Paralegal Two Year Program - SDNY

FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF NEW YORK – Southern District of New York, Two-Year Paralegal Program

The Federal Defenders of New York vigorously defends persons charged with federal crimes who cannot afford to hire an attorney. We are an independent, non-profit organization with lawyers practicing in the federal courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York (SDNY / EDNY), with offices located in Manhattan and White Plains (SDNY), and Brooklyn and Central Islip (EDNY). Our mission is straightforward: although we provide our services free of cost, our clients should receive the finest legal representation available at any price.

We subscribe to a client-centered approach to legal representation. We listen to our clients, pay close attention to their individual needs, and work closely in teams of paralegals, investigators, social workers, and attorneys to address all aspects of a client’s circumstances. We fight for our clients to obtain the best result possible.

Our staff work together to provide comprehensive representation to our clients.We conduct thorough investigations, diligently counsel and advise clients about their options, and fight on their behalf through motion practice and at trial. If our clients are convicted, we advocate at sentencing by developing and presenting a full picture of their lives, not one defined exclusively by their court-involvement. We also represent our clients on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals and, if possible, to the United States Supreme Court.

We are currently accepting applications for paralegals in our Manhattan and White Plains offices.

Please note that while you may choose to apply specifically to one office, you may be considered for another office.

**In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all offices of the Federal Defenders of New York, Inc. (Brooklyn, Central Islip, Manhattan and White Plains) will be closed until further notice; our staff is working remotely during this time. While paralegals are primarily expected to work from home, there may be exceptions. In some cases, a paralegal may be needed in the office or at the courthouse (i.e. preparing materials for a court hearing). There is currently no timeline for when in-person operations will resume.**

Position Description:

The Federal Defenders of New York is hiring recent college graduates for its unique two- or three-year paralegal program in its Manhattan and White Plains offices. The job is an excellent opportunity to gain substantive exposure to criminal law and direct service work prior to law school or graduate studies.

Paralegals hired to the Manhattan office will work in downtown Manhattan for the entirety of their employment.

Paralegals hired to the White Plains office have the option to work in White Plains for one year followed by one or two years in Manhattan, or to work in White Plains for the entirety of their employment.

We encourage applicants to apply to as many of these positions as they’d like. All positions can be extended for a third year.


Our paralegals work closely with trial attorneys and their clients on every step of federal criminal cases, from arrest to acquittal or sentencing. Paralegals in the Manhattan office typically work on approximately 60 – 80 cases (subject to increase according to office needs) and work with any of the office’s 24 trial attorneys at a given time. Paralegals in the White Plains office typically work on approximately 80 - 90 cases with any of the 3 trial attorneys staffing the White Plains office. Paralegals are expected to successfully manage several deadlines at once.

Paralegals have a wide scope of responsibilities, ranging from administrative tasks to document review to regular direct client support. Paralegals conduct client interviews, help prepare bail packages, speak to witnesses, review evidence, retain experts, draft requests for leniency from prosecutors, and collect and review mitigation materials from clients, their families, hospitals, schools, and drug treatment programs.

When the office is not working remotely and the courts are fully operational, paralegals also often travel beyond the office. They regularly go to the courthouse for court appearances, to the visiting rooms of federal jails to meet with clients, or into the field to assist with investigations. Our paralegals also have the extraordinary opportunity to sit at the counsel table at trials and hearings on a regular basis. A crucial aspect of the position is collaboration with multiple members of our office including attorneys, social workers, investigators, and support staff.


Ideal candidates are self-motivated, independent workers with outstanding time management and organizational skills. Paralegals also need to be highly detail-oriented.

Paralegals should have a basic understanding of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) and Adobe and/or have demonstrable ability to acquire new technical skills quickly. Paralegals must be able to spend large amounts of time on the phone and on the computer, particularly while working remote.

Paralegals are expected to be professional and courteous ambassadors of our office to clients, their families, and other actors in the criminal justice system, including prosecutors, correctional officers, court security officers, Judges, treatment providers, and so on. Experience working one-on-one with clients is highly desirable, though not necessary.

In light of the difficult circumstances in which our clients and their families find themselves and the fast-paced work environment, we seek candidates with an understanding of the emotional nature of the work, flexibility and a sense of humor, as well as an appreciation of the obstacles faced by our indigent clients, including issues related to their marginalization on the basis of race and ethnicity, class, ability, and immigration status.

We are seeking applicants from diverse experiences and backgrounds.

Paralegals will be expected to reside in the NY metro area by the start of their employment, regardless of our office’s remote work status.

Fluency in Spanish is highly desired. Other, non-English language competencies are also desired.

Salary and Work Hours:

$50,672.77 plus benefits including medical

Regularly work 40+ hours per week, 9am – 5pm EST, including some nights and weekends

Eligible for overtime pay

Application Instructions:

Please submit applications using this Airtable Form.

Please upload one PDF document containing, in the following order:

(1) cover letter; and

(2) resume.

Your cover letter should address your interest in working specifically at a public defender's office. Please include any interest in relevant criminal justice issues, examples of experiences working with court-involved and/or marginalized populations.

Please include any language and technical skills.

File naming format: "First Name Last Name - application materials - Office", where “Office” should be replaced by the name of the office to which you are applying. If you are applying to more than one office, you will need a cover letter for each office. The content can be the same, but each should be addressed to the specific office to which you are applying.

Materials not submitted in this format may not be considered.

As of now, we expect all interviews will be conducted via Zoom, but this is subject to change.

Anticipated Application Timeline:

Application Deadline: 11:59pm, January 3, 2021

Notifications for 1st round interviews: Week of January 11, 2021

Notifications for 2nd round interviews: Week of February 1, 2021

Hiring decisions: Week of March 1, 2021

We will acknowledge only those invited for an interview.