First off, I receive about 2-3 emails a week from future Public Defender Investigators. Some are investigators that are currently doing civil or criminal work in the private sector and want some advice on getting their foot in the door of a Public Defender’s office, others are people that have never worked in a law office and done any investigation…ever. I usually try to respond to everyone individually, but Meg’s email was very nice and gave me permission to use it in a post so, here it is:
I found your blog online and was struck by a line in your bio:
"I dreamed of doing this work since I was a young pup in college and now...It's my life!"
Though I'm no longer a young pup (I'm a single mom in my mid 40's), I too, dream of being a PD investigator. But I'm having difficulty getting good information on training, education and the best ways to get into this field.
Do you have any advice for me? Any recommendations on good programs of study or coursework I should take? Any thoughts on getting practical experience through a volunteer or entry-level position that would help me break into the field as I continue my education?
I've found a couple of on line legal investigation programs, but I'm unsure of their credibility. I live in Oregon, and none of those programs are based locally. There are a few private investigation programs here, but again, I question their credibility and
they're rather expensive and short. Three are listed with the OR Dept of Ed though.
There are also paralegal programs, but I don't want to push papers exclusively; nor do I want to work in a huge corporate firm.
Any info you can give me would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time.
I can’t really make any judgment on those home study at Private Investigation programs or schools because my first experience was working for a Private Investigation firm. My gut feeling is to stay away from them and if you really want to use them I would check with the Better Business Bureau in your area and even do a little investigation on your own to see if there are any lawsuits against them at your local courthouse.
You would probably be better served by going to a Junior College or University that offers Criminal Justice courses and take a few just to get your feet wet and learn the basics of the criminal justice system in America.
In California there are several Criminal Defense/Public Defender Investigator specific organizations that run conferences throughout the year. Check out the website at the Defense Investigators Association (CDIA), they have an upcoming conference in May 2006. I would also check with the National Defender Investigator Association (NDIA) which holds conferences across the country and usually holds at least one in California (I keep mentioning California because it’s what I’m familiar with).
I don’t know if you’ve contacted the State Of Oregon Office Of Public Defender Services, but they might be a good place to start. Find out if they have an intern program (paid preferably), see if you can meet with a supervising or Chief investigator from their local office to talk with them about working at the office and what their day to day life is like.
I think anyone with a little bit of life experience would make a great investigator, and I don’t think you’re ever to young or to get into this work.
This post is a little longer than I had planned but feel free to email me if you think I’m full of shit or if you need some more help. I know I have some stuff saved on disks and binders somewhere, if you want I can email you any training materials I have, which will give you and idea of what to expect in criminal defense investigations and I also recommend you check out Greg Worthen’s, Public Defender Investigator Network. It’s a great place to find training materials and network with other investigators.