Intern, Clerkship & Volunteer Opportunities
The San Diego County Office of the Public Defender provides law students and other students an unparalleled learning experience through a variety of nationally recognized internship opportunities. Interns and Post Bars assist skilled attorneys in all aspects of case preparation and courtroom advocacy in a supportive environment with a true mentor system. We pair novices with knowledgeable practitioners to give interns and Post Bars real world experience while ensuring our clients receive the best representation possible.
Applicants should possess a passion for representing those whose civil liberties are at risk, an impeccable work ethic, an aptitude for oral advocacy, and strong research and writing skills.
Our office affirmatively seeks interns and attorneys of varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as those with bilingual skills. In our continuing effort to improve the quality of services we provide to a diverse client base, we actively encourage applications from members of groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, who are under-represented in the legal profession.
Click HERE for information on the Public Defender Internship/Post-Bar Clerkship Application Cover Sheet.
Legal Internships are for students currently enrolled in law school.
By the end of the internship, you will have interacted with scores of
clients, participated in a variety of court hearings, and researched
and written legal arguments for the benefit of actual clients.
For information on Legal Internships, click HERE
For graduating law school students who are taking the California Bar
Exam, we offer an intense, full time Post Bar Clerkship. The number of
Post Bar positions is limited. The select few 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. Post Bars also participate in our
“Trial Skills Academy”, a comprehensive courtroom advocacy program
taught by experienced trial attorneys.
For information on Post Bar Clerkships, click HERE
If you are not a law student and have interest in volunteering with
our Investigations Unit, click HERE
Practice Area & Minimum Requirements
Adult Criminal Divisions
The Adult Criminal Divisions provide quality legal representation to adults accused of felony and misdemeanor offenses. As San Diego’s largest criminal defense firm, we annually serve over 120,000 indigent clients throughout the county with a staff of over 220 lawyers.
The Adult Criminal Divisions programs provide exposure to all types of criminal cases as well as 'real-life' experience on how to defend people facing prosecution. Interns experience hands-on work with attorneys and investigators, interact with scores of clients, assist with case organization and research, prepare motions and other written documents for the benefit of actual clients, and attend a variety of court hearings. Students who are PTLS certified by the State Bar may be able to appear in court and represent clients under the supervision of an attorney. In short, certified interns gain practical litigation experience, interact with judges and the local bar, and learn skills that will set them far above their peers.
The Adult Criminal Divisions are:
- The Primary Public Defender (PPD): PPD is the primary agency appointed to represent adults charged with misdemeanor and felony cases.
- The Alternate Public Defender (APD): APD represents clients accused of felonies with whom the Primary Public Defender has a conflict of interest.
- Multiple Conflicts Office-Major Cases (MCO): MCO accepts court appointment on cases the PPD and APD cannot accept due to a conflict of interest. Located in downtown San Diego, MCO is a small office with five attorneys and three investigators who specialize in only the most complicated and serious homicide and special circumstances cases.
- Office of Assigned Counsel (OAC): If the court finds that the PPD and APD have a conflict of interest, then OAC will provide the indigent defendant with a qualified private practitioner who has been pre-screened and placed on a panel managed by the OAC. Legal interns assist the Pro Per Coordinator in the active management of the Pro Per caseload.
Students applying for the Adult Criminal Divisions internships may
be placed with any of these four agencies.
Adult Criminal Divisions Internship Requirements
• 2L and 3L students are preferred, but there are a limited number of positions for 1Ls in the Summer Intern Program.
• Students PTLS certified by the California State Bar are preferred.
• Interns must commit a minimum of 16 hours per week during school semesters and a minimum of 32 hours per week during the summer. Given court schedules, students should have blocks of time available (i.e. 8 am-12 pm or 1 pm– 5 pm).
Juvenile Delinquency Divisions
These offices are responsible for defending juveniles accused of committing crimes in the County of San Diego. Juvenile Court is located in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. The offices are located approximately 4 miles from the courthouse, so interns must have their own transportation.
Legal interns are assigned to actual cases and are supervised by the attorney working on those cases. The program stresses working directly with clients and their families, as well as close contact with the attorney of record and their assigned investigator. Interns begin each day with a variety of court appearances which may include arguing motions and potentially participating in bench trials. They then return to the office to complete research and writing assignments, meet with clients, and prepare for future court hearings.
The Juvenile Delinquency Divisions are:
- The Primary Public Defender (PPD): PPD is the primary agency appointed to represent juveniles charged with misdemeanor and felony petitions.
- The Alternate Public Defender (APD): APD represents
juveniles accused of felonies and misdemeanors with whom the PPD has a
conflict of interest.
Juvenile Delinquency Divisions Office Location
The only location for the Juvenile Delinquency Divisions is in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego.
Juvenile Delinquency Divisions Internship Requirements
• Current 2L and 3L students only. 1Ls, that have just completed their first year, will not be considered for summer positions.
• Interns must be PTLS Certified by the State Bar. The program prefers that you complete Evidence before applying.
(You can still apply if you are planning to take Evidence concurrently with the internship.)
• The minimum commitment is 20 hours per week during the school year, or 32 hours per week during the summer.
• Interns must be available starting at 8:00 a.m. on those days.
• Demonstrate an interest in juvenile delinquency law, or criminal law with a desire for working with children.
• Applicants must have their own transportation between the court and the office.
Intern Program Dates and Deadlines
We offer Spring, Summer, and Fall Legal Internships.
The application deadlines are:
(subject to change due to, but not limited by Covid-19 conditions)
Legal Internship Season
Tentative Program Dates
August 31, 2021 -
June 17, 2021
January 11, 2022 -
September 17, 2022
June 1, 2022
February 25, 2022
August 30, 2022 -
June 17, 2022
Internships are, for the most part, un-paid positions; however, the experience volunteers receive is priceless. There are many funding resources available for students interested in public interest internships including Federal Work Study, Public Interest Work Study, Public Interest Law Foundation Grants, and other grants or fellowships offered by law schools and private foundations.
Funding for Legal Internships ______________________________________________
We encourage you to consult your school’s Career Services or counselors to take advantage of the many grants and programs available.
Our office may offer a restricted number of internship fellowships for qualified candidates who would otherwise be unable to participate in the program. The number of these fellowships is limited and will be awarded on a case by case basis.
Practice Area & Minimum Requirements
All Post Bars are placed in the Adult Criminal Division of the Primary Public Defender (PPD) at the Main Office. Post-Bars are assigned to the Central Misdemeanor Unit.
The Post Bar Clerkship affords a select group of students the opportunity to experience the demanding yet highly rewarding practice of a public defender. Our nationally recognized program is designed to give students not just an understanding of the criminal justice system, but hands-on experience with trial advocacy and representing misdemeanor clients.
In addition, all Post-Bar clerks will participate in our Trial Skills Academy, a comprehensive courtroom advocacy program taught by experienced trial attorneys. The training staff is comprised of veteran trial attorneys, many of whom are instructors at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and the local law schools. These professionals take pride in producing trial artists in the courtroom and in developing attorneys' natural abilities.
Post Bar Clerkship Requirements
• Post Bars must attend and graduate from an ABA approved law
• Post Bars must be PTLS Certified.
• Applicants should have prior work/volunteer experience in a public defender office or other criminal defense agency.
• The Post Bar clerkship is a full time, 40 hour per week, commitment.
Post Bar Program Dates & Deadlines
We offer Fall and Spring Post-Bar Programs. Both programs begin a week or two after the completion of the February or July California Bar exams and end the Friday when Bar results are announced.
The Post-Bar application deadlines are:
Post Bar Clerkship Season
Tentative Program Dates
March 2, 2021 to
October 8, 2020
August 3, 2021 to
February 11, 2021
March 1, 2022 to
October 7, 2021
August 2, 2022 to
February 10, 2022
Funding for Post-Bar Clerkships ______________________________________________
Candidates selected for the Fall\Spring Post Bar Program will receive funding through our office to assist in defraying living expenses.
Legal Internship & Post Bar
Clerkship Application Process
Please review the above Legal Internship or Post Bar Clerkship requirements, including the time commitments, to confirm you are eligible for the program for which you are applying. The application process consists of submission of the required electronic materials and an interview.
Do NOT submit writing samples. We will not view or retain any writing samples submitted.
To apply for a Legal Internship or Post Bar Clerkship applicants must submit:
2) a Cover Letter identifying in which practice areas and
which locations you are interested, and why.
(Please also include any foreign language skills you may have if not included on your resume.)
Cover Letters should be addressed to Kristin Scogin, our Program Supervisor.
3) a current Resume
4) a current Transcript (an unofficial transcript is acceptable)
5) (Post-Bars only) a Reference List of 3-5 people
Our office will try to do all interviews from our Downtown location. Local law schools will interview at our Downtown office, in-person. Applicants from law schools outside San Diego will interview via Skype. A phone interview may be considered in extraordinary circumstances. Be sure to give your Skype ID on the Application Cover Sheet. We will contact those selected to interview by e-mail and set up an interview time. Students who attend Law School in San Diego, must apply through their Career Service office. If you are returning student, submit your documents to the email below.
Students selected for an internship or clerkship must pass a background check (which includes fingerprinting) prior to participating in any of our programs. A medical screening may also be necessary. Interns who return for a subsequent internship or clerkship within 6 months do not need to complete a new background screening.
Submit Applications by:
E-mail (as attachments) to: PDIntern.Recruitment@sdcounty.ca.gov
Application Cover Sheet Instructions
Our office currently consists of multiple agencies in offices located throughout the county. In order to place as many applicants as possible, we ask applicants to complete the Application Cover Sheet.
Fill out the top section in full. Check the one box that indicates the Internship or Post Bar Clerkship which you wish to participate in. You can only apply for one program at a time.
Check the box indicating how many hours you are available to volunteer each week. Internships during the school year for Adult criminal and Delinquency Offices require a minimum of 16 hours per week. Summer internships require a minimum of 32 hours per week. A Post-Bar program is a full-time commitment and requires 40 hours per week.
PTLS certification is covered in another area on this page.
Our office prefers doing live video Skype interviews with law students outside San Diego. Please enter your Skype ID or associated e-mail account where indicated. If you are selected to interview, and are not able to do it via Skype, we may consider a phone interview instead. San Diego law students will be interviewed at our Downtown offices and do not need to put down their Skype account.
In the "Practice Preference" section, rank the top four of our various divisions you would prefer to work with.(See Practice Areas above). If there is a practice area in which you would prefer not to work, do not rank it. Leave it blank. Post Bar positions are only with the Primary Public Defender. There are no Post Bar positions in Delinquency.
Returning interns will NOT be working at the same location in back-to-back seasons. Keep that in mind when making selections. Our office will select the office you will work in.
Legal Internship applicants should also rank their top three work location preferences in the “Work Location Preference” section (1,2,3). Leave the other locations blank. You can find the addresses and maps to the offices in the "Locations" tab on the Main Menu. The more work locations for which you are willing to volunteer, the greater your chance of being interviewed and possibly selected for the program. Post-Bars are only assigned to the Downtown office.
All Delinquency internships are in Kearny Mesa. If you want a Delinquency position, Kearny Mesa should be your #1 work location.
If you only have the Adobe Reader, you may not be able to save your completed Application Cover Sheet. You will need to print out the completed form for your records.
What does being “PTLS certified” mean?
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 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 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.
Other Volunteer Opportunities
Undergraduate and graduate students may participate in our Investigations Internship Program. Our teams of professional defense investigators are critical to the protection of civil liberties for those accused of crimes. Interns may assist defense investigators in visiting crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, observing court hearings, taking crime scene photographs, and serving subpoenas.
Investigative interns volunteer in both our Adult Criminal Divisions and our Juvenile Delinquency Divisions. Information on our various divisions can be found above. The Adult Criminal Divisions have offices in Central San Diego (Downtown), Vista, Chula Vista, and El Cajon. The only location for the Juvenile Delinquency Division is in Kearny Mesa. Addresses can be found on our “Locations” page. Indicate the locations you can work at in your cover letter.
All Investigative Interns are volunteers who receive invaluable on-the-job training and experience. Some students may receive academic credit for the internship program from their school.
• Applicants with a degree (or currently majoring) in Criminal Justice, Political Science, Sociology, or Pre-Law are preferred, but no specific experience is required other than a desire to aid those accused of criminal offenses.
• Interns must volunteer a minimum of 12 hours per week for 6 (six) months.
• Interns must pass a San Diego County security background check.
• Interns must have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.
Application Process for Investigations:
Application Packets are accepted at any time, but active recruitment happens twice a year. Interviews for the Summer/Fall season occur in mid-May. The Winter/Spring season interviews take place in mid-November. Applicants who miss the interview season are added to a wait list. The numbers of positions available vary.
Submit an Application Packet [consisting of; cover letter, resume, and current (unofficial) transcript] to the Investigations Internship Program Coordinators at PDI@sdcounty.ca.gov. Applications should be submitted by e-mail, when possible. Otherwise, mail it to San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, 451 A St, Suite 900, San Diego, CA 92101.
Please indicate if you speak another language on your resume and/or cover letter.
If you are available to work at locations other than Downtown, please mention that in your cover letter.
For more information or questions about the Investigative Internship
Program, please contact the Investigations Internship Program
Coordinators at PDI@sdcounty.ca.gov.
Other Non-Legal Volunteer Opportunities
We are not offering any other volunteer intern positions at this time. If any other opportunities become available, they will be posted here. Check back periodically.
Our Office holds Mock Trials for our Post-Bar clerks in March
and August. The trials last only a single morning or afternoon
(3-4 hours at most). If you are over 18 and would like to serve as a
mock juror at one of these trials, please e-mail your interest
to Deborah Ross at the e-mail below.
Need More Information?
If you wish further information regarding a Legal Internship or Post Bar Clerkship position you can e-mail the Recruitment & Volunteer Supervisor, Kristin Scogin, at: Kristin.Scogin@sdcounty.ca.gov or Deborah Ross, the Recruitment Assistant at: email@example.com. Thank you for your interest in our programs.