Core Training (101)

Applicant Requirements

Attorneys who have been public defenders for three years or less.

All new lawyers who are admitted to the Core 101 training program enter SPDTC as a cohort (e.g. Class of 20XX). Over a three year timespan, participants learn from some of the best current and former public defenders in the country while engaging in interactive workshops. This model not only allows SPDTC to support new public defenders during the formative years of their careers, but encourages sharing among peers, thereby building a community of attorneys who can support one another for years to come.


The curriculum includes 100+ hours (16 days) of instruction during the first year, followed by 20-28 hours of instruction, which is offered semiannually in the second and third years. All new participants begin their training at the SPDTC Summer Institute, a fourteen day ‘boot camp,’ which is designed to teach three basic topic areas:

1. The ethics and professionalism of public defense
2. Pre-trial practice and trial preparation
3. Trial advocacy and persuasion

Summer Institute

The intensive fourteen-day training takes place in Birmingham, Alabama. Participants of the new class are also joined by the returning lawyers who are already a part of the training program. With a 3:1 student to faculty ratio, all participants receive considerable individual attention. At the end of the training participants are matched with a mentor and coaches are assigned within their respective PD offices.

Two Day Training Sessions

The weekend-long trainings bring successive classes together (comprised of participants from multiple states) into one large group. This interaction fosters a sense of community among classmates and faculty/mentors by encouraging members to share questions, concerns, resources, and advice. Some of the sessions focus on new areas – such as appellate advocacy, sentencing advocacy, or mental health – while others expand on topics covered during the initial training (e.g. advanced trial skills and dealing with specific evidentiary issues).


Each participant is paired with a mentor who is either a SPDTC faculty member or 201 Graduate participant (current and former public defenders). These mentors serve as a source of ongoing support to participants between training sessions. This aspect of the Core 101 program is critical because it provides participants with the support, encouragement, and inspiration they need to sustain their persistence toward advancing indigent defense.

“I believe the training I received here will forever change the way I view indigent defense, the way I deal with clients, and the way I practice law overall. I was so amazed at the things I learned in this program — many of which I did not learn in law school.”

— Member of the SPDTC Class of 2011

If you would like to apply to Core Training 101 please complete the following application:

 Core Program 101 application

All Core Program 101 applications are due April 1st 5pm (ET) and must be accompanied by a Public Defender Office Partner Site Application , which the Chief Public Defender of the office should complete.