Public Defense Resources

Defender Legal Services

Defender Legal Services (DLS) is dedicated to improving public defense systems so they better serve low-income people in contact with the criminal justice system. DLS supports defenders in fulfilling the constitutional guarantee of the right to counsel for all Americans by providing:

  • Technical Assistance. DLS staff offers NLADA members operational advice on matters like increasing funding, advocating for policy reform, and building capacity to collect and use data. DLS has unique expertise in both intensive, on-site evaluations and broader information-sharing.
  • Training and Professional Development. Through online and in-person trainings and conferences, DLS keeps members current with the latest legal and community developments in public defense and connects them to NLADA’s national network. DLS staff also facilitates the work of NLADA’s criminal defense practice sections.
  • State and National Advocacy. DLS employs its experience and expertise as the nation’s oldest and largest organization for public defenders to influence decision-making in each branch of the federal government. DLS works closely with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and in Congress, often in coordination other advocacy groups, so the voice of defenders continues to inform national policy. At the state level, DLS is frequently consulted by lawmakers and the media on policy debates.
  • Cutting-Edge Research Initiatives. DLS promotes evidence-based reforms by assisting defenders in collecting and analyzing data.

DLS also publishes policy papers, technical assistance guides, and national standards for defenders. Our latest resources include:

Please contact Defender Legal Services at [email protected] if you have any questions or are interested in becoming a member. Please contact [email protected] if you questions about becoming a member.