Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Tips for Public Defender Interview?

Hi folks! I have a screener interview with a prominent bi dharamsala07/20/17
I thought you got a job as a clerk or something? attorneyinct07/22/17
This is for fall 2018. My clerkship ends in August 2018. dharamsala07/22/17
Yes, you WOULD feel comfortable doing a trial your first wee goodmorningmidnite07/23/17
Be prepared for an extended discussion on case law re search therewillbeblood07/20/17
You ask this question about every single type of job or inte trollfeeder07/20/17
Good Afternoon: I'm actually on the other side as a DA, h newjag1707/20/17
I interviewed with a federal public defender and a state pub fedguy07/20/17
I had some lame ass white people at pd office asking me if I triplesix07/20/17
You are ok taking cases to trial knowing 99% of them are cle vohod07/23/17
Drink the Kool-Aid. Because criminal law is fairly straightf mrtor07/24/17
I want this as a long-term career. dharamsala07/24/17
Some paint far too bleak a picture of the public defender ex legalace07/24/17
Public defenders not "hired" for their "sound judgment" -- t mrtor07/25/17
Where I am from, effective public defenders prevent a convic legalace07/25/17
Mrtor, do you actually practice criminal law? I'm "confli thirdtierlaw07/26/17
I'm a pd. And I frequently win at trial. That's partly becau justrmor07/26/17
I'm a former public defender who practiced for several years qport07/24/17
I am currently a public defender and a member of my firm's h justrmor07/25/17
prosecutors overcharge. pds often win on questionable cou defensivelawyer07/25/17
if i were hiring, id want an extraordinarily normal reasonab defensivelawyer07/25/17

dharamsala (Jul 20, 2017 - 3:27 pm)

Hi folks!

I have a screener interview with a prominent big city public defender's office later this month at a job fair. This is for a permanent attorney position beginning in fall 2018. Any tips on what I should expect or what to do for preparation? Should I know my Crim Pro and Evidence cold? What are good questions to ask the interviewer? I was a Certified Legal Intern at this office during my 3L year, and I'll be clerking for a criminal court judge for a year starting this August. I am also fluent in Spanish, which I will definitely emphasize.

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attorneyinct (Jul 22, 2017 - 9:38 am)

I thought you got a job as a clerk or something?

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dharamsala (Jul 22, 2017 - 9:26 pm)

This is for fall 2018. My clerkship ends in August 2018.

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goodmorningmidnite (Jul 23, 2017 - 8:06 pm)

Yes, you WOULD feel comfortable doing a trial your first week on the job.

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therewillbeblood (Jul 20, 2017 - 3:31 pm)

Be prepared for an extended discussion on case law re searches, Terry stops, etc., so I would know that cold.

Also you might get "what would you do if you were walking down the street and saw cops beating on someone."

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trollfeeder (Jul 20, 2017 - 4:44 pm)

You ask this question about every single type of job or interview, there really isn't much of a difference. Just don't act crazy/be personable.

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newjag17 (Jul 20, 2017 - 5:46 pm)

Good Afternoon:

I'm actually on the other side as a DA, however, some of our staff has done tours with PD's Offices. I asked them how their interview process was--it varied. They all said that they wanted people who actually cared about representing clients and could be a part of the team. Also, stress that you are willing and able to litigate cases if necessary--so highlight your trial experience as well as your ability to counsel clients in exploring options since most cases will resolve through a plea bargain.

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fedguy (Jul 20, 2017 - 5:50 pm)

I interviewed with a federal public defender and a state public defender once. The federal interview was more structured with more interviewers who each had a binder full of questions that they asked every candidate. State interview only had two interviewers, was a little more free-flowing, but included two "hypos."

Anyway, I focused both interviews on zealous advocacy...which is what PDs are supposed to focus on (prosecutors focus on justice). In both interviews the interviewers wanted to know why I wanted to be a PD. My answer to both was that left unchecked, State power will be abused and I wanted to be a check against that power. I tied that to a pro bono criminal case I did and talked specifically what I did in that case. I think its always best to tie big ideas to some specific experience you have (like your internship). At a minimum, it shows that you can argue the facts to the law.

I also remember that in the fed interview one of the questions was what I would say to a friend who asked how I could represent people accused of heinous crimes. I was ready for this type of question and said I that I would look my friend in the eye and ask him how he would feel if the government falsely accused him of a crime and tried to bury him under a prison...and that's why I can represent people accused of a crime.

Anyway, try to stick as much to zealous advocacy ("Of course I would be able to cross examine someone who accused my client of rape. In fact, I would try to rip her to shreds on the stand."). And good luck!

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triplesix (Jul 20, 2017 - 5:56 pm)

I had some lame ass white people at pd office asking me if I feel comfortable working with underprivileged people...

That is that moment I realized just how wacked those idiots really are haha

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vohod (Jul 23, 2017 - 8:25 pm)

You are ok taking cases to trial knowing 99% of them are clear cut losers for you.

You are ok spending all day in court with a stack of files spending a scant amount of time on each matter and trying to get a deal (most newbie PDs work these calendars extensively: misdemeanors usually).

You are comfortable traveling for work. In my state we have counties within judicial districts. The prosecution have offices in and stay in their county. The PDs have small office space in each county but travel between county.

You can handle incredible stress well. This includes representing clients who claim they will kill you when they get out, tell you your home address and tell you "bad things happen if you don't win."

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mrtor (Jul 24, 2017 - 10:05 am)

Drink the Kool-Aid. Because criminal law is fairly straightforward and most of the PD cases are losers, they want a dedicated zealot more than sterling credentials.

Are you interested in this as this a long term career or is it a steeping stone to something else? The lifers who interview are pretty good at reading people. They want passion and commitment to the cause. If you are not a zealot, its probably a waste of your time.

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dharamsala (Jul 24, 2017 - 2:15 pm)

I want this as a long-term career.

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legalace (Jul 24, 2017 - 9:11 pm)

Some paint far too bleak a picture of the public defender experience.

In many locations, public defenders prevent a conviction of the most serious charge in about half (or more) of their jury trials.

Many public defenders have long careers without ever being told by a client that he will kill when he gets out, that he knows your home address, or that "bad things happen if you don't win."

Most public defenders are hired in the hope that they will exhibit sound judgment rather than zealotry.

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mrtor (Jul 25, 2017 - 11:05 am)

Public defenders not "hired" for their "sound judgment" -- they're assigned to represent people who have absolutely no other means of retaining counsel. Their effectiveness is debatable. At most, prosecutors may give PD clients somewhat better plea bargains simply because public defenders can be thorns in the prosecution's side. They can burden the busier prosecutors with procedural issues and docketing delays. However, those are merely stalling tactics and the few cases that go to trial virtually never end well for PD clients.

All of that being said, you're entitled to view the profession through a rosier set of lenses.

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legalace (Jul 25, 2017 - 7:16 pm)

Where I am from, effective public defenders prevent a conviction of the most serious charge in about half (or more) of their jury trials. And I know a public defender who has walked fifteen life sentence clients out the door with acquittals, hung juries, or trial court motions.

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thirdtierlaw (Jul 26, 2017 - 7:05 am)

Mrtor, do you actually practice criminal law?

I'm "conflict counsel" in multiple courts so I'm in court with PDs multiple times a week.

Some are terrible. But the vast majority are above average criminal defense attorneys.

Over their careers they'll lose substantially more trials than the average attorney will even litigate. But that is a matter of volume and the types of clients who need a public defender.

The reality of criminal defense work is that 95+% of your clients are guilty of what they've been charged with. So you scoff at PDs getting better plea deals, but that is huge. You also develop relationships with prosecutors, if I go up to a prosecutor and say, "there was an illegal search because the officer did x,y, and z, do we really need to litigate this?" They'll take my word for it. Until I built their trust I was never given that courtesy. So when you add that with the extensive trial experience, PDs can be extremely effective.

I know a few... frequent flyers, who first wait to see who they get assigned as a PD and if they don't like that particular attorney, they'll magically find the money to hire a different attorney.

I've been threatened by clients. But out of the 100s of clients I've had, I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened. It's been far more often that I've gotten thank you notes, referalls, and offers for goods or services that would get me disbarred.

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justrmor (Jul 26, 2017 - 9:57 am)

I'm a pd. And I frequently win at trial. That's partly because in my jurisdiction, the DA's office is quite young and inexperienced. Public defense isn't for everyone. But it can be a fun rewarding career.

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qport (Jul 24, 2017 - 6:00 pm)

I'm a former public defender who practiced for several years, sat in on candidate interviews and gave input on hiring decisions. We weren't interested in zealots because they either got disillusioned quickly or ended up getting their clients big sentences because they couldn't recognize the flaws in their case.

Here were things we looked for in a potential public defender:

1. Can you spot issues in criminal cases? The ability to quickly spot suppression issues and flaws in the case were a must since you often didn't have time to dig into every case.

2. Are you too arrogant/dumb/afraid to ask for help? We realized new PDs aren't Perry Mason but we'd rather answer a dumb question than have you guess wrong and screw your client over.

3. Are you afraid of going to trial? You'd be surprised at how many lawyers are afraid to try a case. If the DAs know you'll end up forcing your client to plead everything then you've lost any leverage you had.

4. Are you even tempered / handle stress well? Being a PD is a stressful job (especially at first), and we don't want someone who can't handle the pressure and ends up blowing up at a judge/DA/client.

5. Do you have a thick skin? The public (wrongly) assumes that most PDs are trash lawyers. Your clients will often assume this too. One of the first things I did as a PD was to try and establish trust with my clients, particularly if they had crappy lawyers in the past.

6. Do you care? You'd be surprised how many court appointed attorneys (including some PDs) just don't give a crap. They'd trash their clients to the DAs in some effort to ingratiate themselves but in the end neither side respected them. You have to care about your clients and the outcome. This point was non-negotiable.

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justrmor (Jul 25, 2017 - 12:18 pm)

I am currently a public defender and a member of my firm's hiring committee. This list is spot-on. We want people who care, who can take abuse and who we can get along with. That is about it.

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defensivelawyer (Jul 25, 2017 - 11:28 am)

prosecutors overcharge.

pds often win on questionable counts.

around here it is common to see life cases with 15, 20 year max after trial.

prosecutors claim they "won" after getting an ass whooping.

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defensivelawyer (Jul 25, 2017 - 11:30 am)

if i were hiring, id want an extraordinarily normal reasonable sounding person who could talk a jury into doing something a little crazy while making it sound perfectly natural.

but who has the sense to hammer on clients to plead guilty when necessary.

in short idwant someone capable of multiple tactics.

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