U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Cultural Revolution: Transforming the Public Defender's Office

NCJ Number
Robin Steinberg; David Feige
Date Published
August 2002
7 pages
This bulletin intends to provoke discussion about the most basic values of the public defender culture in order to create a desire to re-evaluate these values and provide a set of concrete suggestions by which public defender managers can move an office from the traditional model to a more holistic one.
In the traditional model of the public defender, the communities from which clients come are generally ignored, and clients are most often met in the courthouse rather than the public defender's office. Family meetings are rare, and long-term involvement with schools or community organizations is not even considered. By contrast, the more holistic model of representation is client-focused, interdisciplinary, and community-based. Instead of focusing only on the charge being brought against the client as a traditional defender might, an advocate in a more holistic environment may also address any abusive relationship and substance abuse issues, whether or not they initially appear to be related to the offense at issue in the charge. This bulletin recommends a procedure for transforming a public defender's office culture from a traditional to a holistic perspective. Suggestions include the establishment of an interdisciplinary work group, the creation of a physical environment that supports the holistic vision, a focus on community outreach, the reinforcement of client-centered values in the office community, the creation of a hiring committee, and the establishment of client-centered criteria for the tasks of all office staff.