Public Defense Attorney

King County   Seattle, WA   Full-time     Legal
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Posted on April 27, 2021

The Department of Public Defense (DPD) seeks thoughtful, creative, energetic advocates to join our dynamic and diverse team of public defense attorneys.
DPD provides high-quality legal representation to indigent clients. DPD practices in several areas, including felonies, misdemeanors, juvenile defense, family defense (dependency cases), involuntary commitment (mental illness), sex offender commitment, and contempt of court. The department also works to address racial disproportionality in the criminal legal system, the collateral consequences of system involvement, and other structural and/or systemic issues that undermine the rights of our clients. DPD employs skilled investigators, mitigation specialists, paralegals, and other support staff. Expert services are regularly funded, in keeping with state court rules.
Successful candidates will be dedicated, hard-working advocates, with excellent trial, research, and writing skills. An ability to think critically and creatively in a fast-paced environment is essential in this role, as well as a passion for public defense and a demonstrated commitment to representing indigent persons. Strong candidates will also possess the ability to receive feedback constructively and to reflect on and modify performance accordingly.

The scope of representation expected by an attorney is determined by the nature of the case assignment, DPD’s practice expectations, case law, and the Rules of Professional Conduct. Caseload standards, established by the State Supreme Court, are observed in tandem with guidelines from the Washington State Bar Association. Attorneys in the Department of Public Defense are expected to complete all required trainings and to actively advance their level of practice by seeking additional learning opportunities. DPD pays bar dues and the cost of CLE credits.
To learn more about DPD, please visit our website at:
At this time, DPD intends to fill multiple Career Service and/or Term-Limited Temporary (TLT) roles and to generate an eligibility pool for future vacancies in career service and temporary positions over the next six months. 

For candidates interested in temporary roles: These positions occur at various times throughout the year and may provide coverage for employees on leave or other assignments. Positions last anywhere from six months to one year and may not be eligible for enrollment into the state retirement plan. TLT positions are eligible for medical, dental, vision, and other associated benefits. The ideal candidate for a temporary role could include someone displaced by the current economic conditions due to the pandemic or an independent attorney whose firm has been impacted by the pandemic. You must indicate your availability in the supplemental questionnaire accompanying this announcement.

For candidates interested in career service roles: These positions are required to serve a probationary period, and attorneys will be required to successfully demonstrate their skills within the job duties described below in order to achieve career service status. Ideal candidates for career service positions are committed to public defense careers, to the mission of the DPD, to working to vigorously defend indigent clients, and to advocacy in support of economic, social, and racial justice. Initial placement could be within a variety of practice areas, and all public defense attorneys are subject to rotation based upon operational need.
For all candidates: DPD seeks to hire attorneys with a wide range of life experiences. We particularly welcome applications from those who have personal experience in navigating the criminal legal system or child welfare system or come from communities most impacted by these systems.
These positions will initially be assigned to work in any of the following Seattle and/or Kent work locations, (although during the County's pandemic response, individuals may be expected to work remotely while being required to report to other locations, such as court or jail facilities during the normal course of their job duties):

  • Dexter Horton Building, 710 Second Avenue, Seattle; 
  • Jefferson Street Building, 1401 East Jefferson, Seattle; 
  • Meeker Street Building, 420 West Harrison Street, Kent, or 
  • 908 Jefferson St., Seattle.
If assigned to the civil commitment unit, assignments are to hospitals/treatment centers throughout the county.
Rotation of staff practice area and/or work location occurs based on business need.
Who May Apply: This recruitment is open to all qualified attorney candidates. DPD ethical walls policies and procedures will apply to applicants. Candidates hired through this recruitment will be considered by DPD for initial salary placement at Steps 1 through 6, dependent upon experience. (The salary listed on this posting represents Steps 1 through 6; this position currently tops out at $130,508.56)
Selection Process: Qualified and competitive candidates may be asked to participate in a series of interviews for these positions. Offers for available positions are contingent upon successful referencing and a division conflict check.

Public Defense will compensate successful candidates licensed in other states and qualifying for a license under the Rule 8 for the Washington State Bar Association bar license/new admittee and client protection fund assessment fee. Other fees associated with backgrounding or special licensing are the individual’s own responsibility. Bar dues for employees are paid by the department. 
For more information, or if you have questions about this position or process, please contact: 

Falisha Forgash
Human Resource Analyst

Job Duties

Depending upon assignment, duties may include the following: 

  • Provide legal representation to and advocacy for indigent clients.
  • Communicate effectively, including with individuals who lack English proficiency.
  • Handle all aspects of representation, from arraignment through trial and, if necessary, sentencing, and post-trial as necessary.
  • Engage in a robust motions practice involving research, writing, and arguing pretrial motions.
  • Conduct plea and other negotiations and mitigation. Locate, work with, and prepare experts in various fields.
  • Provide client-driven representation that includes frequent and detailed communication with
  • the client, choosing the most effective medium for the client.
  • Work with clients who may be experiencing mental illness, drug addiction, or other issues. Work with young adults, youth, and children.
  • Work closely with, and in some instances lead, a team of investigators, mitigation
  • specialists, and paralegals to develop and implement legal strategy and to properly assess and address client needs.
  • Handle on-call 24-hour coverage, which, per attorney, currently occurs approximately one week a year, or two Saturday calendars.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Experience, Qualifications, Knowledge, Skills

  • J.D. from an accredited law school. (Current law students must apply through a separate posting designated for those who intend to take the bar. This posting will be available in August 2021).
  • Demonstrated commitment to advocacy for disadvantaged individuals and/or to issues of economic, social, and racial justice.
  • Demonstrated analytical, research, writing, and oral advocacy skills. 
  • Meticulous attention to detail.
  • Ability to manage a caseload in a fast-paced environment.
  • Ability to exercise excellent judgment, discretion, and confidentiality around sensitive issues.
  • Admission to Washington State Bar Association or licensing in other states qualifying for a license under Rule 8.
  • A valid Washington State driver's license or the ability to travel throughout King County in a timely manner.
  • Must be at least 21 years old in order to enter facilities where our clients are being held.
  • Proficiency in languages other than English, particularly Spanish. Clinical training in public defense.
  • Lived experience involving the criminal legal system.

Supplemental Information

Special note regarding COVID-19: DPD is following Public Health and CDC guidance regarding social distancing. Interviews for this position will be conducted remotely. Successful candidates may be required to telecommute and appear in court, the jail, or other areas as directed during the County's pandemic response.
Work Schedule: The normal work schedule is Monday through Friday, with some night and weekend work. This position is exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and is not eligible for overtime.
Forms and Materials Required: Interested individuals should submit an online King County application, cover letter, resume, and a short, self-authored writing sample (in .doc, .docx. or .pdf format). You can find the online application at the following address: All questions on the electronic form must be completed; do not type "see resume."

Applicants will be required to demonstrate their qualifications at the time of the interviews and/or skills assessments.
Union membership: Positions in this classification are recognized by Service Employees International Union, Local 925.

Forbes recently named King County as one of Washington State's best employers.
Together, with leadership and our employees, we're changing the way government delivers service and winning national recognition as a model of excellence. Are you ready to make a difference? Come join the team dedicated to serving one of the nation's best places to live, work and play.
Guided by our "True North," we are making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive. We value diversity, inclusion and belonging in our workplace and workforce. To reach this goal we are committed to workforce equity. Equitable recruiting, support, and retention is how we will obtain the highest quality workforce in our region; a workforce that shares and will help advance our guiding principles--we are one team; we solve problems; we focus on the customer; we drive for results; we are racially just; we respect all people; we lead the way; and we are responsible stewards. We encourage people of all backgrounds and identities to apply, including Native American and people of color, immigrants, refugees, women, LGBTQ+, people living with disabilities, and veterans.
King County is an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Employer No person is unlawfully excluded from employment opportunities based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), age, genetic information, disability, veteran status, or other protected class. Our EEO policy applies to all employment actions, including but not limited to recruitment, hiring, selection for training, promotion, transfer, demotion, layoff, termination, rates of pay or other forms of compensation.
To Apply
If you are interested in pursuing this position, please follow the application instructions carefully. If you need this announcement in an alternate language or format, would like to request accommodation or assistance in the application or assessment process or if you have questions please contact your recruiter listed on this job announcement.

King County offers a highly-competitive compensation and benefits package designed to meet the diverse needs of our employees and support our employees' health and well-being.  Eligible positions receive the following benefits and have access to the following programs:

  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage: King County pays 100% of the premiums for eligible employees and family members
  • Life and disability insurance: employees are provided basic coverage and given the opportunity to purchase additional insurance for both the employee and eligible dependents
  • Retirement: King County employees are eligible to participate in a pension plan through the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems and a 457(b) deferred-compensation plan
  • Transportation program and ORCA transit pass
  • 10 paid holidays each year (plus 2 personal holidays)
  • Generous vacation and paid sick leave
  • Paid parental leave, family and medical leaves, and volunteer leave
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Wellness programs
  • Onsite gyms and activity centers
  • Employee giving program
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Flexible schedules and telecommuting options, depending on position
  • Training and career development programs
For additional information about employee benefits please visit our Benefits, Payroll, and Retirement Page.

This is a general description of the benefits offered to eligible King County employees, and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy.  If any information on this document conflicts with the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the CBA prevails.  Also, in the event of any incorrect information in this document, applicable laws, policies, rules, CBAs, or official plan documents will prevail.
NOTE:  Benefits for Term Limited Temporary (TLT) or Short Term Temporary (STT) positions, including leave eligibility and/or participation in the pension plan through the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems, will vary based upon the terms and details of the position. Short Term Temporary positions are not eligible for an ORCA transit pass.
For inquiries about the specifics of this position, please contact the recruiter identified on this job posting.

Which position(s) are you applying for? Indicate selection below. (Multiple selections are allowed).
  • Term-limited temporary position.
  • Career service position.
  • Special Duty (open only to current career service or appointed employees who meet the listed educational and licensing requirements).
Did you attach a cover letter, resume, and short self-authored writing sample to your online application? (Please note, a complete application is required for this process. Writing 'see resume' on your application may result in disqualification from further consideration).
  • Yes
  • No
Please indicate your availability below, (check all that apply).
  • Immediate Availability
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • Other
If you indicated 'Other' above, or if you have additional restrictions related to your potential availability, please share that information here:
Are you applying to this position as an eligible Current or Previous King County Employee Priority Placement Program Participant AND Is this position the same or lower percentage of full-time when compared to the position held at the point of the notification of layoff AND Do you possess the skills and abilities to qualify for this position?
  • Yes, I was given a layoff notice from my role at King County AND I am within two years of the effective date of my layoff. AND The position I was laid off from was the same or a higher percentage of FT status when compared to this one.
  • No.
If you answered yes to the question above and you are applying for this position as a Priority Placement Participant, to be considered, you must provide the following three pieces of information in the space provided: 1. The title you held when you received your layoff notice 2. The department you worked in 3. The effective date of your layoff

Required Question