Law Student Externship

The Federal Public Defender Office for the Western District of Washington, operating under authority of the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. 3006A, was established with the purpose of ensuring the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and equal access to justice in federal court.

Legal externs assist the defenders by researching legal issues and drafting legal memoranda on federal, constitutional, and statutory criminal law, drafting portions of pre-trial and trial motions, appellate and postconviction habeas briefing, and other legal writing. Students who have completed their second year of law school are eligible to appear in federal court as a certified legal intern under the supervision of an attorney. While at the FPD, legal externs will be a part of the office and are welcome to attend case team meetings, staff meetings, intra-office committee meetings, and are encouraged to watch proceedings in the U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit. Students will also have the opportunity to accompany attorneys to meet with in-custody clients at the Federal Detention Center. The position is full-time during the summer months and can be full or part-time during the school year.     


We are looking for students with curiosity, compassion, demonstrated ability to think creatively, and a desire to take on new challenges. Must have excellent legal research and writing skills. A demonstrated commitment and comfort working with diverse communities is preferred along with an interest in criminal law and/or public service. To apply, please submit a single combined pdf. document containing: a cover letter explaining your interest in our office, a resume including three references, school transcript (unofficial is okay), and a short writing sample to: Vicki Lai, Chief Appellate Attorney/Legal Intern Supervisor at Applications will be considered and offers will be made on a rolling basis.

As a condition of the externship/internship, students must be fingerprinted for an employment suitability background check. A prior record is not necessarily disqualifying. The Federal Defender reviews the results and has discretion in making the suitability determination.

Our 2024 summer internship program is now full and we are no longer accepting applications.  Thank you.