Public Defender Training

Colorado State Public Defender Training

Delivering High Quality Representation

Since its inception, the Colorado State Public Defender System has prioritized training as a way of enabling us to meet our mission of delivering high quality representation to our indigent clients across the state.

Training at the Colorado Public Defender is designed to give our staff the technical tools and knowledge they need to serve their clients. In addition, our training program encourages our staff to leverage their experiences and maximize their unique talents to ensure their clients receive a defense that is unparalleled.

What Is Covered in the Public Defender Training Program?

While regional offices provide ongoing internal training and mentoring of staff, the Colorado Public Defender training unit develops and delivers system-wide legal training to attorneys across the state to ensure consistent competence in advocacy for all our clients, regardless of the jurisdiction in which they are charged. Other units and division directors provide practice-specific training to non-attorneys throughout the year and at our yearly conference. In addition to developing core practice skills for each workgroup, OSPD is committed to developing defenders who exhibit emotional intelligence, are inclusive in their relationships with their teammates, and practice self-care and sustainability skills in their public-defendering. Sessions and workshops on team building, DEI, and wellness are offered throughout the year and included in many of the skills-based sessions.

Annual Conference

Training Programs

Main Job Roles

Attorney Training

Commitment to the development of excellent litigation, writing, trial, and appellate skills made Colorado Defenders some of the best in the nation. Our training unit ensures that all lawyers are able to litigate each case at the highest level, protecting the client’s constitutional right to trial and their right to challenge the government’s case at every stage of the proceeding.

No lawyer enters the courtroom without training. Our training also covers the specialized practice areas of non-attorney defenders seeking to elevate voices of different backgrounds and specialties in service of the client.

Our attorney training includes a comprehensive set of course offerings geared towards growing the skills of individual attorneys at every stage of their career:

  • New Attorney Training – Our introductory training for new public defenders includes an 8-workshop basic lawyer training series as well as a series of courses focused on developing the skills necessary to represent juveniles charged with a crime.
  • Intermediate Training – We offer intermediate training courses to ensure public defenders continue building their skills as they become more experienced and begin handling more complex cases. This includes our Attorney Bootcamp, which is geared towards transitioning attorneys from handling misdemeanors to felony cases.
  • Advanced Training – Advanced training provides lawyers with concrete knowledge in areas that impact complex litigation practice, including forensics, mental health defenses and dealing with expert witnesses.
  • Summer Legal Intern/Extern Training – Each summer, we work with law students who are interested in becoming a public defender. These summer internships provide law students the type of grounding in the law and procedure necessary to effectively perform the role of a public defender.

Investigative Skills

We offer robust investigative skills training for investigators of all experience levels. All public defender investigators are required to complete Core Investigator Skills (CIS), a multi-day training covering the essentials of investigation practice. This training is designed for new hires. In addition, we offer advanced investigative skills training classes for more seasoned investigators, ensuring they stay current on this complex and ever-evolving practice.

Forensic Social Work

Forensic social workers perform an important role at the Colorado State Public Defenders office. They investigate our clients’ lives in order to provide greater context for how the clients’ experiences resulted in them coming before the criminal courts. Their assessments play an important role in our attorneys’ ability to recommend appropriate pretrial release, treatment options, conditions of probation, and less carceral sentencing options for our clients.

We offer forensic social work training that will provide support for new and experienced social workers alike, ensuring they have the tools necessary to provide the support many of our clients need.

Administrative Staff Training

Our administrative staff are often the first to interact with our clients and their family during times of fear and stress. They are committed to providing compassionate and competent client service.

We provide training for administrative staff locally, on the job, and within individual offices. This training helps our administrative staff hone their skills in order to provide the high quality service our clients deserve.

Paralegal Training

We have a team of more than 100 paralegals who contribute to a quality defense for our clients. We offer paralegal training to help these team members develop the skills necessary to provide the support our clients need.

Annual Public Defender Conference

  • The Colorado State Public Defender Conference is a yearly event in September. Over several days, our staff receives education in areas that impact their various work responsibilities. Employees from all scopes of work attend the trainings they choose to attend based on what interests them. Sessions are taught by local and nationally recognized experts. In most years, lawyers who attend and review one or more home study presentation earn their required continuing legal education credits for the year of attendance. On a deeper level, Conference is a coming together, a celebration of our efforts, a time to reflect on our prior year’s experiences as Defenders, and a reinvigoration to face another year’s challenges. Previous conferences were held at conference centers in the Denver metro area, over Zoom during COVID lockdown times, and in 2022 in the beautiful Colorado mountains at Snowmass.
  • Annual Public Defender Conference is attended by all 1000+ Defenders (lawyers, social workers, investigators, administrative staff, and paralegals) as well as private bar attorneys who are looking for quality continuing legal education credits. For this year’s lineup and information about registration: 2023 Public Defender Conference