The Office’s nationally recognized program is designed to give students not just an understanding of the criminal justice system, but hands-on experience with representing clients. Interns are assigned to work with a staff attorney, writing motions, meeting clients, attending case conferences, reviewing investigation results, and attending consultations with experts. Students certified to practice law 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. Students with a general interest in criminal law or who view being a prosecutor as a possible career choice should not apply. We are looking for students with a passion for working for the underprivileged, the marginalized, and the forgotten in society. We want students with strong written and oral communication skills – who are willing to think like advocates and fight for our clients.

Important dates to be aware of:

SessionApplication BeginApplication DeadlineStart DateSession EndsOrientation
2024 Session 1Now12/01/2023 or until filled01/08/202405/03/202401/08/2024
2024 Session 2Now3/01/2024 or until filled05/28/202408/09/202405/28/2024 to 05/31/2024
2024 Session 3Now07/12/2024 or until filled09/03/202412/06/202409/03/2024

General Information

Internships are offered throughout the year and are broken up into 3 sessions. We have opportunities for applicants interested in working with our adult clients at our downtown office. There are also limited number of positions available in our Juvenile office as well as in our Investigations Unit. All internships are unpaid. The cost of travel, living expenses, insurance and accommodations are the responsibility of the intern. The Office cannot accept responsibility for costs arising from accidents or illness incurred during the internship.

Interns may receive academic credit if an agreement is made between the Public Defender’s Office and the intern’s college or university. Work-study is offered only if the Office portion is covered by the school.

Upon acceptance, interns will attend an Orientation prior to their start date. Most interns bring their own laptop computer, but we also have a computer lab for interns to use.

Investigations Unit Intern

Do you like to be the first person to know the rest of the story? All kinds of people have something interesting to say and if you would like to talk to them the Investigation Unit may be your dream intern assignment.

Public Defender Investigators do a variety of things including: reviewing police reports, witness statements and pictures taken by the police, interviewing witnesses, taking photographs, measuring distances, serving subpoenas and reviewing and retrieving documents.

If you’re smart, curious, a good listener and a quick learner please apply to be a Public Defender Investigator intern.

Minimum time commitment: two days a week, sixteen hours a week, three months, one semester or one quarter.

An in-person interview may be required.

Deadlines & Requirements

Applicants must be a law school student or a recent law school graduate, with the exception of Investigation Unit Interns. Applications must be submitted by the deadline date (See Chart). Students must be willing to work the minimum number of hours and duration specified by their internship session. (See Chart).  

No split summers will be accommodated. Students may not participate in the internship program for shorter periods of time. Students must be able to start by the Start date (See Chart). Students must attend an orientation on or before their start date (See Chart). Students are not permitted to start prior to attending an orientation.

Students must submit information for a background check for jail clearance. Jail clearance is required to conduct in-custody jail interviews. Negative results of a background check will not necessarily deter employment.

Although interns are not considered staff members of the Public Defenders office. Interns must comply with all rules and policies applied to staff.  Interns must keep confidential any information obtained at during the course of the internship program. This obligation continues beyond the period of the internship.

At the end of the internship, the intern is expected to complete an evaluation questionnaire on his or her assignment and submit it to the Recruitment Director.

San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is an equal employment opportunity employer. Discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, sexual orientation or national origin is prohibited.

Intern Application

Applications cannot be saved and must be completed in one session. Please use the latest versions of Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer. Upon completion of the application, a confirmation email from recruitment@sfpublicdefender.org will be sent to the email address provided. Please check your junk/spam email folder. If you do not receive a confirmation email in 24hrs, please register again.

What also helps is clearing all the cache and/or resetting the browser back to factory default. If that does not work, please contact internhelp@sfpublicdefender.org to confirm the receipt of your application.

Applicants interested in the Young Defenders Program should contact City and County of San Francisco’s Opportunities for All (OFA) office.

If you do not see the form correctly, you can access the form here.