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"There is nothing that compares to getting up with the power of the constitution and taking some poor guy’s side, telling his story."
--public defender (former prosecutor, private defense counsel, and special A.G., now a public defender for 10 years)

Employment

The Missouri State Public Defender System has more than 560 employees statewide. Approximately 350 of these employees are full-time attorneys. To be eligible for consideration as an assistant public defender, attorneys must be licensed and in good standing with the Missouri Bar. Candidates eligible for reciprocity or currently in good standing in another state may be eligible for a temporary license to practice law in Missouri. Candidates meeting the criteria for temporary license eligibility can be considered for current attorney vacancies.

Law students are encouraged to submit an application for employment prior to graduation from law school. We may be able to consider bar candidates as early as 3-4 months prior to licensure in rural jurisdictions. Opportunity for employment consideration will increase significantly for those candidates with the geographic flexibility to work in a rural office.

In addition to attorneys, each public defender office is staffed with at least one legal assistant, paralegal, or investigator. Legal assistants support public defender attorneys by performing complex clerical tasks on specific case-related matters. Positions require at least three years of experience in office or related clerical work and graduation from high school or equivalent.

Paralegals work under the direction of an attorney while performing substantive legal work of a non-clerical, non-administrative nature. Knowledge of legal concepts is required, and work is focused on handling all aspects of legal representation in assigned cases. Graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with specialization in law, paralegal studies, or a closely related field is required, or years of relevant experience may be substituted for educational requirements.

Investigators are responsible for performing field investigative work and assist public defender attorneys by identifying, locating, and preserving case evidence. Travel is expected and required. Investigator positions require graduation from an accredited four-year college or university with specialization in law, criminal justice, criminology, or closely related field, or high-school graduation, or four years of relevant experience.

All offices also have at least one secretary. Most secretarial positions require high-school graduation and one year of clerical experience. Minimum qualifications for this position are three years of experience in office or related clerical work and graduation from high school.

There are also staff positions in accounting, human resources, information and technology, purchasing, and support services.

MSPD may have full-time and part-time permanent position vacancies open throughout the state.

Our offices make a significant investment of time and effort to train new attorneys. In addition, our clients depend on continuity in the personal attorney/client relationship and require representation by an experienced attorney with specialized training. For these reasons, we expect attorneys to make a two-year commitment to both the Missouri State Public Defender System and the local office in which they are employed. During this two-year time period, an attorney is not eligible to apply for transfer to a different office within the Public Defender System. Fulfillment of the two-year commitment to the local office and the Public Defender System is a factor in determining an attorney's eligibility for re-employment.