How much does a Public Defender make?

Law has many branches that you could specialize in, the most common being criminal law. Still, you could be a corporate lawyer, paralegal, business lawyer, tax lawyer, immigration lawyer, personal injury lawyer, or public defender.

Specializing in one area can help you focus on helping people legally in the way that best suits your preferences and ideals. If your passion is helping those who cannot afford to pay for legal services, being a public defender is your ideal choice. Here’s what it’s all about.

What is the salary of a public defender?

Public defenders must be admitted to the U.S. bar, completing an internship after licensure and before taking the bar exam.

A public defender’s salary will depend on several factors, including where the degree is from, the grade on the licensing exam and whether they passed it on their first attempt, the locality in which they reside, the number of hours previously worked, and their experience as a public defender.

The median salary for a public defender ranges from $60,188 to $63,638 per year in the United States. They usually earn $23.96 per hour or $958 per week. Considering this calculation, a public defender would be generating $4153 a month.

However, depending on the hours worked, a public defender can gradually increase their salary.

Entry Level

This refers to an employee’s basic level when applying for a job. An entry-level requires formal education, practical training, and the minimum experience required by the employer. Some entry levels may waive the required experience.

A public defender with little or no field experience will be employed at the entry level, and their annual salary will be $47,500. This means that every month, they would start at $3,958.

Five years of experience

Upon completing five years of experience, either in the company or in the labor field, the salary offered to the public defender is higher. This time of experience is also known as the early years, and the average salary in the United States for public defenders is $53,200.

11-15 years of experience

This work period is known as mid-years since the professional already has many years in the field. A public defender with 11 to 15 years of work experience earns about $70,685 annually.

Over 20 years of experience

The more years of experience you have the more your salary increases. Throughout the course of 20 years, the salary will increase little by little. However, we can tell you that if you have more than 20 years of experience as a public defender, the average salary is $90,000 per year.

What is the job of a public defender?

We have already explained the hierarchical rank of a public defender, but what exactly does a public defender do? Public defenders are responsible for representing unrepresented criminal cases in court.

Public defenders work for the state since each state functions as a company. This office stems from the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which specifies that every person has the right to an attorney to represent them.

Being a right, if the client does not have the economic means to hire the service of an attorney, or the client is unable to be represented by any attorney due to the seriousness of their crimes, they can access a public defender who will represent them as a paid attorney.

Although the clients are represented, they do not pay the public defender. The judicial state of the United States pays the public defender.

How can public defenders increase their salaries?

Public defenders are not the highest-paid specialization of the legal profession. However, a few small options can help you apply for salary increases.

The first is to change employers; there are several councils per state or city depending on the sectors where you operate. Between the different councils, there may be changes in salary, and you can change councils to an employer with better salaries.

Another option is to increase your education. The more certificates or degrees of specialization you have, whether in technical, research, or analysis; you begin to qualify according to the state for a possible raise or promotion since your knowledge is considered valuable to the defendant.

Although an attorney’s experience is counted in years, it is possible to claim hours worked as general experience. In one year you may work more hours than in another, work extra shifts, or change jobs.

One option is to present your experience on your resume or to your direct bosses for hours worked, not years in the field. This can help you earn a raise if your experience is higher than what you are paid.

Highest-paying cities for Public Defenders in the United States

As we explained above, your salary may vary depending on where you work, so here are the top 5 highest paying cities for public defenders in the United States.

Chicago, IL

The first city that leads this top is Chicago, Illinois. Chicago has an estimated median salary of $76,402 per year.

Albany, NY

New York is a busy city with several federal precincts, so it’s no surprise that it ranks among the highest-paying cities. A public defender earns about $72,520 annually.

Napa, CA

Napa, California, earns 54% more than the national average, with a public defender’s salary being $72,230 annually.

Tampa, FL

Tampa, Florida, follows with a median public defender salary of $70,103 per year.

Miami, FL

We close out this list with Miami, Florida, which has a median salary of $69,484 per year for public defenders.