Salaries For The Federal Public Defender

The federal public defenders are employees of the federal government of the United States. Their job is to prosecute and defend federal criminal cases and those that cross state boundaries. They are distinguished from court-appointed public defenders for defendants who cannot afford to hire their attorneys. Let us know more detail about ‘Salaries For The Federal Public Defender’.

Salaries For The Federal Public Defender

Salaries For The Federal Public Defender

Even though federal public defenders’ offices have different positions, the public defender is ranked among the top litigators. The median annual salary of a federal public defender is between $66,132 and $107,364, depending on the state. A public defender is a civil servant and would not earn as much as counterparts practicing in private law firms.

Other factors could influence your salary as a federal public defender. Do not stop reading now! We have more information for you.

Factors affecting the salaries of federal public defenders

Even though the average pay for federal public defenders can range from $66,132 to $107,364 by ZipRecruiter, the fact remains that you could earn more based on the following factors.

  1. The job location – Several salary scale websites have offered various salary ranges for federal public defenders based on the jobs posted on their sites and entries by applicants. However, the States of New York, California, New Hampshire, and Vermont ranked highest in the states that pay the most for federal public defenders. One of the factors for this could be cost-of-living adjustments since New York is among the states with a high cost of living.
  2. Department or level – although the position is called federal public defender, the employee may work in the local, state, or federal government. The duty anywhere posted is to handle federal criminal cases. As such, the pay for each of these arms of the government will be different.
  3. Level of education – completing the law school requirements for practicing as a lawyer is not enough to prepare you for the public defender job. You will need to first intern at a state-level public defender office. Interns would earn lower than fully fledged public defenders. You must also pass the state bar exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) to be able to perform your duties in your state and other states.
  4. Skills – salary may vary depending on the kind of skills you have as a federal public defender. Some of the necessary skills are deep knowledge and understanding of the United States criminal law, legal research, computer skills, writing and legal drafting, oratory, and convincing skills, etc.
  5. Experience – even though the rungs on the ladder in the public defenders’ office are not many and you may reach the peak of your career early, the more experience you gather on the job may earn you higher pay. Also, the experiences garnered from the public defenders’ office may be useful when seeking out better opportunities in private law firms where you can earn much better.

Other jobs related to federal public defenders and their average salaries

Four other jobs you can take up in the public defender offices, their duties, and their related salaries are listed below.

  1. Assistant federal public defender – the assistant federal public defender assists the resident federal public defender in carrying out their duties. They could also appear before a judge in court to defend a legal case. The assistant federal public defender makes an average of $76,000 a year.
  2. Paralegal – The paralegal must ensure the case the office is defending or prosecuting is well researched and writing a good defense. This is in addition to other jobs like witness interviewing, investigations, and summarizing depositions, testimonies, and interrogations. On average, paralegals in the US make $110,000 annually.
  3. Legal Assistant – This position assists the federal public defender and performs other duties as assigned by a senior lawyer in the department. The average pay of a legal assistant is about $45,000 a year.
  4. Clerical Assistant – a clerical assistant types, files, and correctly sorts legal documents. He or she must make sure the filing system is accurate and properly maintained. The pay per year is about $43,000.

What differentiates the federal public defender from court-appointed attorneys?

People often misunderstand the definition of a federal public defender and a court-appointed attorney.

The main difference between a court-appointed attorney and a public defender lies in that court-appointed attorneys are not officially employed by the state. They are most often lawyers that are paid by the hour and assigned jobs on a per-case basis. 

On the other hand, public defenders are employed and paid their salaries, regardless of how many cases they have to deal with each month. The problem of not having open cases to solve is not a problem for the public defenders because they always have more than enough on their plates; sometimes they are overworked too.


Now we’ve learnt about ‘Salaries For The Federal Public Defender’, Students planning to become federal public defenders need to make sure that their courses of choice in the university and law school are geared toward criminal law. With more studies, certifications, and on-the-job experience, there is hope for better pay.

  1. What is the pay satisfaction for federal public defenders?

Based on the statistics presented by Indeed, about 89% of federal public defenders are pleased with the salary they are paid. What this indicates is that, to a certain degree, there is employee satisfaction.

  1. Which city in the United States pays federal public defenders the most?

The city of Albany in the State of New York pays its public defenders an average of about $72,000 per year. This is closely followed by Napa in California with an average pay of $71,000 per year.

  1. How good is a public defender in criminal defense?

The ABA (American Bar Association) has recently concluded that public defenders do their jobs just a bit better than any private lawyer you can hire. This has been attributed to their success rate and the number of cases they tend to handle.

  1. How much do criminal lawyers make annually?

Criminal lawyers not working with the government can make as high as $600,000 annually. This is largely dependent on the cases they defend, the client they represent, and the firm they are affiliated to.

Salaries For The Federal Public Defender

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