On October 10, Scott Ruplinger ‘10, a staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), and Adam Heyman of the Legal Aid Society (LAS), spoke at a Public Service Office event designed to introduce students to public defense work and ways to seek out internships and strategies for landing jobs. His talk was part of a new series of monthly talks put on by the public service office. This series affords students with an opportunity to meet public service practitioners in a small group setting and learn about careers and hot topics in the law.
“During my time at BLS, I gained public defense experience through summer internships, clinical externships, and working with pro bono groups,” Ruplinger said. “These experiences placed me in a solid position for applying to entry-level public defender positions, and ultimately landing a job at the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts as a public defender.” Recently, Ruplinger moved back to New York to be a staff attorney at BDS.
Ruplinger offered several tips for graduating 3Ls on ways to obtain public defense positions. First, he said, they should extensively research their options. He suggested that students think about working both in and outside of New York City, and that they think critically about what cities and states they would like to work in, and where they would be willing to move for the right opportunity. He encouraged students to explore whether positions in states they were interested were offered through government agencies or nonprofits, or offered training programs that might be helpful for their career.
Second, he explained, students should express their enthusiasm and dedication to public defense in their applications and follow through. By developing a rapport with recruiters, Ruplinger was able to stay apprised of his status in the hiring process and continue to express his enthusiasm in public defense.
Heyman echoed this advice, adding, “I called hiring managers every two weeks to check in on the status of my application.” He also noted the importance of showing a commitment to public defense by taking every opportunity for work, paid or unpaid.
Ruplinger and Heyman also provided students with an overview of the daily activities of public defenders offering a realistic picture of what working in this field is like. Rupglinger, who had previously worked at a large private firm, noted that his work as a public defender was “much more fulfilling than my previous job.” Heyman noted that he did not think of what he does “as a job.” Both stated that having passion and drive for public defense was essential to both landing them jobs and helping them perform their duties well.