Salaries For Public Defender

A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the government to represent people who cannot afford their counsel in criminal cases. Typically, public defenders are employed by state or local governments and work in public defender’s offices. Let us know What are the ‘Salaries For Public Defender’.

Salaries For Public Defender

Salaries For Public Defender

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) reports that the average annual salary for a public defender in the United States is $63,000 while according to BLS, it is around $126,000.

Average wages for public defenders

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) reports that the average annual salary for a public defender in the United States is $63,000. This figure, however, can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the public defender’s office, their level of experience, and the size of their employer.

The following are the average salaries for public defenders in selected cities of the United States,

  • New York, NY: $74,000 per year
  • Los Angeles, CA: $71,000 per year
  • Chicago, IL: $63,000 per year
  • Houston, TX: $55,000 per year
  • Atlanta, GA: $57,000 per year
  • Seattle, WA: $68,000 per year
  • Denver: $57,000 per year

Comparing Average Salaries: Public Defenders vs. Other Legal Professions

Let us compare the average salary of public defenders to that of private attorneys, district attorneys, judges, and legal assistants/paralegals.

Private attorneys work for law firms or as solo practitioners, and their pay varies greatly depending on their location. The average salary for lawyers is $126,930 in the United States.

District Attorneys are government employees who prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the state or federal governments. The average salary for district attorneys in the United States is $72,000. 

Judges are government officials who preside over legal proceedings and make legal decisions. The average salary for judges is $138,920 in the United States

Under the supervision of lawyers, legal assistants, and paralegals perform tasks such as conducting legal research, drafting documents, and organizing files. The BLS reported that the average salary for legal assistants and paralegals is $52,920.

In conclusion, public defenders are paid less than private attorneys and judges, but more than legal assistants and paralegals. On average, district attorneys earn slightly more than public defenders. 

Factors influencing the Salary of public defenders

Various factors affecting the salary of a public defender are,

  • Level of experience: Public defenders with more years of experience may be paid more than those with less experience because they have a higher level of skill and expertise. The average annual salary for public defenders with less than one year of experience is $52,000, while those with ten or more years of experience earn $83,000.
  • Size of the Public Defender’s Office: The salary levels of public defenders are also affected by the size of their office. Public defenders in larger offices may have more resources and support staff, allowing them to handle more cases and take on more responsibilities. This increased workload and responsibility results in higher pay. However, public defenders in smaller offices may have more autonomy and flexibility, which can be a factor in attracting and retaining qualified candidates.
  • Location: Salaries for public defenders can vary greatly depending on the state, county, or city in which they work. According to the National Association for Public Defense, the average salary for a public defender in Alabama is $41,800, while it is $71,000 in California. The cost of living in various locations can also have an impact on public defender salaries, as a higher cost of living may necessitate a higher salary to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

Strategies for increasing the salary as a public defender

As a public defender, there are several strategies to increase your salary, including,

  • Negotiate your salary: Many public defenders believe that their salaries are fixed and unchangeable, but this is not always true. When starting a new job or negotiating a raise, it’s critical to research average public defender salaries in your area and comes prepared with data to back up your case. Consider emphasizing your experience and qualifications, as well as any unique skills or expertise you have to offer.
  • Obtain advanced degrees or certifications: Public defenders who obtain advanced degrees or certifications may be eligible for higher pay. Some jurisdictions, for example, pay public defenders with a Master of Laws (LLM) degree or who are certified by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification more. Pursuing these additional qualifications can be an investment in your career and can help you stand out from other candidates.
  • Seek opportunities for professional development: In addition to pursuing advanced degrees or certifications, public defenders can look for professional development opportunities. Attending conferences or seminars, participating in training programs, or seeking mentorship or coaching are all examples of this. These opportunities can help you build your skills and expertise, which can be a factor in earning higher salaries.
  • Finally, public defenders who are struggling to make ends meet may want to consider moving to a different jurisdiction where salaries are higher. While this is a major decision, it may be worth considering if you are committed to a career in public defense and want to increase your overall pay.


In conclusion, public defenders are an essential component of our justice system, but they frequently face compensation challenges. Location, experience, and the size of the public defender’s office can all have an impact on their pay. There are, however, strategies that public defenders can use to increase their salaries and overall compensation. Public defenders can advance their careers and ensure that they are fairly compensated for their important work by negotiating their salary, pursuing advanced degrees or certifications, seeking professional development opportunities, advocating for better working conditions and benefits, and considering a move to a different jurisdiction.

Salaries For Public Defender

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