Careers: Making Justice Happen
Behind every client is a team of dedicated professionals, working to protect their client’s rights through vigorous and compassionate legal advocacy. Whether through an internship or full-time employment, the office entrusts this opportunity to qualified individuals who share in the Office’s Mission & Core Values. Accepted candidates will join a team of like-minded professionals, many of whom have given up lucrative careers in the private sector to pursue social justice in the courtroom.
Employment – Advocate for clients as an attorney, investigator, paralegal, social worker, or other support staff. The office seeks individuals with a demonstrated passion for defending the less fortunate as well as the skills and training necessary to execute the highest level of work. Qualified individuals must share the commitment to make the Public Defender’s Office one of the best public law firms in the nation. Benefits include paid vacation, paid sick leave, retirement plan, deferred compensation plan and health insurance. [More Information & Application].
Internships and Externships for Law Students – Internships and Externships for Law Students – Open only to second and third year law students, the program provides law students with hands-on experience meeting clients, researching the law, writing memos and motions, as well as assisting attorneys in the courtroom. The Office provides a nationally recognized internship program that matches an unsurpassed learning experience with the rare opportunity to ensure the best defense for real life clients. [More Information & Application]
Investigator Internship – Do you like to be the first person to know the rest of the story? All kinds of people have something interesting to say and if you would like to talk to them the Investigation Unit may be your dream intern assignment.
Public Defender Investigators do a variety of things including: reviewing police reports, witness statements and pictures taken by the police, interviewing witnesses, taking photographs, measuring distances, serving subpoenas and reviewing and retrieving documents.
If you’re smart, curious, a good listener and a quick learner please apply to be a Public Defender Investigator intern.
Minimum time commitment: two days a week, sixteen hours a week three months, one semester or one quarter. Application deadlines are located on our Interns Careers page. An in person interview may be required.
Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) – Open to attorneys with limited courtroom experience, the VAP program requires a (more than) full-time, 4 month commitment in the Office’s Misdemeanor Unit. VAP lawyers are the only volunteers who are allowed to handle their own caseload and try cases. The program runs three cycles a year: mid-February, mid-June, and mid-October. Participants must also be available for an extensive two-week training program before the courtroom work begins. The training includes trial skills, evidence, substantive criminal law and courtroom protocol. Typically, interviews are conducted approximately 2 weeks before the training is scheduled to start. Each cycle is typically limited to 2-3 VAP lawyers, and not all applicants are interviewed. [Application]
Deferred Associates and Post-Bar Fellows – The Office accepts a limited number of law firm associates who have been deferred for a year and law graduates who obtain fellowships or funding, usually for a year. Associates and fellows are assigned to work in the Research Unit or with a trial attorney. Upon admission to the bar, the applicant may be eligible to join the VAP program.
Public Defense for Civil Attorneys – The program provides civil law firm lawyers with the opportunity to handle a Public Defender caseload, including jury trials. The minimum commitment is for four months. Firms are asked to make a financial contribution to the comprehensive two-week training provided by the office. Civil attorneys in the program will join the office’s VAP attorneys. Over the years, the Office has hosted lawyers from Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, Morrison & Foerster, Jones Day, Paul Hastings, Cooley Godward, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Howard Rice, Keker & VanNest,, and Fenwick & West. The loaner attorneys return to their offices with valuable jury trial experience.
Community Defenders – A volunteer opportunity that doesn’t require law school admission as a prerequisite, volunteers provide valuable assistance to the attorneys and support staff, including paralegals, investigators, social workers, and clerical staff. Open to college juniors, seniors and graduates, the program is ideal for graduates considering law school. Community defenders assist support staff a minimum of 20 hours a week for 4 months.
High School Students – High school students are only accepted through the San Francisco Mayor’s YouthWorks program (http://sfyouthworks.org/). In addition to participating in the YouthWorks program, high school students are assigned to work with various units in the office, assisting with file management, database entry, scanning and copying files, as well as other office tasks. Interested students may also shadow an attorney or other staff member and observe court.