Public Defender Attorney Positions

Kentucky DPA has over 350 attorneys aspiring to provide the highest level of legal advocacy to each of our 148,000 clients a year. We are committed to making the Public Defender’s Office the most professional public law firm in Kentucky. The office recruits and hires candidates who are committed to quality ethical representation and improving the criminal justice system.

Your first year with the DPA will be an exciting mix of education and training, working in the courtroom, collaborating with your team, and receiving guidance from a mentor.

Law Positions

Law Clerk

Law Clerks are full-time, attorney-track positions. Clerks usually begin working immediately after the July bar exam, but law positions are often available throughout the year. A Law Clerk’s salary is $42,373 with benefits, increasing to a Staff Attorney I salary upon becoming licensed.

There are opportunities to start practicing early with the supervised practice of law license.

Staff Attorney

The starting salary for a full-time Staff Attorney I position begins at $52,000 with a 5% increment raise after the 6-month probationary period.

Once you become a licensed attorney, you will jump into litigating by working in District Court, juvenile hearings, and then transitioning to Circuit Court and trial work.

Staff Attorney II and III positions are available for experienced attorneys, with pay based on relevant experience. Contact our recruiter at for more information.

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Education & Training

DPA’s Education Branch offers excellent training and education to our newly hired Law Clerks and Staff Attorneys through a series of courses called The Kentucky Public Defender College. This program is considered as one of the best public defender training programs in the country.

The Kentucky Public Defender College totals nearly 150 hours of both lecture and practical on-your-feet training.  It is designed to prepare both recent law graduates and newly hired, licensed attorneys with a solid foundation to begin their career with DPA and put them on the road to become experts in Kentucky’s criminal law.

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Kentucky Public Defender
College Courses

Educational Resources

  • Motion Bank
  • Trial Law Manual
  • Evidence Manual
  • DUI Manual
Additional Training & Education

  • Annual Conference (in-house CLEs)
  • Capital Defense Training
  • Forensic Workshops
  • Bail Workshops
  • Juvenile Law Summits
  • Trial Voir Dire & Capital Voir Dire Workshops
  • Combination of Experiential Learning, Lectures, and Workshops

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All newly hired attorneys and law clerks are paired with an experienced mentor or mentorship team in an office separate from the office in which they are hired. Mentors provide an additional line of support which is helpful when starting a new career. Ongoing meetings with mentorship teams provide developing learning as attorneys complete their first year of practice, as well as connection with the broader Kentucky public defender community.


There are several ways to become licensed in Kentucky, many of which do not require taking the bar exam. Visit the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions to see the opportunities to become licensed.

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