Legal Intern/Externship Program
The Federal Defender Internship/Externship Program provides qualified law students with clinical instruction in the practice of federal criminal defense. We are happy to work with students who wish to gain work experience, and with the law schools for students to receive course credit. In addition, this Office also offers internship/externship programs in the area of Paralegal or Investigation/Mitigation study.Click Here to Apply.
Frequently Asked QuestionsWhat is the Federal Defender Office?
The goal of the Office of the Federal Defender is to ensure the right to provide effective assistance of counsel to those accused of federal crimes as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. The Federal Public Defender's office is a branch of the U.S. Courts and operates under authority of the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 3006A, to provide indigent defense services in federal criminal cases and related matters in the federal courts. In fulfilling this goal, the Federal Defender enforces the rights of those charged with criminal offenses who cannot afford to retain counsel.
Under § 3006A, each United States district court is required to place in operation throughout the district a plan for furnishing representation for any person charged with a felony or Class A misdemeanor who is financially unable to obtain adequate representation in accordance with § 3006A. Representation includes providing investigative, expert, and other services necessary for adequate representation.
What is the Capital Habeas Unit?
The Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) represents inmates on Florida’s death row in federal district court, the Eleventh Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The legal work involves the exciting and challenging intersection of constitutional law, death-penalty jurisprudence, and habeas and civil-rights litigation. CHU teams also investigate clients’ social histories, digging into records and witnesses related to their backgrounds, upbringing, education, and other factors relevant to their development. The CHU works closely with experts in a variety of areas, including neurology, psychology, psychiatry, forensics, DNA, mental-health, addiction, and intellectual disability.
The office operates in teams of attorneys, investigators, and support staff to tackle this demanding and sobering work. Externs will work closely with these teams to assist in both legal and factual research and drafting related to the clients’ cases. CHU teams will rely on externs’ assistance on real projects for real clients and aim to involve the externs as much as possible from start to finish on a project––from initial investigation to filing the finished product and all points in between. The CHU seeks externs with sound judgment, the ability to work independently, excellent research and writing skills, and a strong commitment to indigent defense and saving clients’ lives.
Who May Apply?
Law students of any year may apply for an intern/externship, but preference will be given to second and third year students. Students will be selected on the basis of their past work or school experiences, their desire to work in the area of criminal defense, their demonstrated level of maturity and competence, as well as the level of commitment they are prepared to make to the Office's work.
Only qualified applicants will be considered for this position. Applicants must be U.S. Citizens or eligible to work in and for the United States. Applicants selected for interviews must travel at their own expense. This position is subject to a background investigation, therefore, the successful applicant will undergo a mandatory criminal background check investigation, which may include the completion of fingerprint checks.
The Federal Public Defender's office is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Do you provide accommodations?
The FDO provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation, please notify Ms. Lugo at (813) 228-2715. The decision on granting reasonable accommodations will be made on a case by case basis.
Where are internships available?
The Middle District of Florida has a limited number of placements in each division: Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, and Ocala.
What are the application deadlines?
The deadlines to submit your request is the last day of the month for each of the following terms:
- Summer: February
- Fall: June
- Spring: November
Please understand if the student is accepted into the Summer, Fall, or Winter internship/externship program, the start date/orientation training is mandatory. There will be no exceptions. Therefore, if the student is unable to attend, we cannot accept him/her into the legal intern/externship program.
What's the time commitment?
All interns are expected to commit to work the specific number of hours per week agreed upon by the law school and this Office. If working to gain work experience, the student will be asked to commit to work the number of hours agreed upon by the assigned supervisor with this Office. The Federal Defender's Office for the Middle District of Florida is open to the public between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for federal holidays.
What will an intern do?
Students will have the unique opportunity to receive hands-on experience in defending federal criminal cases. Students may conduct legal research, draft motions, memoranda, and assist with appellate briefs and/or habeas corpus petitions. The student may also assist with trial preparation and investigation/mitigation, to include interviewing clients and witnesses, visiting clients in local jail facilities, and helping the attorneys plan case strategies. Students are also strongly encouraged to observe daily court proceedings, scheduled hearings, trials, and sentencings.
Is an intern supervised/evaluated?
Student will be supervised by an attorney assigned by the Federal Defender in the division they wish to serve. The supervising attorney will be in charge of the day-to-day activities. Students will only be allowed in local jail facilities while escorted by an attorney, paralegal, or investigator employed by this Office. Tasks of the student will be assigned in accordance with their legal abilities to further their legal education. Tasks will vary, ranging from mere observation to full participation in defense litigation. Students will receive informal feedback from their attorneys, and if requested, may receive a formal evaluation of their performance at the end of the term.
What should I wear?
If accepted into this program, the student is expected to wear professional attire in keeping with the professional nature of this Office. In addition, this Office adheres to the dress codes and rules and regulations enforced by the local jails and prison facilities.
Can I get compensated?
This is is a non-paid position. The legal intern will not receive remuneration or compensation of any kind for services rendered to the Office of the Federal Defender. The legal intern will be responsible for parking arrangements at their own expense during the duration of their internship/externship with this office. In addition, this Office is not responsible for any personal property brought into the office or carried in any vehicle on official business. No payment will be made for property stolen from the official duty station or left unattended in any part of a motor vehicle while on official business.
Can I talk about what happens?
The Office of Federal Defender is a law office. Client case files and records are confidential and not to be released without consent of this Office. Legal interns, like staff, are expected to make every effort to confine such discussions or communications to areas which can reasonably be expected to be private.
Fill out the internship application form here.