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Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender

The Santa Clara County Public Defender's Office(PDO) delivers high quality legal representation to all clients, regardless of the charge. We accept all people who need representation and cannot afford a lawyer. We are a team of 150 lawyers, 30 investigators, 30 paralegals, and 30 clerical staff who tailor our services to clients' needs. We prepare cases for jury trial, take social histories, engage in community outreach, link clients with services, and explain how the system works.

Position Descriptions

Post-Bar Research Clerkship

  • Position for law school graduates following completion of the Bar Examination
  • Paid Full time, 40 hours per week
  • The term is between August and April
  • PDO generally hires 3-5 post-bar clerks. The Alternate Defender (SCCADO) generally hires 2-3 post-bar clerks. The PDO and ADO interview for all post-bar positions together and successful candidates may be placed at either PDO or ADO.
  • Bar Exam Results: Candidates who pass the bar are encouraged to pursue attorney positions, but may remain in the post-bar position through the normal expiration of the program. Candidates who do not pass the bar may remain in the program through the normal expiration of the program. The post-bar has the ability to temporarily leave the program to prepare for the exam and return afterward.
  • Attorney Positions After the Clerkship: The post-bar clerkship program is the principal hiring channel for entry-level deputy public defender positions. All clerks, whether placed at PDO or ADO have an equal ability to apply for full-time misdemeanor attorney positions with PDO. The number of post-bar clerks hired into misdemeanor attorney positions depends on the number of attorney positions open at the time of hiring.


  • At PDO, Research Clerks are embedded with our Research unit. This includes two experienced deputy public defenders, a Racial Justice Act attorney, and a supervising attorney. At ADO, research clerks work under the supervision of a senior attorney. ADO research clerks may work on special assignments with other attorneys because the office is smaller.
  • All research clerks must obtain certification through the State Bar, which permits certified students to appear in court on behalf of PDO and ADO clients. Candidates must meet requirements of certification including completion of Evidence and Civil Procedure.
  • Research Clerks draft and litigate pretrial motions. This includes motions to dismiss under Penal Code section 995 and motions to suppress under Penal Code section 1538.5. Research Clerks have opportunities to engage in direct representation during felony and misdemeanor case conferences, preliminary examinations, and pretrial release hearings.

Summer Research Clerkship

  • 2Ls Only (the clerkship is during the summer before 3L, between May and August)
  • Paid Full time, 40 hours per week
  • SCCPDO generally fills 3-4 Summer Research Clerk Positions

Application Timeline

PDO and ADO attempt to notify applicants about interviews approximately 1 week after the application deadline. PDO and ADO target the first week of November to have completed the interviews and notify applicants about offers.

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