The Public Defender's Office offers students the opportunity to learn how to provide client-centered and holistic representation in a real-world, practical setting. There are three types of internships available during the summer, each requiring a full-time, ten-week commitment to the office. On occasion, these internships are available during the academic year as well; academic-year interns are expected to work at least sixteen hours per week.
- Social Work
Rule 9 Courtroom Advocates.
Rhode Island has a liberal student practice rule (Article II, Rule 9 of the Supreme Court Rules) and select law students with a demonstrated interest in representing indigent clients are welcome to apply to become Rule 9 trial assistants. Senior law students who are selected to be courtroom advocates will serve as advocates for select Public Defender clients in either the Office's misdemeanor, juvenile or parental rights units. Each courtroom advocate is assigned to a particular attorney who supervises the student's handling of a limited portion of that attorney's caseload.
Senior students eligible to be courtroom advocates are those who have successfully completed at least three semesters of law school and who are either currently enrolled in, or have completed, evidence and/or a trial practice course. See Art. II, Rule 9.
A limited number of students, who have demonstrated strong writing skills and an interest in appellate practice, are selected as appellate clerks. Students work on a range of projects, from short, discrete research assignments to lengthy writing assignments. Virtually all students complete at least one significant piece of legal writing which will be filed in the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Some opportunity for appellate oral advocacy before the Rhode Island Supreme Court may be available. Appellate law clerk positions are open to both 1L and 2Ls; however, strong preference is given to second year law students.
Trial Division Assistants
Trial division assistants are first year law students who are placed in the criminal, juvenile and parental rights trial divisions. Each assistant is assigned to a particular attorney for the duration of the internship. Trial division assistants accompany the attorneys to whom they are assigned to court on a daily basis and aid the attorneys in the preparation of their cases.
How and When to Apply
Applications are accepted after September 1 for summer clerkships and most offers are extended by the end of February. Although resumes are accepted through mid-April, openings available after March 30 are very limited. Applications are accepted at any time for academic-year internships. Resumes, accompanied by a cover letter and writing sample, should be sent by mail to Jason Ollman, 160 Pine Street, Providence R.I. 02903 or via email at email@example.com. Please put "Internship" followed by the practice area of interest in the subject line.
Interviews are required for all internship candidates; arrangements may be made for telephone interviews for candidates living and attending school outside the Northeast. Interviews for those in the Boston area are conducted through the New England Consortium of Law Schools and at select law school campuses. Interviews in the New York area are conducted through the New York University School of Law Public Interest Legal Career Fair. Candidates not participating in those events are welcome to be interviewed in Providence.
Stipends and/or Funding
Rhode Island Public Defender law student internships are unpaid; the Office itself is not a source for any stipend or any matches of grants. Law clerks in Rhode Island state government may be eligible for limited stipends from the Rhode Island State Government Internship Program. Those stipends are awarded independently from the Public Defender's placement decisions (an offer of placement by the Public Defender does not guarantee a stipend, nor does an award of a stipend guarantee an offer of placement). Some stipends are also available from the Rhode Island Higher Education Authority.
The Social Service Unit Internship Program offers the opportunity for current social work students to learn about the application of social work in a criminal defense context and to work directly with our office's clients. Internships are available for a limited number of candidates for Bachelor's or Master's level degrees in social work or a closely related field, for periods of one year or eighteen months, with a commitment of at least ten hours per week. Through this internship, students gain case management, crisis intervention and clinical assessment experience, as well as the opportunity to work with Public Defender clients who are incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Facility and also out in the community.
Prospective interns should send resume and cover letter to Rhode Island Public Defender, Social Services Casework Supervisor, James Lawless at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interns receiving credit must also submit requirements from their school.
The Rhode Island Public Defender's Summer Undergraduate Intake Internship program offers an intensive educational opportunity to work on the ground at a holistic public defender law office. Undergraduate Interns assist in the Intake Division where they serve the important function of interviewing prospective clients for our office. Interns are also asked to perform a number of tasks which contribute to their understanding of how the services provided by the RIPD fit within the fabric of the larger justice system including processing paperwork associated with cases and providing courtroom assistance to attorneys.
Due to COVID-19 public health rules, we will not offer a Summer Undergraduate Intake Internship Program during the summer of 2021. Please check back for summer of 2022.