ATJ National Law School Tour

Answering the Call: Serving Your Community in Public Defense

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 This is a hybrid event that will be held in-person at SMU and streamed live via Zoom.


About the Program

As part of its mission to support public defense, and in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice (ATJ) is launching a national law school tour to elevate public defender career opportunities and spotlight defender opportunities in STAR (small, Tribal, and rural) communities.

ATJ Director Rachel Rossi is joining local public defense leaders and practitioners to speak to law students and undergraduates about pursuing careers in public defense. Speakers will address the critical need for public defenders, the future of public defense in their community, the benefits and challenges of working in public defense, and advice for building a sustainable and rewarding career.


List of Events

  • Pipeline to Public Defense

    Date: October 18, 2023

    Time: 10:30 AM CT

    Location: SMU, Frances Anne Moody Hall

    *In-person event for students only*

    Hear from a panel of attorneys and public defense advocates about the important role that public defense providers play in our criminal legal system.

  • Public Defense Opportunities in Texas

    Date: October 18, 2023

    Time: 12:15 PM CT

    Location: SMU, Frances Anne Moody Hall (streaming live via Zoom)

    Texas public defense providers and experts discuss the current state of public defense in Texas and share advice on building a successful career as an attorney dedicated to providing public defense services.

  • Answering Gideon's Call in Every Community

    Date: October 18, 2023

    Time: 2:00 PM CT

    Location: SMU, Frances Anne Moody Hall (streaming live via Zoom)

    This roundtable discussion will focus on the unique benefits of practicing public defense in rural communities. Panelists will highlight both the challenges rural jurisdictions face in providing public defense and the potential solutions to criminal legal deserts, and attendees will learn about building a sustainable career in rural public defense.

  • Gideon at 60: A Fair Fight Means a Strong Defense on Day One

    Date: October 18, 2023

    Time: 6:30 PM CT

    Location: Karcher Auditorium, SMU Dedman School of Law

    *In-person event, open to the public. Reception to follow.*

    Three system-impacted people, in conversation with Deason Center Director Pamela Metzger, share their personal experiences with the criminal legal system and discuss the importance of zealous defense from the earliest stages after arrest.

Event Co-Sponsor

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)

NACDL envisions a society where all individuals receive fair, rational, and humane treatment within the criminal legal system. NACDL’s mission is to serve as a leader, alongside diverse coalitions, in identifying and reforming flaws and inequities in the criminal legal system, and redressing systemic racism, and ensuring that its members and others in the criminal defense bar are fully equipped to serve all accused persons at the highest level.

NACDL is committed to enhancing the capacity of the criminal defense bar to safeguard fundamental constitutional rights. NACDL harnesses the unique perspectives of NACDL members to advocate for policy and practice improvements in the criminal legal system.

When you belong to NACDL, you take a step toward enhancing your own career through the networking, peer support, and educational tools NACDL provides. Visit to find out how to join.