The Bronx Defenders

The Bronx Defenders Legal Fellowship

Posted Date 3 weeks ago(5/31/2024 2:20 PM)
Job ID


The Bronx Defenders (BxD) – an innovative, progressive, holistic indigent defense office in the South Bronx – invites third-year law students and recent law school graduates to work with us as Legal Fellows.


The Bronx Defenders is a public defender non-profit that is radically transforming how low-income people in the Bronx are represented in the legal system, and, in doing so, is transforming the system itself. BxD seeks thoughtful, creative, energetic individuals with a strong commitment to social justice to join our dynamic and diverse staff. Our staff of over 400 includes interdisciplinary teams made up of criminal, civil, immigration, and family defense attorneys, as well as social workers, benefits specialists, legal advocates, parent advocates, investigators, and team administrators, who collaborate to provide holistic advocacy to address the causes and consequences of legal system involvement. Through this integrated team-based structure, we have developed a groundbreaking, nationally recognized model of representation called holistic defense that achieves better outcomes for the people we represent.


Each year, we defend more than 20,000 low-income Bronx residents in criminal, civil, family regulation, and immigration cases, and reach thousands more through our community intake, youth mentoring, and outreach programs. Through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing, we push for systemic change at the local, state, and national levels. We take what we learn from the people we represent and communities we work with to launch innovative initiatives designed to bring about real and lasting change.


The Bronx Defenders Legal Fellowship


To work as Bronx Defenders Legal Fellows, candidates should develop project proposals for submission to Equal Justice Works, Skadden, and similar programs, as well as law-school specific fellowships, to do legal work in one of our practice areas while remaining flexible to change based on the needs of our organization and the community we work with. The Fellowship would begin in the Fall of 2025 and run for one or two years, depending on the terms of the funder. Examples of successful fellowship proposals from prior years include: 

  • Developing a program to help people litigate in small claims court if they suffered injuries or other damages in encounters with the police (Skadden Fellowship)
  • Working on ending New York’s practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of individuals who cannot afford to pay traffic tickets through direct representation, litigation, and legislative advocacy (Equal Justice Works Fellowship)
  • Providing direct representation to fathers in neglect, abuse, and termination of parental rights proceedings, as well as conducting Know Your Rights As Fathers trainings to prevent the unnecessary disruption of the father-child relationship and reduce children’s placement in foster care (Skadden Fellowship)
  • Registering New Yorkers under parole supervision to vote and enforcing the new parole enfranchisement law through litigation, education, and advocacy while working towards universal suffrage through legislative advocacy (Equal Justice Works Fellowship)
  • Providing direct representation to individuals experiencing employment discrimination due to criminal convictions by offering assistance in obtaining Certificates of Rehabilitation as well as educating employers and community groups about the employment rights of formerly incarcerated people (Skadden Fellowship) 

An overview of the work of our practice areas can be found below.


Criminal Defense Practice  


The Criminal Defense Practice (CDP) at The Bronx Defenders consists of over 150 attorneys, investigators, social workers, practice associates, and administrators who provide comprehensive criminal defense representation to people in the Bronx facing police and criminal legal system involvement. Through a client-centered approach, our CDP legal teams strive to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances and priorities of the people we represent. Armed with that understanding, we fight for desired outcomes by strategically raising personalized, persuasive arguments in mitigation, negotiations, and litigation.


Family Defense Practice


The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Practice (FDP) provides legal representation and social work support to parents charged with child abuse and neglect who are at risk of losing custody of their children. Our Family Defense Practice is at the forefront of a movement to provide holistic representation to parents in the Bronx while creating long-term solutions for the reunification and stability of families. Family Defense Practice Attorneys primarily litigate abuse and neglect cases, but occasionally appear in concurrent matters including custody, visitation, and termination of parental rights.


Immigration Practice


Twenty years ago, The Bronx Defenders developed the model of integrated criminal defense and immigration representation. Our Immigration attorneys and advocates work closely with people  throughout the pendency of their cases in both Criminal and Family Court to avoid and mitigate negative immigration consequences that may arise from those cases. Our Immigration staff represent people in deportation proceedings in both detained and non-detained settings, provide affirmative immigration services, and pursue community-based litigation and advocacy aimed at transforming unforgiving anti-immigrant federal laws and policy. The Immigration Practice consists of approximately 60 staff members including attorneys, social workers, legal advocates, and administrators. 


Since 2013, our immigration attorneys have also served as assigned counsel at the Varick Street Immigration Court under the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the first-ever universal representation project in immigration court.


Civil Action Practice 


The Civil Action Practice (CAP) provides comprehensive legal services to the people we represent and their families by fully integrating civil representation with our criminal, immigration, and family defense practices. Our goal is to minimize the severe and often unforeseen fallout from legal system involvement and facilitate the seamless reintegration of the people we represent into their communities.  


Our Civil Action Practice attorneys and legal advocates represent clients in every forum in New York City – administrative, state, and federal – to address these problems, and provide comprehensive representation to assist people in overcoming civil legal barriers to housing, eviction, employment, and public benefits, as well as addressing instances of police misconduct, criminal record errors, and civil forfeiture.  


Impact Litigation Practice


The Impact Litigation Practice (ILP) is a collaborative civil rights division of BxD that uses civil litigation strategies to advance and strengthen the rights of the people we represent. ILP works closely with direct services staff to identify widespread injustices affecting the people we represent and leverage civil legal tools—from demand letters to class action lawsuits—to redress and end those injustices. ILP’s work covers varied civil rights issues, including but not limited to racial and economic inequity, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, and fundamental freedoms. ILP’s approach to civil rights litigation—from the cases we choose to work on to the change we advance—is guided by engagement with the communities we work with, lessons learned in our direct services representation, and a commitment to supporting movements for BIPOC rights.


Policy and Organizing


The Bronx Defenders Policy & Organizing Team works collaboratively with the Criminal Defense, Family Defense, Immigration, Civil Action and Social Work Practices to develop and execute legislative and policy work at the local, state, and national levels. Working closely with our Strategic Communications and Data Science Teams, the Policy and Organizing Team works to bring transformational change to the criminal legal system, state and federal immigration policy, the family regulation system, and housing justice. We do this by drafting legislation and policy strategy, developing communications and organizing campaigns, lobbying on behalf of The Bronx Defenders and working collaboratively in broad coalitions with community members and grassroots organizations. Our policy priorities are rooted in, informed by and responsive to the needs and experiences of the people we represent and the broader Bronx community.


LGBTQ Defense Project


The LGBTQ Defense Project is a dedicated team of advocates representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in legal matters. Our advocates have specialized expertise fighting on behalf of members of the Bronx LGBTQ community.

Every day, low-income LGBTQ community members are at high and disproportionate risk of system involvement and victim to injustices as they navigate it. LGBTQ people regularly experience profiling and disparate treatment by law enforcement and government agencies. A disproportionate number of homeless individuals, youth and adults, identify as LGBTQ, resulting in a disproportionate risk of being swept up into street level arrests. Further, LGBTQ people face widespread bias in accessing stabilizing social services, ranging from housing to employment. Finally, while in detention, transgender and gender non-conforming people are incredibly vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment, and they are routinely denied gender-appropriate housing and healthcare.


The LGBTQ Defense Project works creatively, zealously, and compassionately to ensure meaningful access to justice, secure better outcomes, and reduce harm for the people we represent. We provide the support needed to establish stability in our clients’ lives, ensure fair treatment of LGBTQ people within the legal system, and help clients seek redress for state-backed violence and discrimination.


To be eligible, applicants must be: 

  • Third-year (3L) students or recent graduates of an American Bar Association-accredited law school 

Applicants must demonstrate:

  • Commitment to directly defending people ensnared in criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal systems
  • Commitment to challenging systemic injustice and carceral systems
  • Experience working in and with racially and ethnically marginalized communities of color targeted by systemic injustice
  • Ability to effectively and respectfully communicate, collaborate and connect with people from various backgrounds and experiences
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team of lawyers and non-lawyers
  • Commitment to fierce advocacy and willingness to strategically challenge authority in defense of the people we represent
  • Effective research, writing, and courtroom advocacy skills
  • Strong legal analytical skills and capacity to employ non-legal resources to support the people we represent
  • Ability to multitask, maintain order and meet deadlines in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment
  • Meticulous attention to detail
  • Ability to think critically and creatively in fast-paced setting, finding innovative solutions to unique obstacles
  • Ability to receive constructive feedback, demonstrate introspection, and shift behavior accordingly
  • Ability to exercise good judgment, discretion, and confidentiality around sensitive issues
  • Commitment to raising one’s cultural consciousness and challenging oppressive practices on an interpersonal and institutional level 

Additional Immigration Practice Qualification: 

  • A valid driver’s license--or the ability to obtain one--is required as the role sometimes requires travel to detention facilities outside of NYC where clients are held. Vehicles provided.
  • We are specifically seeking applications from candidates with Spanish language skills and/or those from racially/ethnically marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by the immigration legal system whose lived experiences contribute to more culturally conscious client representation 

If hired, applicants must: 

  • Sit for the New York State Bar Examination 

This is an in-person position with regular contact with staff and community members.


If selected for a fellowship and sponsorship with The Bronx Defenders, we will supplement the fellowship compensation to ensure a salary consistent with our salary scale, which starts at $75,000. Full-time employees are also eligible for a comprehensive benefits package including but not limited to medical, dental and vision coverage; a 403(b) plan with employer contribution; and a generous vacation, sick leave, and parental leave policy. More specific information about salary and benefits will be provided when and if an offer is extended. 


Approximately 70% of The Bronx Defenders' staff, including attorneys and non-attorneys, are represented by UAW Local 2325 - Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (AFL-CIO). This position is within the bargaining unit. 


This position is exempt. By law, non-exempt employees are compensated hourly based on their annual rate and therefore are entitled to over-time, whereas exempt employees are not. 

To apply, please click APPLY TO THIS JOB ONLINE and upload your resume and a cover letter in one document when prompted. If you would prefer to send in a video or audio statement in lieu of a cover letter, you may upload your resume as a document and separately upload a video or audio statement instead of a cover letter. Your cover letter or video/audio statement should share why you want to do this work at our office, some key lived and/or professional experiences that have prepared you for this position, and any additional information you would like us to consider. Your cover letter should state what practice area(s) you would like to join, as well as provide a brief description of your fellowship project idea or issues facing the people Bronx Defenders represents that you would like to address through a legal fellowship. Your cover letter may be up to two pages if written or up to 3 minutes if an audio/video statement. This information allows us to understand your distinct perspective, experience and potential beyond the work history summarized on your resume. Please remember that you may submit a written cover letter or an audio/video statement, but not both, and applications without either will not be considered.


The Bronx Defenders will offer an online information session about our Legal Fellowship on June 14, 2024 from 1:00 PM-2:30 PM EST. Please visit Information Session Link to join.


Applications will be accepted through July 1, 2024, with interviews taking place in early July and final offers made by late July. Please contact Robyn Mar, Deputy Executive Director, via email at with any questions regarding the position.


The Bronx Defenders is an equal opportunity employer and is cultivating an anti-oppressive workplace that embraces staff with a diversity of backgrounds, identities and experiences. We acknowledge the ways in which systemic oppression and injustice can undermine access to professional opportunities and are committed to conducting hiring and promotion processes that are equitable and accessible to those commonly excluded from the workforce. We do not discriminate against and in fact specifically encourage applicants from marginalized communities to apply, including those who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, transgender, gender non-conforming, disabled, neurodivergent and those directly impacted by criminal, civil, family and immigration legal systems. We value lived as well as professional experience and particularly welcome applications from the Bronx community that we work with.


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