THE NEIGHBORHOOD DEFENDER SERVICE is building a community-based, client-centered, holistic public defense office in Wayne County and we invite you to join our team as we represent our clients with excellence. Building on 30 years of experience of providing high quality representation, we are expanding our efforts to bring the same caliber of representation to the communities of Wayne County. We are seeking a team of highly organized, self-driven, and resilient individuals dedicated to our mission. The Criminal Defense Practice at NDS Detroit will represent residents of Wayne County who are charged with felony crimes and cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Clients are represented by teams composed of lawyers, investigators, social workers, client advocates, and team administrators. NDS adheres to a client-centered approach to representation that emphasizes a heightened responsiveness to clients’ needs prior to arrest, while a case is pending, and after the case concludes.  NDS is committed to addressing the comprehensive legal and social service needs of clients while treating each client with dignity and respect.  

The Social Worker is an integral part of the defense team who demonstrates a commitment to serving marginalized persons and communities. As a member of the inaugural staff member at the organization, the Social Worker will help shape our present and future—contributing to a collaborative environment and culture of excellence in alignment with our values. At NDS Detroit, how we represent our clients is as important as individual case outcomes and our ideal Social Worker approaches the cultivation of a positive office culture and the representation of indigent clients with equal rigor and commitment.


  1. Embrace NDS’ philosophy of client-centered, community-based, holistic representation and commitment to excellence by providing vigorous representation with energy and enthusiasm to the residents of Wayne County.
  2. Work closely and collaboratively with team members to advocate for reduced sentences and/or alternatives to incarceration for clients.  This advocacy includes:
    1. Gathering factual mitigation through interviews and obtaining records; 
    2. Analyzing records; 
    3. Researching and recommending alternatives to incarceration;
    4. Writing pre-pleading memoranda to judges and prosecutors seeking reduced sentences and ATIs.
  3. Work closely with clients to:
    1. Make appropriate referrals to address clients’ social service needs (drug treatment, mental health treatment, housing and other benefits); 
    2. Assist clients in navigating social service agencies; 
  4. Advocate on behalf of clients to social service agencies.
  5. Advocate orally and in writing on behalf of clients to judges, programs and Assistant District Attorneys.
  6. Work primarily at NDS’ main office when not in Court.


The ideal candidate will bring: 

  1. A demonstrated commitment to criminal justice, indigent defense, racial equity and social justice issues and the Wayne County communities.
  2. Experience advocating for clients in a direct client services context. Experience in a public defender office or related criminal justice agency is a plus.
  3. An understanding of social casework objectives, principles and methods; casework management and organization; community resources; and interviewing techniques and problem solving methodology.
  4. Doggedness and resilience combined with people and situation smarts.
  5. An ability to quickly build relationships across varying identities, income levels, races and ethnicities. 
  6. A high level of organizational and administrative skills to handle a high caseload and multi-task in a very fast-paced environment.
  7. Clear and effective communication skills, both orally and in writing.
  8. A master’s degree in social work combined with valid clinical social work licensure or certification in Michigan.
  9. Bilingual (Spanish or Arabic) individuals are encouraged to apply.

Compensation: Compensation is commensurate with experience. Full medical and dental benefits, as well as other benefits, are provided.

How to Apply:

Interested applicants should email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to with the subject line, “Detroit Social Worker.”  

Please send your application as one document, preferably PDF.

The Neighborhood Defender Service is committed to creating a diverse environment that reflects the community we serve. NDS is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status. NDS encourages people with incarcerated loved ones, formerly incarcerated people, people of color, women, queer, transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender fluid people to apply.