I recently attended the Public Defender Advocacy, Hiring and Training Conference (PATH) sponsored by the Public Defender Service for D.C. It was amazing. Attorneys from some of the most active and prestigious PD offices across the country gave their insights on PD hiring and best practices.
Here are the Top 10 things I learned about what it takes to stand out and shine as a PD applicant in today's highly competitive pool.
- PDs want to know your personal motivation for wanting to be a PD. Wins are relative and the work is tough. What will sustain you as a PD?
- PDs don’t think that you can save the world by doing this job. It’s about helping one client at a time. Be realistic but passionate in your own explanation about why you want to do this job.
- If you’re applying to a true believer office, convey in your cover letter that you are a true believer and back it up with examples or reasons.
- Many top candidates start looking the same on paper. What distinguishes you is your motivation, your passion, your “why I want to be a public defender” story. If this doesn’t come out in your cover letter, you won’t make it to the next step.
- If you’ve done prosecution or domestic /sexual violence victim work in the past, you need to address these experiences in your cover letter and interview to make sure the office understands that you’re ready for PD work.
- Speaking Spanish – even at a somewhat proficient level – makes you 1000% more employable.
- Being a PD is much more than doing trials. It’s about client relationships. Are you client-centered? Can you bring this out in your interview?
- When asked a hypothetical question in an interview, take advantage of the chance to think out loud and look at the problem from different angles.
- When asked a hypothetical question in an interview, remember that offices are looking for your instincts. Is your instinct to sell out your client?
- Think before an interview how you would handle a first-time client interview. If you’re asked to role-play one, focus on listening and getting the information you need. Are you using the right vocabulary and body language? Being respectful?
Still interested? Talk to us at the PSC to get help on your cover letter or interview prep.