The Orange County Office of the Public Defender provides undergraduate students, law students and post-graduate and post-bar law students an unparalleled opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of a working public defender through a variety of placements in our office.
Volunteers at our office have access to a variety of assignments working with attorneys who handle the most serious felony criminal cases in our county including death penalty, sex offenses, and homicides to attorneys handling misdemeanor cases, including driving under the influence, petty theft, and shoplifting cases. Volunteers will work with attorneys and have a variety of duties including interviewing clients, assisting trial attorneys in case preparation, reviewing discovery and if they are law students or post-bar law school graduates, legal research and writing and motions work.
Successful past volunteer law students, post-bar graduates, undergraduates and post-graduate students were highly-motivated, demonstrated initiative, maintained the highest ethical standards with regard to confidentiality of the case details and conversations, and understood the mission and objective of the Public Defender to provide the highest quality defense to each appointed criminal defendant.
Those who are accepted into the volunteer program will find the experience to be exciting and fast-paced. Feedback from past volunteer student interns consistently state that “the experience gave me a realistic preview of being a deputy public defender” and “I have a better understanding of concepts, theories and skills required to be a criminal defense attorney.”
An ideal candidate for this volunteer student program would be one who possesses an understanding of the work of the Public Defender, a strong academic background, a strong work ethic and the ability to work independently yet ask questions when needed. Our office is an equal opportunity employer that affirmatively seeks interns of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as those with bilingual language skills.
4601 Jamboree Road, Suite 101
1440 North Harbor Blvd., 4th Floor
14120 Beach Blvd., Suite 200
600 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Suite 1000
Law Student Volunteers may be placed in a Branch Court office throughout the County (i.e., West, Harbor, North, and Central) where you will work with misdemeanor attorneys and/or felony attorneys. Law Student Volunteers in a branch court, which is a fast-paced, hectic environment, should demonstrate not only a commitment to the indigent, but also organization, creativity and initiative. While in the Branch Court, the volunteer may interact with clients, assist with case organization and research, listen to and view body worn camera video, prepare motions and other written documents for the benefit of clients and attend a variety of court hearings up to and including preliminary examinations, 1538.5 motions, and/or jury trials depending on the intern’s availability. Volunteer law students may be placed in the Felony Panel in the main office in Santa Ana in which the volunteer will assist attorneys who handle the most serious felony cases in the County. As a volunteer in the Felony Panel, there is no free parking, although past volunteers have researched and discovered some streets with free parking that are within walking distance. Volunteer law students on the Felony Panel should demonstrate not only a commitment to the indigent, but also organization, strong legal research and writing skills and initiative. Volunteer law students on the Felony Panel assist with case organization and research, listen to and view law enforcement recordings including body worn camera video, 911 calls, witness interviews, and prepare motions and other written documents for the benefit of clients. They may, at times, accompany the attorney to crime scenes, and may attend court hearings leading up to and including preliminary examinations, and/or jury trials depending on the volunteer law student’s availability.
Volunteer students working in the Felony Panel unit in Santa Ana will be assigned to work with two experienced trial attorneys to assist in the defense of the most serious and violent felonies. Volunteers will be expected to synthesize and organize voluminous discovery, 911 recordings, body worn camera recordings and provide the attorneys with their opinions and conclusions. They will attend court with their assigned attorneys to observe trial attorneys’ interactions with opposing counsel and negotiations with judges, as well as to interact with clients and their family members in the courthouse. Law Student volunteers will assist Felony Panel attorneys with legal research and writing of trial briefs as well as issues that pop up during the jury trial. Volunteers will accompany trial attorneys to court during jury trials and take notes of witnesses, observe jury reactions, and provide the attorneys with their opinions and observations. Volunteers with felony panel attorneys will be considered a member of the defense team.
In this Unit, you will assist the assigned Fraud Attorney in his defense of major white collar crimes including securities fraud, identity theft, and grand theft.
Volunteer law students working in the Writs & Appeals unit in the main office in Santa Ana will assist attorneys with the research and writing of appeals as well as writs of habeas corpus. You will also help draft a variety of legal motions the Public Defender regularly files in the Superior Courts, such as motions to suppress evidence due to unlawful police activity, as well as Penal Code section 995 motions.
Some of the legal issues you may work on include evolving areas of constitutional law with statewide, and even national, significance. Student should have strong research and writing skills and work well with firm deadlines; you will receive guidance and feedback. As a volunteer in the W&A unit, there is no free parking, although past volunteer law students have researched and discovered some streets with free parking that are within walking distance. Volunteer law students in W&A must demonstrate excellent research and writing skills, be organized and work well with firm deadlines. Volunteer law students will assist with case organization and research, review and summarize lengthy reporters’ transcripts, synthesize facts from the transcripts and police reports, and draft motions. They may accompany attorneys to the crime scene and may attend the litigation of the motions.
Volunteer law students may be placed in the Juvenile Court in Orange in which the volunteer law student will assist attorneys in the Delinquency or Dependency Units. As a volunteer law student in Juvenile unit, you will have to pay for parking as there is scant free parking at Juvenile Court. In the Juvenile Delinquency unit, you will assist attorneys helping minors who are charged with crimes. Volunteer law students will assist with case organization and research, listen to and view law enforcement recordings, prepare motions and other written documents for the benefit of clients and, at times, may accompany the attorney to crime scenes, and may attend court hearings depending on the volunteer law student’s availability.
As a Juvenile Dependency volunteer law student, you will assist attorneys helping parents reunify with their children who came into the system because of allegations of neglect or abuse. Volunteer law students will assist with researching and drafting a variety of motions, case organization, trial preparation, and may accompany the attorney to client meetings and court hearings. The Juvenile Dependency unit also has a section that files writs in the Court of Appeals challenging court orders as well as the actions of the Social Services Agency. Students interested in working with this section should demonstrate the qualities outlined in the Writs and Appeals section above.
Volunteer Law students may be placed in collaborative courts working with veterans, homeless and mentally ill clients to assist them in addressing their underlying issues through a team approach to decision making.
Attorneys in the mental health unit represent clients in a wide range of legal practice areas. Some practice areas have significant overlap with the criminal justice system. We represent clients on Conservatorship matters governed by the Probate Code and those arising from the Lanterman-Petris Act (LPS). LPS clients are involuntarily committed to mental health facilities and are entitled to civil jury trials to determine if they are or continue to be “gravely disabled. Attorneys also represent clients committed through a finding of “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity” (NGRI) and clients that are facing petitions under the “Mentally Disordered Offender” (MDO) statute. We also have three attorneys dedicated to representing clients who the state seeks to commit or has committed as “Sexually Violent Predators” (SVP). If you are interested in mental health issues, this is the place for you. We will try to match you with the practice area that meets your interests. With respect to SVP work, we are looking for individuals that have the disposition and aptitude for tackling the challenging and complex subject matter.
o If you are an undergraduate or post-graduate student not in Law School.
Undergraduates or post-graduates not currently in law school are welcome to apply for volunteer opportunities in our office. Your volunteer experience may consist of interviewing out of custody misdemeanor clients, trial preparation for felony or misdemeanor attorneys, and reviewing police reports and recordings of police interactions with our clients.
To apply, please send a resume, unofficial transcript and cover letter explaining why you want to volunteer in the Orange County Public Defender and the three units in which you are most interested in working and the reasons why to Christine Reese.
LAW STUDENTS APPLYING FOR THE ACADEMIC YEAR (FALL/SPRING SEMESTERS)/WINTER TERMS OR TERMS LESS THAN 3 MONTHS
If you are currently in law school, you may apply for an Externship (for school units) with our office or an Internship during the Fall (August – November) or Spring Semester (January - April). During the Academic year, Volunteer Law Students Externs and Interns must be able to commit a consistent number of hours (a minimum of 4 hours a day) for at least 2 days a week. Ideally, you will be able to provide at least one full day a week each week.
We also accept applications for Winter Term or terms less than 3 months for discrete projects. Applicants are chosen in an exceedingly selective process and acceptance is driven by the law student’s ability to complete an assigned discrete project in the allotted time.
If you are currently in law school, you may apply for a Summer Clerkship with our office (typically beginning the first week of June and ending the last week of August). Summer clerks are expected to volunteer at least 3 full days a week. For the best experience, a summer clerk will be able to work a full work week.
If you are a law student interested in any of these Fall/Spring/Summer opportunities, please send a resume, unofficial transcript, writing sample, and cover letter describing the three units where you are most interested in working and the reasons why to Irene Pai.
POST BAR VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES.
For graduating laws students who have taken the California Bar exam and are awaiting results, we offer a full-time volunteer opportunity. Post Bar Volunteers are generally assigned to Writs & Appeals, Juvenile Court, Felony Panel, or a Branch Court to assist attorneys in every aspect of case preparation. Applications for Post Bar Volunteers are accepted throughout the year and Post Bar Volunteer Opportunities begin the first week of August and end the first week of December. Spring Post Bar volunteer opportunities begin the first week of March and end the last week of May.
o How to apply for a Post Bar Volunteer Opportunity
Please submit a resume, unofficial transcript, cover letter explaining why you are interested in a Post Bar Volunteer Opportunity with the Orange County Public Defender and the three units you are most interested in working to Irene Pai.
1. A cover letter in which you include the following:
2. A current resume
3. An unofficial transcript
4. A writing sample
o UNDERGRADUATE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
Undergraduates may apply to volunteer with our office in its Undergraduate Volunteer Program. Undergraduate volunteers may provide their cover letter and resume to FAX: (714) 479-0834 attention Christine Reese or mail to Orange County Public Defender Attn: Christine Reese, Intern Coordinator 14 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana, CA 92701. These resumes and cover letters will be sent to branch court offices. The branch court supervising attorneys and senior investigators will call eligible applicants to set up an interview. Fax: 714-479-0834 Attn: Christine Reese.
o UNDERGRADUATE HONORS PROGRAM.
If you are a superior undergraduate student, consider applying to the highly-selective Undergraduate Honors Program with the Orange County Public Defender’s Office. Successful past members of our Honors Program have gone on to be accepted to the most prestigious, top-tier law schools in the Country.
Superior undergraduate students and post-graduates may apply to volunteer in the Orange County Public Defender honors student program. Superior undergrads from the Orange County Public Defender will be placed in the Santa Ana offices to work alongside Felony Panel Attorneys who defend the most serious and violent felonies in the County. Throughout the program, undergraduates will be taken to the Orange County Coroner’s Office, the Collaborative Courts, and trial courtrooms to observe ongoing jury trials.
Students selected for this program are tasked with helping the most experienced trial attorneys in the office defend serious felonies. Trial projects and duties for Honors volunteers may include synthesizing police reports, reviewing 911 calls and body worn camera videos, preparing Power Point or Prezi presentations for trial and being an active member of the defense team.
Undergraduates who are accepted into this program possess high ethical standards to maintain confidentiality in high profile, media cases, demonstrated initiative, attention to detail, a superior work ethic and a demonstrated superior academic record.
If you are interested in this program, please submit a resume, your unofficial transcript, and a cover letter providing the dates and hours per week you are available to volunteer as well as the reasons why you want to spend your precious time volunteering with the Orange County Public Defender’s office to Irene Pai.