What volunteer opportunities exist in the Public Defender's office?

Partnering directly with skilled attorneys, investigators and social workers, our interns get an inside look into the criminal justice system and criminal defense litigation.

 

  Depending on skill and experience, volunteers may participate in the following opportunities:  
  • Appear in court each morning
  • Learn about public policy, civil rights and social justice
  • Analyze scene videos, interview recordings and police reports
  • Assist attorneys in trial
  • Visit jails and crime scenes
  • Conduct legal research, writing and argument
  • Attend training on trial skills, mental health, immigration and other specialty areas

 

Volunteers generally fall into these categories:

Undergraduate students. Undergraduate students are offered the opportunity to assist the attorneys in giving skilled individual attention to each of the many people who pass through a very busy first appearance calendar. Undergraduate students also assist in reviewing investigation and discovery information to assist in preparing complex cases for trial.

Law Students.  Law student legal interns work closely with deputy public defenders in researching, preparing and helping to present cases. See legal internship application process here.

PostBar/Attorneys. Post Bar Law Clerks and Volunteer Attorneys are given responsibility for a caseload, which may be in a specialty area such as mental health or juvenile. Incomparable training, weekly staff meetings and a close working relationship with staff attorneys assist them to become highly skilled indigent defenders. See Post Bar clerkship application process here.

Student investigators. Student investigators assist our skilled investigators in preparing cases for trial. Investigative tasks may include: reviewing police reports, reviewing and taking pictures, interviewing witnesses, measuring distances, serving subpoenas and reviewing and retrieving documents.

Social work students. Our social workers assist our clients with accessing essential services, such as mental wellness, substance abuse, and housing. Positions are available to those pursuing social work careers to assist our social workers in providing this indispensable assistance.

Other work. On occasion we receive volunteer offers from folks interested in everything from assisting our Investigators to doing clerical support. We are open to such situations and have found them to be mutually rewarding.  If you are interested in volunteering with this office please contact Dee Engler at dengler@publicdefendersb.org.

Legal Internship Program for Current Law Students

Our legal internship program gives exceptional law students an understanding of the criminal justice system and hands-on experience representing clients. In partnership with staff attorneys, legal interns have a wide range of opportunities, including: writing motions, meeting clients, attending case conferences, reviewing investigation results, and attending consultations with experts. Students certified to practice law pursuant to California Rules of Court, Rule 9.42(c) may also be given the opportunity to argue motions on behalf of clients in court.

We are looking for students who are committed to indigent criminal defense and who have a passion for working for the underprivileged, the marginalized, and the forgotten in society. We seek students with strong written and oral communication skills, who are willing to think like advocates and fight for our clients. We provide training that focuses on ethics of legal practice, trial advocacy, and a general introduction to criminal defense. It is our expectation that upon completion of the program, participants will have interacted with clients, participated in court hearings, researched and written (and potentially argued) legal motions for the benefit of our clients.

Important Dates for Legal Internships for Current Law Students

  Date of Law Student Internships Application Due
Fall 2018 August 6, 2018-November 9, 2018 June 9, 2018
Winter  2019 January 14, 2019-April 5, 2019 November  3, 2018
Summer 2019 May 20, 2019-August 2, 2019 February 8, 2019
Fall 2019 August 5, 2019-November 8, 2019 June 7, 2019

 

Legal internship applicants must be a law school student or a recent law school graduate. Positions are available in our Santa Maria and Santa Barbara offices.  All participants in our Legal Internship Programs are required to make a three-day-per-week commitment for the duration of the applicable internship period. The first three training days are mandatory. 

Our office actively seeks law students from diverse backgrounds.  This includes diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, physical abilities, religious beliefs, and political beliefs.  We also value and seek applicants who are bilingual and bicultural.

Funding for Legal Internships

All internships are unpaid. However, the experience volunteers receive is priceless.  Applicants are encouraged to explore the many funding resources available for students interested in public interest internships including Federal Work Study [keep link], Public Interest Work Study, Public Interest Law Foundation Grants, and other grants or fellowships offered by law schools and private foundations.

Post Bar Law Clerkship Program

For graduating law school students who are taking the California Bar Exam, we offer an intense, full time Post Bar Clerkship. Those who are offered this distinctive opportunity assist attorneys in every aspect of case preparation and advocate on behalf of misdemeanor clients at all stages of the court proceedings. We are looking for people who are committed to indigent criminal defense, and who have a passion for working for the underprivileged, the marginalized, and the forgotten in society. We seek advocates with strong written and oral communication skills, who are dedicated to client-centered representation.

We also want to assist our Post Bar participants in their transition from the classroom to the courtroom.  The program will commence with extensive trial skills training taught by experienced trial lawyers.  Participants may work individually with misdemeanor clients in the trial courts under the supervision of seasoned trial deputy public defenders.  Additionally, Post Bar participants may be paired with a felony trial attorney/mentor and work on complex litigation issues in preparation for trial.

We provide training that focuses on the ethics of legal practice, trial advocacy, and a general introduction to criminal defense. It is our expectation that upon completion of the program, participants will have interacted with clients, advocated in court hearings, and written and argued legal motions for the benefit of our clients. We seek to create an environment conducive to learning and gaining as much practical experience as possible.

Important Dates for Post Bar Clerkships 

  Date of Post Bar Clerkship Application Due
Fall 2018 August 6, 2018-November 9, 2018 June 9, 2018
Spring 2019 March 11-May 23, 2019 November  3, 2018
Fall 2019 August 5, 2019-November 8, 2019 June 7, 2019

 


 Department 
   
   
   
   

Post Bar participants must attend and graduate from an ABA-approved law school, must be certified by the California State Bar for the Practical Training of Legal Students (PTLS) and must commit to at least four full days per week, but are not be permitted to work more than 40 hours per week. The first three days of the clerkship period include a mandatory training period.

Our office is looking for Post Bar graduates from diverse backgrounds.  This includes diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, physical abilities, religious beliefs, and political beliefs.  We also value and seek applicants who are bilingual and bicultural.

   

Funding

While funding for the Post Bar program is unavailable at this time, we encourage you to consult your school's Career Services or counselors to locate and take advantage of the many grants and public interest fellowships that may be available.

California State Bar PTLS Certification

The California State Bar permits law students to speak on behalf of clients in court as long as they qualify for "Practical Training of Legal Students" (PTLS) certification. This is accomplished by applying to the California State Bar.  A student must have completed one full year of law school (270 hours) at an American Bar Association (ABA) or State Bar of California accredited law school or passed the First Year Law Student's Exam (FYLSE).

The student must also be enrolled in, or completed, Evidence and Civil Procedure courses.  If you are accepted into the program, our office will assist you in submitting the paperwork for PTLS certification to the California State Bar.  Students must be enrolled with Calbar before applying for PTLS.  More information on the requirements and certification process can be found at www.calbar.ca.gov .