Neighborhood Defender Service - Detroit (Co-sponsored with the Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship)

Please Note: This internship is co-sponsored. This means that the funding for this internship is provided by two institutions at Harvard. The Primary Affiliation is with the IOP, and the Secondary Affiliation is with the Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship​. The primary institute will be the point of contact during the application and internship onboarding process, and applications for this placement will be processed by the IOP.

Please note the IOP's application instructions to ensure you meet all the requirements. The intern selected for this internship will have the benefits and obligations of an intern in both of programs.

Neighborhood Defender Service


Our office is able to host an IN-PERSON intern.


WORKING HOURS: Business hours are dependent on the case work. Mainly 9-5 with some evenings required.


ABOUT US: The Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) is known nationally and internationally for its innovative, community-based, holistic public defense practice. Since opening its doors in Harlem in 1990, NDS has pioneered a holistic model as a way to address problems plaguing public defense. NDS clients are represented by a team working on their behalf, including attorneys, advocates, social workers, and investigators. We understand our clients as whole persons and we relentlessly push the system to produce just results for our clients.

In the fall of 2019, NDS brought its innovative, holistic representation model to Detroit, Michigan. NDS Detroit handles approximately 25% of the adult felony cases in the Wayne County courts, providing unparalleled criminal defense services to the accused. NDS Detroit also values the communities we serve and view their voices as essential to our mission.

RESPONSIBILITIES & PROJECTS: Investigation is an integral part of our work as public defenders and the investigative internship program provides undergraduate and graduate students with an unparalleled pre-law opportunity. Interns will work collaboratively with our criminal defense teams to fully investigate cases for our clients. Our investigators identify and interview witnesses, diagram crime scenes, collect documents, prepare reports, and testify at trial. As an investigative intern, you will work with our investigators and interface regularly with team members to develop case strategies. Investigative interns must be ready to synthesize information quickly, think critically, and solve problems creatively. We are looking for interns with an interest in criminal justice, indigent defense, racial equality and social justice issues. Our investigative internship offers real-world insight into the causes and effects of mass-incarceration.


  • An ability to quickly build relationships across varying identities, income levels, races and ethnicities.
  • Experience working cooperatively in a team setting
  • Organizational skills and ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.
  • Clear and effective communication skills, both orally and in writing.
  • Energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity to gather and develop information from a broad spectrum of sources, ranging from community residents to government agencies.

WORK ENVIRONMENT: In-Office environment is business casual, with work being done at work stations. Field work required will be in communities in Wayne County, MI. Clothing attire is business casual. Additionally, there will be in person interviews, including in-person interviews with clients (jail or home visits) and witnesses, and possible court attendance for hearings and/or trials.


  • Personal laptop, Laptop on loan from host organization, Web Camera, Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel), Not sure at this time whether laptops will be provided to interns. The assumption is that they will be. Interns will need to be able to upload work to One Drive and draft typed memorandums.
  • Interns will need access to a car to visit with clients and witnesses in the field. 

2021 Intern Reflection: 

My summer internship with Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) was a very rewarding experience that provided me with a lot of insight into the dynamics of the criminal justice system—in particular from the perspective of a public defender. One of the best parts of this experience was how welcoming and helpful the NDS staff was throughout the internship. Everyone seemed very passionate about their job and tried to help make the summer a learning experience for the interns. Some of my assignments as an intern investigator included reading through client discovery files, doing social media searches, skimming through court files and looking through police body cam footage. In non-remote circumstances, I would have also gotten the opportunity to go to people's homes to conduct interviews and visit jails to speak to clients. The overall feel of the internship was very fulfilling because I was able to work with full-time attorneys, investigators, and other people interning as law school students.

- Luis Jimenez-Ramirez

2020 Intern Reflection:

The Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit (NDS) goes above and beyond its mission to provide client-centered, holistic defense; this summer, I’ve had the privilege of working with lawyers, investigators, and interns who work tirelessly and passionately to advocate for clients both inside and outside of the courtroom. Although the shift to remote service has prevented me from taking on some of the responsibilities originally intended for my role as an investigative intern, this summer with NDS has been an impactful and inspiring experience that has provided me the opportunity to assist with this important work. My assignments have included going through police reports and footage, analyzing case patterns, researching and synthesizing information, and more. I’ve also had opportunities to learn more about public defense by observing court proceedings, as well as attending trainings and programming intended for the graduate law school interns.

-Cameron Brown '22

Detroit, MI