Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools Forum

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Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools

Post by nodummy » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:55 pm

What are great schools for criminal defense and public defender jobs post graduation?

And also what are some schools with good loan forgiveness programs for graduates working in these fields?

I am sure most schools offer these options, at least in terms of criminal defense and public service, however what are the best or top ranked schools for this area specifically?



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Re: Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools

Post by nodummy » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:06 pm


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Re: Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools

Post by kittenmittons » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:09 pm

What kind of numbers range are you looking at?

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Re: Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools

Post by RadMobile » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:11 pm

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barry zuckerkorn

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Re: Criminal Defense/Public Defender Schools

Post by barry zuckerkorn » Thu Feb 18, 2010 12:31 am

I'm really interested in this, and from all my research, the answer is "it depends".

But I'll explain.

Bigger Population Pool, "Better" Prospects

First, take a gander at offices/areas you're interested in. As a PD, I'll assume you want to be overworked and underpaid (otherwise, what's the point, right?), so the bigger the city, the "better" the job prospects; while it may be easier to land a job in a smaller/mid sized market, due to a lack of competition, but you'll be compensated (in $ and righteousness) accordingly; think bigger=better.

The DC defender and SF/Bay area defender offices traditionally have some of the best resources/highest paid offices (D.C. is kinda weird, I think they have access to Fed money v. local money, so employment is very, very competitive). NYC Legal Aid societies are awesome too.

Look into the faculty at schools and their criminal law experience, job placement/OCI with PD offices. Here's a link to check on OCI, though I'm not sure it's all inclusive. --LinkRemoved--

Remember, bigger markets = bigger offices, which usually means higher attrition, more openings, more clients/cases/experience, more opportunities for zealous advocacy.

Practice Hiring Practices

From what I can gather, it would appear that PDs don't care too much about where you went to law school v. what you did while you were there [trial team, internships, moot court, clinics], and may even prefer hiring lawyers who didn't go to the ivy leagues (though having a Yale grad or Hamilton Fellow on staff rarely hurts), because it's easier to turn your nose up at the work coming from an ivory tower to a vomit filled holding cell; you really need to care about the work and prove it. Plus the high minded, lofty legal thought typical of those schools can be crippling in a sector of law that often requires a whole lot of non-legal thought, work, and action (interviewing, investigating, basic human communication). Great for deliberating and legal philosophizing, not necessarily for defending when a snap decision during arraignment can be the difference between someone spending the night at home or in jail. This is obviously not always the case, but I'm confident in saying even the most coveted PD (NY Legal Aid, SF, DC) office will take a dedicated Pace grad over, lets say a Harvard grad, if the Pace grad can prove to be a more effective advocate in the interviews and experiential learning in law school (showing you may actually care about the people you'll be directly affecting the lives of). This is probably because most of your clientele won't believe you went to law school anyway.

That being said, it doesn't mean avoid higher ranked schools. But going to a prestigious school in BFE with limited PI opportunities or away from the market you'd like to work in is probably not be the best choice. I think it matters less about where you went and more about experience/proven ability in interviews through opening/closing statements, questioning scenarios, hypos, etc.


While LRAP's are sweet, there are always other options besides that. Here are a couple.


Tampa is a mid-large city with a high crime rate and one school in it. Stetson dominates the PD/DA market down there (arguably main reason why they have had such high specialty ranking in writing and advocacy, two litigator fortes). Baltimore is another city that comes to mind - I know a UofBalt 3L who has been working with the OPD since 1L, my money is she'll get a job over Maryland grads vying for an open spot.

Bronx Defenders, an infamous NGO defender office (one the attnys is responsible for starting litigation that could put double-blind sequential line ups into effect and reduce cancer that is eye witness ID) hires a ton of Brooklyn grads. The lawyer bios are available on their site. ... iographies

The Santa Clara PD site also has an attorney directory, and it's a good cross section of a solid, large PD office. The majority are SCU grads, the next largest pool looks like Berkeley and Hastings, then maybe San Francisco and Golden Gate, then Davis and McGeorge.. even saw a Yale and Tulane grad in there.

You can see the pattern here. Offices probably tend to hire in their market (DC maybe being the only exception) because they have the luxury of watching interns/volunteers blossom into advocates; keeping in mind PD work is usually gov't work, (contracted work in Cali and NYC being the exceptions) there is still the typical hiring bureaucracy, so this pattern may just be a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. it's an apparition that an area is hiring mainly from local schools due to a higher influx of grads. I like to think it's the former reason, but it's very tough to tell.


So, it depends. Get to know the offices in the market you're interested in. Go to a school with pertinent experiential opportunities that has access to a big market, and spend a lot of time at the PD office, being as non-annoying and helpful as you can. It's going to be competitive if you really want a solid PD job, but obviously worth it.

Hope that novel helps.

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