Come to the work with your eyes and heart open. People charged with crime need caring advocates who are not afraid in the public arena to challenge governmental power and not afraid to be humble and kind with clients. Most of the work in this field is representing low-income people who have lived through vast inequity with lives propelled toward the margins of our culture. Criminal defense is defending civil and human rights, and client-centered caring representation is a noble and unique calling. We need imaginative, motivated people, filled with compassion, skill and commitment. If you possess these qualities, the work and the client community both need you.

We represent thousands of people each year utilizing a client-centered model that puts the client first. We recognize our clients are unique individuals and work to address their needs both in the court and out. Our diverse staff includes adult and juvenile attorneys; social workers; investigators, and legal assistants all working together for equal justice for our clients, their families, and our community. In short, we protect innocence, defend the constitution, demand justice, and hold power accountable.

Richmond Public Defenders are committed to providing zealous, client-centered representation. Each client’s needs are supported by a dedicated legal team: attorneys, investigators, social workers and legal assistants. Our attorneys zealously defend clients against criminal charges in General District, Circuit and Juvenile Court immediately following arrest all the way through sentencing and appeals. Our client-centered approach focuses on serving the client’s interest and meeting their individual needs to achieve the best outcome for each client. Our primary role is to zealously represent the client in criminal proceedings. Each attorney represents clients with misdemeanors and/or felony charges through all phases of criminal proceedings, including arraignment, pretrial hearings, trial preparation, plea negotiations, trial, sentencing and appeal.

Necessary qualifications
A degree from an ABA accredited law school; demonstrated commitment to working with clients in poverty and from diverse cultural backgrounds; demonstrated ability to communicate both in writing and verbally; a strong desire to fight for change.

Preferred qualification
Ability to communicate in Spanish.

Our paralegals perform case preparation and investigative and information gathering tasks necessary to prepare your case. They may communicate with a wide network of court officials, legal and social agencies, jail and prison officials as well as clients and their family members. Duties may include:

  • Review cases, investigate facts and underlying issues; review legal documents, technical data and all other relevant information in a case.

  • Notify/inform witnesses, attorneys and other parties on case status; coordinate parties and witnesses for hearings or trials; schedule interviews with attorneys, victims and witnesses; set administrative hearings.

  • Draft correspondence, pleadings, motions and discovery devices; prepare hearing or trial exhibits; prepare case files.

  • Obtain documents by subpoena and other investigations and discovery methods.

  • Assist at trials and hearings.

  • Collaborate and confer with defense investigators and mitigation specialists; monitor progress of the case.

Works as a member of the defense team while adhering to the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding client-attorney privilege and confidentiality. Specialists assist the attorney/client team with the identification and collection of mitigation evidence to support mitigation themes, and advocates for alternative sentencing options when appropriate. They may assist in plea negotiations at the direction of the attorney.

In this position, the specialist identifies, locates, and interviews in person individuals relevant to mitigation in a culturally responsive manner and identifies and analyzes relevant records pertaining to mitigation. They also compile comprehensive well-documented social history/mitigation reports for presentation to the defense team, experts, prosecutors, court or jury, treatment providers or others as appropriate.

This position assists the legal team in identifying and understanding major mental illness, intellectual and developmental disability, substance use issues, individual and transgenerational trauma, and neurological issues resulting from congenital or traumatic brain injury. The Specialist summarizes and provides experts with legal, medical, psychological, educational, and institutional records, at the direction of the attorney, to highlight relevant information for their review.

They will engage in intensive case management and resource identification to support the legal case with a focus on identifying alternatives to incarceration and detention. As well as analyzing all relevant information and consults with the attorney on theories of mitigation and theory of defense to assist in presenting a comprehensive and cohesive case. They may assist in crisis intervention or risk assessment with approval or direction from the attorney.

This position is responsible for conducting interviews of all relevant witnesses and defendants to gain relevant information aiding in the preparation of cases and will appear in court as needed. Additional duties include gathering documents, taking photographs and measurements, serving subpoenas and any other necessary steps resulting in a thorough investigation as assigned by the attorney. The position is required to have close interaction and build rapport with members of the public defender team and reports to the attorney handling each case. The Ideal candidate will have a demonstrated interest in serving underprivileged communities. The ability to work well with people of various socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, and the willingness to do field work and visit with incarcerated clients are a must. The Investigator must also be proficient at multitasking. The ideal candidate will possess good non-legal research skills and have very strong oral and written communication skills. The job has a strong written component as investigators must take thorough notes and write up formal reports for their assigned investigations. Willingness to work a flexible schedule, including evenings and weekends, as investigations require.


The Richmond Defenders’ Summer Intern Program strives to create challenging but supportive educational environment for our interns. We want our interns to walk away from the program with a thorough understanding of how we practice of client-centered indigent defense, knowledge and practical skills they can apply in the future, and the inspiration to pursue a career in public defense.

College students work alongside our Investigators to conduct interviews of relevant witnesses and defendants to gain relevant information aiding in the preparation of cases. They will also help in gathering documents, taking photographs and measurements, serving subpoenas The interns will have close interactions with members of the public defender team. We look for students with good non-legal research skills and with very strong oral and written communication skills to write up formal reports of their investigation to the supervisors.

The Richmond Public Defenders’ Office offers a hands-on experience for law students to join in the client-centered and team-based representation of our clients. This unique experience allows law clerks to assist in providing comprehensive advocacy.  Law clerks are fully integrated into our trial teams and work closely with attorneys, investigators, and social workers to ensure our clients receive the best representation possible. Law clerks typically engage in significant research and writing, witness preparation, investigations, and/or trial preparation. Clerks with their Third Year Practice Certificate are eligible to gain courtroom experience, under the direct supervision of our attorneys.

We cannot offer to pay these volunteer positions; however, where applicable we will support externs seeking credits for their work with Richmond Public Defenders as well as sponsor grant or other outside funding applications.

Law clerk opportunities exist during the spring semester (January-May), fall semester (September-December) and summer (May-August).  Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

The Richmond Public Defender’s Office is the largest PD office in Virginia, which enables us to provide a wide array of opportunities for law students. We represent adult and juvenile clients in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, General District Court, Circuit Court, and our specialty dockets including the Behavioral Health Docket and Drug Court.

These students will help to identify and collect mitigation evidence to support the mitigation themes for each case. They work alongside our Mitigation Specialists to identify, locate, and interview people in a culturally responsive manner and identify and analyze relevant records pertaining to mitigation. They will also help to compile comprehensive well-documented social history/mitigation reports for presentation to their supervisor and the defense team.

Learn about Richmond

Our Public Defender’s office works with employees and interns who come from all across the country. So, we’ve compiled together a set of resources to help you learn about the city of Richmond, explore housing and apartment-living options in the downtown area, and find information you need to know when moving to Richmond. If you want more helpful resources, check out The Richmond Experience and VisitRVA.