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Nonprofit Public Interest Law Careers – Public Defense

Nonprofit Public Interest Law Careers – Public Defense

Times of economic difficulty have slowed job growth in some areas for attorneys graduating from law school. In times of economic stress, however, there are more opportunities in some areas of the nonprofit legal sector, especially areas of the law which deal with economically distressed peoples.

Public defense is one of these areas. Public defense attorneys provide free legal representation to those accused of crimes, in order to ensure that all parties are provided the legal counsel that is their right.

Depending upon the jurisdiction, public defender organizations are either nonprofit organizations or departments run by the government. Public defenders must be well-versed in all types of criminal law, as depending upon the jurisdiction and the size of the public defender organization, public defense attorneys may handle all types of criminal matters, from misdemeanors to the severest felonies.

Some public defenders focus primarily on one area of the law. Specialized work by public defense attorneys ranges from legal matters involving juvenile offenders to death row appeals.

As a result of their focuses, public defense attorneys spend a lot of time in courtrooms on both the trial and appellate levels.

Here are some helpful links for those interested in becoming a public defender:

  • The National Legal Aid & Defender Organization (NLADA), the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit association of legal professionals and organizations dedicated to providing legal services to low-income people in America, has been involved in nearly every landmark case and policy initiative in the American justice system in the 20th century and beyond.
  • PSLawNet’s Prosecutor/Public Defender Careers section goes into more depth about the field.
  • This article from the University of California at Berkeley school of law has some great information on preparing for a career as a public defense attorney.

Abraham Lincoln University School of Law is an online distance learning institution based in California preparing students to sit for the California State Bar Exam. If you are interested in a public defender career, please check out the online law school and its unique program.


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