The federal Judiciary provides diverse and rewarding careers for new and experienced attorneys, from law clerks to staff attorneys to federal public defenders to in-house counsel at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Staff Attorney and Law Clerk
Staff attorneys and law clerks provide the court with procedural and substantive legal advice regarding the disposition and efficient completion of cases. They review, summarize, research, and analyze matters before the court. Their research and recommendations assist the court in resolving legal arguments presented and in deciding cases expeditiously. They:
- conduct legal research;
- review case records and filings, and analyze options;
- draft legal memoranda and propose opinions and orders;
- discuss legal analysis with judges; and
- provide procedural information to pro se litigants and counsel.
Staff attorneys and law clerks must be graduates of law schools in good standing and possess other qualifications related to professional and academic accomplishment specified by employing judges and courts. Some professional legal experience also may be desired.
Assistant Federal Public Defender
Assistant federal public defenders enforce the United States Constitution’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel by representing those charged with a crime who cannot afford an attorney. More than 80 federal defender organizations located in every state employ the assistants according to the Criminal Justice Act. Assistants are appointed by the court to provide representation in federal criminal cases and related matters. They:
- provide legal representation to clients charged with federal criminal offenses or involved in other matters mandated by the Act;
- meet with clients to establish meaningful attorney-client relationships;
- direct the defense investigation of alleged crimes or offenses;
- research case law;
- prepare pretrial motions;
- review material received from the government as pretrial discovery; engages in plea negotiations;
- determine trial strategies and defense approaches that affect jury selection, opening statements and closing arguments, client testimony, and cross-examination of witnesses;
- conduct sentencing investigations and prepares sentencing memoranda, and represents client at sentencing hearings;
- prepare post-trial motions; and
- represent clients at trial, on appeal, and in other courtroom proceedings.
Requirements for the assistant federal public defender position include a law school degree and admission and good standing before the federal bar, combined with state bar admission and good standing.