want to work at the PD's office? (Everyone in every organization asks this. But they really want to see serious interest. People who become public defenders are usually pretty damn dedicated.)
* Have you thought about applying to the DA's office?
* You seem inclined toward public interest work; why? What are your goals?

A few offices, I've heard, will actually pitch hypotheticals at you, especially ethical ones. Some will ask if you've had experience working with mentally-handicapped people or those with psychological problems.

Also: some offices try for a really "holistic" approach, e.g., not just helping people get fair sentencing or at trial but also getting people connected to employment programs, educational programs, counseling, food stamps, rehab, and the like.


This is fairly accurate. If you're talking about an internship there isn't nearly that much scrutiny, but if you're interviewing for an actual job as a defender they'll want to make damn sure this is A) what you want to do, and B) something you would be good at (read: skilled at thinking on your feet, able to do trial work on Day 1).

eth3n
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby eth3n » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:52 am

!
Last edited by eth3n on Mon Dec 02, 2013 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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20160810
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby 20160810 » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:55 am

eth3n wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:
Lawlcat wrote:* Have you thought about applying to the DA's office?

--ImageRemoved--

Maybe so if you apply to PD, but I have been told that a reasonable argument why you would potentially work with the PD's office while applying to the DAs office (as long as you have a legit reason for your preference for DA) is preferable to saying "I haven't considered it at all" in most cases. There are some ridiculous overzealous DA offices where during OCI they literally said "99% of people who get off by PDs are guilty and deserve to go to jail, and we never prosecute the wrong man at our office because we know how to do our job". He said this in response to my statements that I respected the need for both the DA and the PD, etc., and that while adversarial they are both essential and serve a public purpose/good, etc., He kinda flipped out and treated me with belligerence after that even though I didn't even try to argue the issue. Sigh.

I think we had the same experience with the same interviewer.

I was asked if I'd considered applying for a PD job, I said I had, hilarity ensued.

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Tanicius
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Tanicius » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:32 am

For most PD offices I'm aware of, it's pretty common for some people to lateral back and forth between prosecution and defense offices depending on how budget shortfalls work. There's no real stigma for such a thing. At the federal level, however, a handful of really tight-knit ultra competitive PD offices like San Fran, I have heard many anecdotes of PD offices not hiring people simply because they once did something like intern for a prosecutor's office.

Interested Observer
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Interested Observer » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:40 pm

I've interviewed with a few public defenders offices for internships and here are some of my thoughts. I was never asked a "trap" question. But, I think you need to realize what the interview (and potential intern) represents for the PD you're interviewing with.

For example, some PD offices are highly sought after (even for internships), like SF. They can afford to turn people away so they will generally be more selective and may ask tougher questions desiring to give students with a genuine interest in public defense an opportunity. Also, some PD offices may consider their intern pool a potential source of future recruitment and, for that reason, they may want to be slightly more selective in who they hire.

I ended up working at a PD where, in the past, there hasn't traditionally been a summer program (although they're trying to start one more formally).

Bottom line -- If you're interviewing with a PD that's more selective (or, at least, can afford to be), you might want to play up the hardcore public defender attitude. But, at the end of the day, the answer to those types of questions matter to the actual interviewers differently because there is no general stance a PD office will take.

Anonymous User
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:25 pm

Tanicius wrote:For most PD offices I'm aware of, it's pretty common for some people to lateral back and forth between prosecution and defense offices depending on how budget shortfalls work. There's no real stigma for such a thing. At the federal level, however, a handful of really tight-knit ultra competitive PD offices like San Fran, I have heard many anecdotes of PD offices not hiring people simply because they once did something like intern for a prosecutor's office.


This advice is largely inapplicable to the best public defender offices in the country. For instance: PDS in DC, Bronx Defenders, New Orleans, and others. Most of the top offices will not consider you if you have any leaning to go to a DA's office. Other than that generality, I couldn't help you any more unless you say which specific office you are interviewing with. If you don't know, I would lean towards saying you don't want to work at a DA (if that's true for you). I'd say this is actually one of the bigger "trap" questions for many offices. Some offices will even really comb through your resume and ask you questions about anything that could show that you lean towards working for a DA. Be prepared to explain those.

The biggest questions that they will probably ask you have already been covered. For the question about "Why PD?," make sure your answer is very specific to yourself. They don't want to hear the generic response that anyone can give. Make it as personal as possible. Also, they may ask you some more philosophical questions (for example: "If you could design the criminal justice system from the ground up, how would you do it?").

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johnnyutah
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby johnnyutah » Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:33 pm

Where are ya'll getting PD office interviews? I've been looking all over for one for a couple years now, but it seems like nowhere is hiring. You got an inside track?

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Tanicius
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Tanicius » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tanicius wrote:For most PD offices I'm aware of, it's pretty common for some people to lateral back and forth between prosecution and defense offices depending on how budget shortfalls work. There's no real stigma for such a thing. At the federal level, however, a handful of really tight-knit ultra competitive PD offices like San Fran, I have heard many anecdotes of PD offices not hiring people simply because they once did something like intern for a prosecutor's office.


This advice is largely inapplicable to the best public defender offices in the country. For instance: PDS in DC, Bronx Defenders, New Orleans, and others. Most of the top offices will not consider you if you have any leaning to go to a DA's office. Other than that generality, I couldn't help you any more unless you say which specific office you are interviewing with. If you don't know, I would lean towards saying you don't want to work at a DA (if that's true for you). I'd say this is actually one of the bigger "trap" questions for many offices. Some offices will even really comb through your resume and ask you questions about anything that could show that you lean towards working for a DA. Be prepared to explain those.

The biggest questions that they will probably ask you have already been covered. For the question about "Why PD?," make sure your answer is very specific to yourself. They don't want to hear the generic response that anyone can give. Make it as personal as possible. Also, they may ask you some more philosophical questions (for example: "If you could design the criminal justice system from the ground up, how would you do it?").



Well, yes. The super prestigious offices probably account for less than 5% of the PD jobs though. It's hard to imagine that you wouldn't know you're gaming for such a job before sitting down at the interview.

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Tanicius
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Tanicius » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:04 pm

johnnyutah wrote:Where are ya'll getting PD office interviews? I've been looking all over for one for a couple years now, but it seems like nowhere is hiring. You got an inside track?


That is a legitimate problem. Minnesota has had a complete hiring freeze for several years now. Something like 22% of the state PD budget was cut, and they've only been hiring either people who previously worked for the PD office, laterals for the experience, or in the very rare case someone completely new who is coming on to replace a person who quit or retired.

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johnnyutah
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby johnnyutah » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:45 pm

Tanicius wrote:That is a legitimate problem. Minnesota has had a complete hiring freeze for several years now. Something like 22% of the state PD budget was cut, and they've only been hiring either people who previously worked for the PD office, laterals for the experience, or in the very rare case someone completely new who is coming on to replace a person who quit or retired.

Seriously, a lot of places seem to be like this. Colorado's state office is hiring a few people, but they've already gotten over 750 applicants (according to their chief defender) and more are still coming it. Similar story in Kentucky, and in Pittsburgh, and almost everywhere else I've looked that hasn't frozen their hiring.

Interested Observer
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Interested Observer » Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:52 am

johnnyutah wrote:
Tanicius wrote:That is a legitimate problem. Minnesota has had a complete hiring freeze for several years now. Something like 22% of the state PD budget was cut, and they've only been hiring either people who previously worked for the PD office, laterals for the experience, or in the very rare case someone completely new who is coming on to replace a person who quit or retired.

Seriously, a lot of places seem to be like this. Colorado's state office is hiring a few people, but they've already gotten over 750 applicants (according to their chief defender) and more are still coming it. Similar story in Kentucky, and in Pittsburgh, and almost everywhere else I've looked that hasn't frozen their hiring.



I think the initial inquiry was about public defender internships. Law students are still getting internships (since they're unpaid).

As far as full-time hiring goes, I can speak to this a little bit. Let me clarify by saying that I'm a 3L going to a California school who worked at a public defenders office over the summer and am looking to work for a PD upon graduation. Most of what I know from the people I talked to at the office I worked at and other PDs.

In the past, PD offices used to hire post-bar clerks (at some hourly wage). Once bar results came in, it was generally understood that these clerks would become full-fledged salaried public defenders. Because of cut-backs, these post-bar paid clerk positions are almost non-existent (but not completely, for example, Contra Costa county is looking to hire some post-bar paid clerks -- I missed the deadline).

Here's the rub: a lot of counties are still doing do the post-bar clerk positions EXCEPT they're unpaid/voluntary positions. If, somehow, a person can manage to work for free for 6 months (which is obviously very difficult for most people), you can certainly position yourself well when there are openings in that particular office. The place where I worked indicated that they will be hiring in the near future, but will only be looking at licensed attorneys. I was invited to work for free until I pass the bar and then, if there's an opening, I could go through the interviewing process.

Also, I met with someone from the ADO of LA County and he indicated that the LA PD office has an extremely high turnover rate for attorneys and that they are almost always hiring.

I think the real lesson in finding a PD job is persistence and the willingness to work anywhere in your state until you can find a way back to where you really want to be.

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robin600
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby robin600 » Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:25 pm

Forewarning: I interviewed with a PD when I asked him why he wanted to be a PD and not a DA his answer was simply: I hate the DA, they cheat to get around your rights and they do it everyday. Just don't let it catch you offgaurd, like akward look or something.

seatown12
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby seatown12 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:36 am

Some PDs really don't want to hire anyone who has considered being a DA, but others don't care. The most important quality they are all looking for is absolute commitment to the client.

You may be asked if you have had experience working with people who have addiction or mental health issues, or if you would be comfortable representing say a rapist. Some PD clients are difficult to deal with and they want to make sure you can handle it.

PDs outside the most desirable parts of the country may ask about ties to their region or whether you really want to work/live there. You should try to have some answer ready.

Also, know about any stipends or other funding that may be available to you in advance of the interview. The office might want to know about this since they obviously won't be paying you. You should be looking into this for your own benefit anyway.

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eberl032
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby eberl032 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:14 pm

Good Responses!

Caveat: I did an internship my last summer in undergrad with a DA's office, and it is on my resume, but I still got the interview. The office I'm interviewing for is a large city. An ideas how I should handle the 'why PD' question now?

Also, I think getting an interview for an unpaid summer gig is a lot easier than those looking for actual employment.

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eberl032
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby eberl032 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:06 pm

Thanks everyone for the helpful tips, the interview went well and I got the offer. I think this topic helped, so thanks!

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Tanicius
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Re: Interview with Public Defender

Postby Tanicius » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:23 pm

eberl032 wrote:Thanks everyone for the helpful tips, the interview went well and I got the offer. I think this topic helped, so thanks!


Congrats!




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