Page 1 of 1

Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:16 pm
by Anonymous User
I've been lurking the forums about these kinds of PD interviews, and I know that you either gotta be/fake being a "true believer" to land one of these jobs, but I've got a few more questions I'm hoping some of you can answer:

- Let's say I have an inside track on my interviewer being a democrat or republican - does this change anything? I've heard that in general terms, PD's are liberal, and SA's are conservative, but how should my strategy change if I know the guy/gal is a registered democrat or republican? Do I play the "true believer" card more or do I play it less? Anything I should watch out for?

- Honestly, I don't have any ideological preferences - SA or PD - so I've applied to both offices. If I get the old trap question, "Have you applied to any SA offices?", and I say "no" - can they look up my application from the SA offices? Are those applications public information/something they can catch me on, or can I get away with saying "No, and I've never considered it"?

- What's the answer to those kinds of questions like "Do you believe in the death penalty?", or questions like "What do you think of the police?"

- Any other tips, or answers to questions like "Why PD" or those common questions would be much help. Also would appreciate any tips for traps for other "watch out" kinda questions.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:12 pm
by Borhas
don't lie, there's no point

you could just say: "yes I did, I'm a careful person that likes to cover all their bases, while I would rather become a PD, I am not naive enough to forclose other opportunities to train in criminal practice if you guys don't step up and hire me." However, if you are getting a whole bunch of DA/SA interviews I'd probably leave that out of the discussion. If you haven't gotten a lot of DA interviews you could even spin your story to say something like "I can't articulate my reasons for being an SA to well and I think they can tell so I haven't gotten too many interviews.

or something like that... it comes off as genuine (because it probably is) and wise, without making you look like you don't know what you want

FWIW in my PD interviews (for 1L interns) no one ever asked the questions you listed... I mean if you someone asks me what I think of the police I would give a genuine response (mostly good and necessary institution w/ innate problems that the legal system and PD's must check), I don't think they expect you to be some stupid anarchist.

Democrat or Republican? Honestly, I'd be amazed if one of the GOP base became a PD out of choice. There are probably a lot of libertarians though... though I don't think you should really concern yourself about that. Maybe at the end of the interview you can ask them to explain their ideals/politics in some way, but I wouldn't think much of it outside of that.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:10 pm
by leobowski
Yeah you shouldn't lie. Just be yourself and tell the truth. If you get asked about interest in DA jobs tell them that you have no ideological preference either way--you just want to try cases and work in criminal law. I really doubt ANY interviewer would ask about your political affiliation. You might get some questions about whether you could represent child molesters, what if you know a client is guilty, etc. Just have an answer ready for those, and keep in mind the whole process> results mantra that our entire justice system is based on.

Oh and good luck! Public defender internships are awesome and a lot of fun.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:59 pm
by Anonymous User
Ah, maybe I should be more clear - this is for a job, not an internship. And from what I gather, the interviewer is a person who's donated to the political parties, so they clearly feel strongly enough about some issues to put their money where their beliefs are

Also, I've been asked in other interviews what I think of the death penalty or what I think of the police; considering how PD offices like "true believers", what kinda answer should I have for this? Anti-death-penalty/think police have too much power?

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 8:20 pm
by seatown12
What DO you think of the death penalty and police? Those aren't trick questions you just have to give your opinion. If you love the death penalty and worship police maybe you don't actually wanna be a PD anyway.

Easy answers...

The death penalty is unnecessary when LWOP takes the individual off the streets forever; it only exists for retribution and to satiate the community's blood lust. Those aren't the policies on which I believe the justice system should be based.

Cops exist as an alternative to medieval blood feud justice. They serve at the will of and are beholden to the community; when they violate the laws they are sworn to uphold they erode respect for those laws and fail to validate their sole purpose for existing. As PDs we need to make sure they stay in line in order to ensure smooth and fair functioning of the justice system.

I came up with those in two seconds.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 11:38 am
by Anonymous User
seatown - Regardless what I think of the death penalty or police, it wouldn't impact my ability to represent clients - like I said, I don't have any ideological preferences. A private firm couldn't get away with asking about my political affiliations, but somehow the PD's office gets away with it routinely

Anyone else got any tips? Any other trap questions I should be aware of?

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 11:52 am
by seatown12 ... -10%29.pdf ... r_2008.pdf

I doubt any office will ask about your political affiliations and I agree that such a question would not be appropriate.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:06 pm
by Anonymous User
Finished DA interviewing so I assume some questions might be the same:

1. "You've got quite a resume. It seems like you could work anywhere, so why do you want to work here and do this?"

2. If the office has a certain commitment period (like 3 years) be prepared to explain more than why it isnt a problem. Maybe something like, if true, "Well, i hav no problem with it and my fiancee and I are looking to settle somewhere as it is, so I don't expect to be going anywhere for a while."

3. I'd reconsider your ambivalence about answering tough questions. On one hand, they're designed to provoke a response and on the other they're designed to elicit information. If your response is to retreat into a shell and say that's inappropriate to answer, then you've pretty much telegraphed your move in front of a judge who is making an inappropriate decision against your client. Either office, PD or DA/SA, is looking for people who want to do the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing whether that's grabbing a file and trying a case (DA) or standing up to a judge who is clearly not impartial (PD). These questions are about your backbone. These questions are as much psychological warfare as simply giving an answer. (Cases in Point: I've been yelled at in interviews about a hypothetical decision I made, I've basically been told my brother is a fuckup because he got a DUI, I've had my actual decisions questioned about cases I've lost (clinic) that were unwinnable, I've been told they "just dont see it" regarding my desire to work in an office.)

"I have no problem with police. I think generally they do an excellent job in a demanding position. That said, the police have two problems. First, they have good officers who occasionally blur the lines whether it's exaggerating a report or outright going overboard. I imagine even they would admit that a good PD is an efficient check from time to time to ensure they continue doing a better job. Second, you have simply bad officers that make the job of a PD essential."

The appropriate answer is to be yourself. If you're truly interested in being a PD, answering the questions will come easily. That may sound dumb to you, but especially in a job like that, they'll find you out at some point if you're anything less than honest.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:59 pm
by Anonymous User
seatown - I haven't been asked point-blank what my political affiliations are, but I have been asked what I think about my state's attorney general and his/her campaign promises and what I think about their policies, so this kinda thing does happen with PD offices (FYI - I just told them an attorney shouldn't express their political views outside the ballot box; not sure how well that went over)

Thanks for all the help so far, everyone - any other tips on how to ace the interview would always be appreciated

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:59 am
by Anonymous User
^ Bump, hoping someone can give me some more tips on what to say/not say

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:24 pm
by seatown12
If you read all three pdfs I posted you should be good to go.

If you get asked some weird question the interviewer is probably just testing your ability to think on the spot and give an answer without having previously planned it out. After three years of law school undoubtedly involving more than a few cold calls this should be no problem.

Re: Public Defender Interview - need help

Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:57 pm
by Anonymous User
If asked why you applied to SA maybe something along the lines of its important for the justice system to have competent/fair/moral etc. SAs who have high ethical standards because it avoids many of the problems PDs are facing in the first place. This was my response in an interview (and the truth- i love when quality people go into prosecution- as opposed to the vindictive) and it seemed to go over well. If you want to work as a PD because you want to work in low income communities you're also dealing with people who are most frequently the victims of crimes so I talked a little about how I wasn't necessarily sure what the best way to help the community is.

If asked about the police you might want to consider where you are applying when answering- is it a city with a history of police corruption/abuse/dishonesty/beating the crap out of suspects? Is a force going through a reform? Or a model of good law enforcement? Generally good with a few bad apples? You may want to acknowledge how the police in this area specifically behave- at the least it will make you seem invested in the location.

Good luck!!!