Thank you for considering our office for your externship!

We take great pride in knowing our jobs arise from the Constitution.  The serious nature of our work — no less than having another individual’s life or liberty at stake — requires us to have externs who share that same pride and commitment.  As a result, the experience an extern can obtain from working in our office is extraordinary.  Lawyers routinely involve externs in the drafting of motions, hearing and trial preparations, appellate briefing, and courtroom work.  The variety and size of our case load redound to the benefit of anyone who wants to learn what criminal law and federal litigation are all about.  In the end, it’s about representing our clients to the very best of our abilities and excelling in the art of advocacy in some of the most challenging settings our justice system presents.

We encourage you to apply if you think this is the right opportunity for you.


  • Law Students;
  • College Students;
  • Paralegal and Social Worker Students; and
  • Senior High School Students.


The externship program at the Office of the Federal Public Defender gives students an opportunity to observe and participate in many facets of federal criminal procedure and practice.  Given the pace and work demands of the Office of the Federal Defender, our externship program allows students to assist with substantive legal work.  In our Litigation Unit, externs work on a variety of federal criminal cases, including drug, firearm, fraud, and white collar cases.  In our Capital Habeas Unit, externs work exclusively on pending death penalty cases and related matters, such as clemency preparation and presentation.  Extern responsibilities in either unit may include: researching specific issues, assisting with the drafting of motions and/or appellate briefs, reviewing records, documents and transcripts, and assisting with investigations.  Students will also observe myriad federal court proceedings.

The externship program at the Office of the Federal Public Defender operates on the premise that the potential for learning outside of the law school is tremendous.  The externship program is designed to tie theoretical knowledge to practical experience by:

  • training students in lawyering skills;
  • giving students greater insight into the workings of the legal system, with emphasis on the federal criminal justice system;
  • promoting the development in students of a sense of professional responsibility; and
  • developing the ability of students to learn from their experience.

The Office of the Federal Public Defender offers externship opportunities year round in our Litigation Units in Cleveland, Akron, and Toledo offices and our Capital Habeas Unit in our Cleveland office. Additionally, the Office of the Federal Public Defender has ongoing relationships with several law schools making it possible for externs to receive law school credit for their externship work.


The Office of the Federal Public Defender offers unpaid externships throughout the year.  Due to the number of externship applications we receive, it is best to apply early.

Law students applicants  are generally expected to have completed or are taking at the time they are externing, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence.

To apply, applicants must submit the following:

   (1)   Cover letter detailing why you are interest in externing for our office (law students, please indicate whether or not you have taken           Criminal Procedure and Evidence);
   (2)   resume;
   (3)   for law students, please include a writing sample of twelve pages or less; and
   (4)   for paralegal, social work students, college students, please include a list of courses taken in your program.

Applicants may submit these materials by mail or email to:  Attorney Jeffrey B. Lazarus, Externship Coordinator, Office of the Federal Public Defender, 1660 West Second Street, Suite 750, Cleveland, Ohio 44113, [email protected] fd.org, 216-522-4856.

Applicants meeting the academic prerequisites must also be interviewed and approved for placement by the Office of the Federal Defender.  Applicants offered an externship will be subject to a background check as required under the policy now in effect for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Before applying for an externship, applicants are encouraged to contact their law school Career Services Office or Externship Program Supervisor to determine whether academic credit is available for the externship.