Santa Cruz Public Defender Office

Company Overview

Public Defenders are lawyers who defend indigent people accused of crimes. Do you like rooting for the underdog? Do you like solving problems fast? Do you like working with people? Are you very comfortable with public speaking? If so, consider this job. But even if you don't want to be a public defender, learning about what we do helps you become a more educated citizen. When you watch a crime movie and the cop says, "if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you"...the cop is talking about public defenders. "Indigent" means that our clients cannot afford to pay the normal price for a lawyer.

In order to become a public defender, a person needs to go to law school and pass the bar exam.

Job Shadow Description

Observe public defenders

There are many facets to the job of public defender. We go to court with our clients, advocate for them, and defend them in jury trials. We investigate cases, perform legal research, and plan an overall case strategy. In order to be effective at our jobs, we need to be good managers of our time and our relationships with out clients, the judges, and the prosecutors. Every case presents a new fact pattern and a new area of information to learn about, so this is a job of constant professional development.

For the right person (like me), this job is extremely rewarding! However, being a public defender is not for everyone. Here are some of the things that make this job difficult for some people understand and appreciate:

- working with people accused of very bad acts

- working regularly with homeless people

- visiting people in jail

- reviewing graphic evidence (like autopsy photos or recordings of vilent incidents)

- needing to constantly think on your feet in times of crisis

You will join us in court to watch cases. We will talk you through how we approach clients and cases, and explain the differenct paths that criminal cases can take. We are happy to answer your questions and help educate you about the criminal justice world.

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Host Details


Santa Cruz Public Defender Office


2103 N. Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060

No lunch provided.



8:00 AM to 11:30 AM


Meet downtown Santa Cruz (either the courthouse or my office) TBD based on my schedule for that day.


You will need to go through security to enter the courthouse, so do no have any weapons (including pocket knives) or illegal drugs. In general, bring as little as possible. You don't need a notepad or anything like that. Since court is open to the public, students are free to stay later and watch if they desire.


Dress conservativley (something appropraite for an interview or church).