Defender Legal Services

NLADA's Defender Legal Services (DLS) works to enhance the ability of public defense programs to improve social outcomes for indigent persons in contact with the criminal justice system. Through advocacy and research initiatives, and by providing technical assistance and training to leaders and providers of indigent defense services, DLS strengthens and protects the constitutionally guaranteed but frequently unfulfilled promise of the right to counsel for all Americans.
Defender Legal Services:
  • Provides technical support and expertise to indigent defense programs. DLS is available as a direct line to NLADA members in need of direct assistance on any issue. It works closely with programs wishing to improve their advocacy in the criminal justice arena, and provides operational advice and strategic guidance on matters such as increasing funding, optimizing human resources and building capacity to collect and use data.
  • Delivers cutting-edge training and professional development events, both in person and online. DLS offers technical skills training, leadership development, and keeps members abreast of the latest legal and community developments within indigent defense. Some of the highlights of the DLS calendar include the Appellate Defense and Persuasive Writing Institute, the NLADA Annual Conference, and the National Defender Leadership Institute.
  • Advocates for criminal justice policy reform at the state and national level. DLS uses its unique expertise and authority to influence decision making within each branch of government. DLS works directly with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and in Congress, as well as other advocacy groups, to ensure the voice of its stakeholders continues to inform national policy. At the state level, DLS is frequently consulted on policy debates and educates lawmakers on indigent defense issues.
  • Manages and partners with a variety of initiatives for the public defense community including; Justice Standards, Evaluation and Research Initiative (JSERI), a research and data analysis project bringing social science methods to indigent defense; the Community-Oriented Defender Network, more than 100 public defender providers who have embraced the ‘holistic’ defense model; and Gideon at 50, a state-by-state data and research resource.

You can visit the defender resource archive here and view upcoming events here.


Events and Training