Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

***APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS: All applicants are required to submit a resume (one page), statement of interest (one page), and two references to the IOP by the application deadline on Sunday, February 6 at 11:59pm ET. Applicants must also apply directly to this host organization via: A cover letter, resume, and essay prompt response (found within the application) are required.

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

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


WORKING HOURS: There is flexibility regarding which hours the intern works.


ABOUT US: It is the mission of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) to provide and promote quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia, thereby protecting society's interest in the fair administration of justice.

The Criminal Law Internship Program (CLIP) is one of the preeminent legal internship opportunities in the United States.  CLIP has been described by The Washington Post as one of the finest pre-law experiences available, and The Princeton Review has consistently ranked the program as one of the most hands-on internship programs in the nation, stating that the program is "a criminal law internship at its in-your-face best." Former participants of the program are now among the most prestigious members of our legal community—lawyers and scholars.

RESPONSIBILITIES & PROJECTS: Literature reviews on various topics in the Department Learning Agenda; training and workshops on AI and analytics; focus groups on equity issues; analyzing research findings for policy implications; budget development for evidence and evaluation; incorporating research findings in budget justifications; development of briefings on trends and issues

SPECIALIZED SKILLS: We look for interns who are capable of working in an unfamiliar environment both in teams and individually. We particularly look for interns who take initiative and possess strong communication skills.

WORK ENVIRONMENT: The culture is very collegial but hierarchical - the work involves collaboration with people in many disciplines: economists, statisticians, data scientists, meteorologists, systems managers, bench scientists, social scientists


  • Access to high-speed Wi-Fi
  • Laptop on loan from host organization
  • Smart Phone

2019 Intern Reflection:

Every day when I get to the office, I cannot help but consider how integral the work of my colleagues is. As an investigative intern at the Public Defender Service, I am on the team that zealously defends the rights and liberties of those who have been harmed by a system of racialized and class-based oppression in the United States. This internship is a great opportunity for those who care about the criminal justice system, issues of inequality, and due process under the law to put their values to the test. This is an incredibly hands-on internship, and the impact that you have on the lives of others is immeasurable. I work directly with the folks that I try to support, and it is incredibly rewarding.

There is no average day on the job for an investigative intern at PDS. As an intern, I have pulled video footage, gone door to door to talk to folks, visited the Central Detention Facility to speak to clients, sat in on court proceedings, interviewed witnesses, and so much more. Working this job, I have learned that being able to empathize with people and their needs is the most important skill that any person can have. It allows you to have in depth, meaningful conversations, problem solve from multiple points of view, and think creatively about how to achieve your goals. I have also learned that human dignity is at risk of being erased every day in the American justice system. I wish I had known that witnessing that erasure on a day-to-day basis would be difficult to do, but it wouldn't have changed a thing! If you want to have a direct impact on the lives of others, this is a perfect job for you.

Maya Jenkins '22

2018 Intern Reflection: 

My time working as an intern investigator with D.C.’s Public Defender Service this summer has been nothing short of inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking. Each day I arrive at work ready to set out and accomplish a variety of tasks all seeking to help passionately advocate for a client—someone who, whether “innocent” or “guilty,” is facing our country’s definitively unjust criminal justice system. Tasks vary from day to day, but in a typical work week I’ll have spent a good deal of time gathering written statements from witnesses, canvassing areas where crimes have allegedly occurred, serving subpoenas, writing memos, or visiting the DC jail to meet with a client. While there is almost always a load of work to be done, during slower days I am able to walk a few minutes down to the District Court and watch trials unfold. 

If you’re looking for an intimate look into our criminal justice system and to work directly with attorneys who fervently believe in providing zealous legal representation to all, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia may be the perfect internship for you. Discovering for myself this summer all of the intentional and systematic ways in which already-vulnerable communities are wronged by our criminal justice system has been simultaneously disheartening and motivating. I am beyond ecstatic to have been afforded the opportunity to learn from, grow beside, and share my own talents with, PDS this summer. My time with PDS has only further impassioned me to continue learning more about our nation’s criminal justice system and to continue fighting for the communities most impacted by this system.

Charlotte Davis ‘19

2017 Intern Reflection: 

Working at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDSDC) this summer has been a simultaneously inspiring and humbling experience. The Criminal Law Internship Program (CLIP) lives up to its description and reputation as an incredible internship experience with direct exposure to the criminal justice system. In this internship, I have the privilege of working with staff investigators and attorneys to zealously investigate cases and defend our clients. Everyone I have met at PDSDC is wholly committed to the mission of the agency and the people it serves. It is a values-driven workplace that I feel honored to be a part of.

Every day is different at the Public Defender Service. With my intern partner, I am more often than not out in the community, interacting with new people on a regular basis. A day on the job can include a whole range of tasks: serving subpoenas, visiting jail, interviewing witnesses, canvassing neighborhoods, watching court, and more. I am so thankful for the exposure this internship has afforded me to criminal and civil law legal services, as well as the opportunity to connect with people living in inner-city D.C. who face systemic injustice every day of their lives. I am certain I will carry the experiences of this internship with me as I pursue a career in the service of others, whatever that may be.

Sally Marsh '18

Washington, D.C.