Frequently Asked Questions: Becoming a PFJ Advocate


becoming an advocate

How do I apply to become an Advocate?

See How to Apply for an overview of our application process.

What are you looking for in an Advocate?

We're looking for college seniors or recent graduates who have a passion for public service, social justice, or civil rights.  You should be a creative problem-solver who is able to find innovative and efficient solutions to unusual obstacles.  We also want proactive, independent thinkers who will be resilient and tenacious -- someone who will tirelessly advocate for their clients (in the nicest possible way).  You don't need to have experience with the legal system, any particular major, or a plan to go to law school.  We do require a minimum 3.0 GPA.  Spanish fluency is a bonus.

How many Advocates are you hiring?

In 2018, we hired 10 Advocates. We will begin hiring for our next Advocate class in January 2020 and we anticipate again hiring at least 10 Advocates.

Where would I be working?

Advocates will be placed in Wilmington, DE or Oakland, CA.  You will be housed by the public defender's office in your host community.  Frequently, an Advocate’s work may take them into the field.  For example, an Advocate may visit a client’s home to prepare for a child custody interview or meet with a landlord to discuss keeping the client in their home.

Can I choose which location I want to work in?

Candidates invited to interview for an Advocate role will be asked to express their preference for Oakland or Wilmington.  We will try our best to accommodate preferences.  Candidates who are flexible and willing to work in either location are preferred.

When do Advocates begin work?

Advocates are required to attend training in New York in late August.  Placements in host offices begin in September.

How are Advocates compensated?

Advocates are paid a competitive salary for non-profit organizations.  You will also receive benefits and vacation time typical of employees of the public defender's office that is hosting you.  Not to mention, the satisfaction of having made a concrete difference in the lives of your clients and the overall community!

Note that the Advocate training period is unpaid, but you will be provided with accommodations, a daily stipend, and travel to/from New York.

the advocate role

What is the length of service for an Advocate?

Advocates commit to spending two years working in their host office.  We welcome Advocates who wish to stay in their role for longer than two years, but extended service will be contingent on satisfactory performance and available funding in your jurisdiction.

As an Advocate, how will I help my clients?

Advocates work in six areas, with some example services described below:

  • Housing: Negotiating with landlords to avoid eviction

  • Employment: Working with employers to prevent termination of employment

  • Property: Negotiating with police to prevent property forfeiture, or retrieve property after arrest or other police contact

  • Family: Supporting interactions with Child Services, including planning and preparing for home visits

  • Immigration: Gathering necessary documents to prevent or fight deportation and detention

  • Health & Benefits: Assisting with applications for medical benefits, food stamps, and similar programs

While Advocates focus on these areas, you will be trained to work with clients holistically to resolve issues that are frequently interconnected.  With each client, the Advocate begins by working with the client to identify their needs and then develop a plan to address the challenges they are facing.

Advocates are not lawyers, and do not provide legal representation or legal advice.

What kind of training and support will I get as an Advocate?

PFJ Advocates go through an intensive training held in New York for several weeks in late August .  Training combines classroom learning on the advocate role, best practices, and PFJ policies with role-playing creative problem solving, negotiation strategies, and effective communication skills.  You will shadow non-attorney advocates working in New York and meet with attorneys and experts familiar with the practice of civil, family, and immigration advocacy.  A special emphasis is placed on avoiding the unauthorized practice of law throughout training.

Once you begin working in a public defender's office, lawyers within your host office will supervise your work, providing guidance and assistance where needed.  You will also receive regular support and mentorship from PFJ’s national team through weekly calls and quarterly site visits.