Volunteer Program

The Law Office of the Public Defender

The mission of the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender (“the Office”) is to protect the rights, liberties and dignity of each person whose
case has been entrusted to it by providing the finest legal representation.court

The Office was established in 1930 and defends poor people in the largest unified court system in the world. Its clients are accused of offenses ranging from traffic and misdemeanor charges to capital murder. At the beginning of September 2013, the staff consisted of 630 authorized positions: 499 attorneys, 63 investigators, and 68 support staff.

The Office is currently organized into several divisions: Juvenile Justice, Legal Resources (Appeals and Post Conviction petitions), Felony Trial, Multiple Defendants, First Municipal (Misdemeanor, Traffic, Domestic Violence), Civil (Child Protection, Paternity, Mental Health), Homicide Task Force, and Professional Development, and five suburban divisions: Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham. Additionally there are several specialized units, including Sentencing Advocacy, Forensic Science, and Investigations.  These divisions and the work they do are explained in more detail on the attached page entitled “Divisions of the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender.”


Volunteer Opportunities Within the Office

The Law Office provides law, paralegal, graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to learn more about the criminal and juvenile justice systems by participating in our internship program as a volunteer.  Students may assist attorneys in trial preparation, legal research, client interview sessions, discovery conferences, investigations, witness preparation, drafting pre-trial and post-trial motions, and motion hearings.  The Office welcomes volunteers who are studying law, criminal justice, forensics, psychology, nursing, medicine, social work, investigations, courtroom interpreting, or other related fields.  Law students holding a 711 certificate under Supreme Court Rule 711 may work in court under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney.PD_hallsThe Office does NOT offer paid internships. All intern positions are on a volunteer basis.  Some students may receive academic credit and/or a stipend through their school for their volunteer work, but they are required to make their own arrangements with their educational institutions to receive such credit and/or funding.

Volunteers typically commit to a 6 to 12 week assignment. Volunteers are assigned to work with specific attorneys and/or on specific projects. Students are expected to volunteer at least 16 hours per week during the summer, fall, or spring program. They may be assigned to any of the divisions within the office provided they meet the qualifications and can provide their own transportation to that location.  At the conclusion of the clerkship, students are evaluated by their supervisors, and they will also evaluate their experiences within the office. If a student would like to continue volunteer work after their initial assignment, he or she must submit such a request to continue volunteering. The student will be allowed to remain or return if he or she receives a favorable evaluation from the supervising attorney.

Qualifications and Application Procedures

The Office accepts as volunteers (1) students, age 17 and older, who are currently enrolled in an accredited school, or (2) individuals who have graduated from law school, but who have not yet been admitted to the Illinois bar.  All volunteers must comply with the application process and meet the required qualifications prior to performing any volunteer duties.  If you are interested in volunteering at the Law Office of the Public Defender, you must submit the following documents in PDF format to this e-mail address: .

  1. Cover Letter: Cover letter explaining your interest, along with a current resume.
  2. Volunteer Application: A completed Law Office of the Public Defender Volunteer Application Form Packet, which includes: Volunteer Application, Waiver, Confidentiality Agreement and a “No Political Consideration Form,” which indicates that political considerations were not used to determine if you were allowed to volunteer for the office.
    All forms in this packet must be included in your application for consideration.
    Volunteer Application Form Packet
  3. Transcript: A transcript (official or unofficial) or a letter in good standing from the educational institution where you are a student. Law school graduates who are not yet admitted to the Illinois bar may submit evidence of graduation from law school and evidence of intent to sit for the Illinois bar examination.
  4. Rule 711 Certificate: If you are a law student or law school graduate eligible for a Supreme Court Rule 711 certificate, you will also need to submit a completed Rule 711 Law Student application   or a Rule 711 Law Graduate Application.  Alternatively, if you have obtained a Rule 711 certificate in the past, you will need to submit a “Notice of Additional or Change of Employing Agency” form.  A Public Defender supervising attorney will need to sign this form. Note that these forms may also be obtained from the Illinois Supreme Court website.

The above completed documents should be sent to . All of the documents must be completed and submitted before a volunteer assignment at the Public Defender’s Office may be granted.

The Public Defender’s Office will notify volunteer applicants in writing of their acceptance or rejection as volunteers.

If you are accepted as a volunteer, you must schedule an appointment to finalize your assignment, work hours, class credit and/or stipend requirements.  We will also discuss other forms your school may require (if applicable) and answer any questions you may have about a typical day at the PD Office.