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Staff Attorney (Public Defender Division)

Staff Attorney | Public Defender Division RIO GRANDE CITY - VICTORIA - BEEVILLE - HARLINGEN

($58,000 - $80,000)

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) seeks a public defender attorney with various levels of experience, who has demonstrated commitment to rural, indigent defense, criminal justice reform, and exceptional advocacy skills to join teams in Rio Grande City; Victoria; Beeville, or Harlingen.

TRLA’s Public Defender program serves 14 rural Texas counties, all south of San Antonio. Currently, TRLA has public defender offices in Beeville, Hallettsville, Victoria, Rio Grande City, Harlingen, and Floresville. Each of these offices provides indigent defense for one or more of the counties near the office locations.  TRLA PD offices are located near various natural and cultural attractions. They are also within reasonable driving distance from metro areas with international airports. 

TRLA Defenders are frontline advocates who have engaged in the movement to transform the criminal justice system and challenge the injustices faced by indigent defendants in rural south Texas for over a decade. TRLA Defenders provide complete, vertical representation from intake to resolution. Except for cases involving a conflict of interest or the death penalty, TRLA Defenders represent persons accused of crimes from initial arrest to final appeal.   

TRLA delivers holistic legal services to address the unique needs and limited resources available to clients residing in rural and border communities.  Special initiatives within TRLA’s Defender division include advice on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction, trauma-informed and mental health advocacy, assistance with applying for government aid and/or housing, and assistance with substance abuse as alternative solutions to incarceration. 

With caseload controls, staff investigators, mental health and substance abuse caseworkers, and a litigation budget, TRLA is deeply committed to zealous, high-quality representation in rural South Texas. Attorney benefits include law school loan repayment assistance, generous paid leave, healthcare insurance, retirement plan, and training & travel stipends. TRLA defenders train with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Gideon’s Promise, the National Association for Public Defense, and other associations that are committed to the transformation of indigent defense and criminal justice reform. 

TRLA, a poverty law firm, with a national reputation for effective advocacy, is one of the largest legal services programs in the nation, employing over 200 civil attorneys across a 68-county service area in Southwest Texas. TRLA is one of the few legal aid organizations with a public defender program. 

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Provide zealous and holistic defense for indigent persons accused of criminal charges ranging from serious level felonies, misdemeanors, and juvenile cases;  

  • Review case facts, examine videos and physical case evidence for legal sufficiency, 

  • Prepare, draft, and review motions and other legal documents that conform to current statutes, legislation, and case law;  

  • Confer with prosecutors, law enforcement, and witnesses regarding any necessary case investigation and trial preparation; 

  • Litigate appointed cases from intake to final resolution, including pretrial, trial, appeals, and additional motion practice, as needed;

  • Manage confidential legal information and documents; 

  • Participate in the agency, division, and program meetings and training;

  • Maintain case files and documentation in accordance with agency and division policies;  

  • Follow current trends and innovations in indigent defense; 

  • Provide client-centered, trauma-informed advocacy; and 

  • Collaborate with colleagues in their team, program, and division to contribute to a supportive work environment. 



  • Licensed to practice law in Texas or willing to take the next available Texas bar exam; 

  • Proficiency in Office365 and legal research software, and other case management systems; and 

  • Professional fluency in Spanish (highly preferred). 

Preferred applicants will demonstrate a commitment to indigent defense and criminal justice reform; have worked or interned in a public defender office; have strong academic credentials; are solution-oriented and creative; are able to work efficiently independently and in a team environment; can assess and prioritize multiple tasks and work effectively in high-stress situations; and want to live and work in communities where TRLA clients have the greatest needs.   TRLA is also looking for attorneys that aspire to become leaders both within the division and in the larger public defender community.    

To Apply: 


Step One -- Apply here or using the button below.

Step Two -- Selected applicants will be contacted for a telephone interview, or virtual or in-person interview, depending on a variety of factors. 

Step Three -- Depending on the circumstances, some selected applicants will be invited to virtually meet with staff. 

Step Four -- Selected applicants will be offered a position. 

TRLA is an equal-opportunity employer and is committed to an equitable workplace.

This position requires, consistent with TRLA’s policy and subject to applicable law, a candidate to provide proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination prior to commencing employment.


Submission Deadline: 
August 10, 2023
Organization Information: 
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA)
301 S. Texas Avenue
Mercedes, TX 78750
United States
Phone: 956-447-4800