Public Defender

Defend people who can’t afford legal services.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$75,000 – $165,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Public Defenders do?

As a Public Defender, you represent people accused of crimes when they cannot afford a Lawyer. You’re one of the most important legal professionals because you make it possible for everyone, regardless of their financial situation, to have legal counsel. In this job, the government pays you, but you’re ethically bound to serve your clients’ best interests.

Not every case will see you arguing before a Judge and jury. A lot of the work Public Defenders do takes place behind the scenes. When you don’t think your client can win their case, you work with them and Prosecutors to come up with a plea bargain, which offers the client a more lenient punishment in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser offense.

If a trial is scheduled, you prepare your client by going over questions with them, and coaching them on how to behave properly in court. Before the trial, your time is spent at your desk writing briefs, filing motions, and researching laws pertinent to your case. You also gather experts to testify on your client’s behalf.

Of all the legal avenues you can choose after you graduate from law school, the path of the Public Defender is one of the least glamorous. Typically, your caseloads will be heavy. Determination, unwavering belief in the legal system, and coffee will be your best friends. But even though you will not get paid as much or be as famous as high-priced Criminal Defense Lawyers, helping just one man prove his innocence will make it all worthwhile.

Should I be a Public Defender?

You should have a doctoral degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • How to become a Public Defender

    Most Public Defenders have a Doctorate. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaaaf9&chl=||||master%27s+%288%25%29|doctorate+%2892%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,92
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