Overseeing the delivery of criminal defense services to indigent people in Boston area courts since 2001


Applying to the Program

Qualified attorneys may apply to receive contracts to represent indigent defendants in Suffolk County. To apply for admission to the SLJ panel of attorneys, please review all information outlined below before contacting us.

Requirements and Timeline
New Applicant Instructions
Certification Procedures
Renewal Applicants
Selection Criteria




Requirements and Timeline

Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, (SLJ), oversees a panel of private attorneys who are appointed by the courts to represent indigent defendants in the District and Juvenile Courts of Suffolk County. Candidates whose applications are approved will be offered the opportunity to contract with SLJ for the provision of these services. SLJ offers two different contract application programs, the Three-Year Contract program, and the First Year Program (FYP).

Our application reviews are conducted once a year between December of the current year, and March of the following year.

SLJ is accepting applications for three-year contracts, for the FY 2019-2021 period (July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2021), which must be received by SLJ, via email to Nicole Dussault at director@sljinc.org, no later than January 1st, 2018. Hard copies mailed directly to SLJ shall not be confirmed or accepted by SLJ.

SLJ is also accepting applications for First Year Program contracts for FY 2019 and FY2020 which must be received by SLJ no later than December 1, 2017. These applications must be received by SLJ, via email to Nicole Dussault at director@sljinc.org, no later than December 1st, 2017. Hard copies mailed directly to SLJ shall not be confirmed or accepted by SLJ. 

The application for both forms of contracts are available below, with a submission deadline stated above for each type of application.

Download Application Here




First Year Program

Suffolk Lawyers for Justice is committed to improving representation, and in the course of our application renewal process, we realized that there are new attorneys who want the opportunity to participate in bar advocacy work. We would like to give them such an opportunity. The First Year Program is designed to allow new applicants to apply for a one year contract. These attorneys will complete the same application as attorneys who wish to be considered for a three-year contract, but should designate that (s)he would like to be considered for the "First Year Program" on the cover sheet of the application the applicant wishes to submit. We might also offer this opportunity to some applicants we feel are particularly suited to this program. After the first year, an attorney who is given a one year contract can opt to apply for another one year contract. After the second year, the attorney must apply for a Three Year Contract.

In order to be considered for the program, the applicant must not have taken the "Zealous Advocacy" course; not been a panel member for another Bar Advocate Program; not have been employed as an attorney for CPCS, and not have been a prosecutor in Massachusetts.

There is no set number for how many applicants will be accepted for the First Year Program, however, there will be no more than 25 one-year contracts offered.
After taking the Zealous Advocacy Course and being certified by CPCS, attorneys accepted into the First Year Program will be dispersed into various courts in Suffolk County. The attorney will be held to the same standards of all SLJ panel attorneys, including maintaining CLE hours and obtaining malpractice insurance.

New Applicant Instructions

All attorneys should review the CPCS Assigned Counsel Manual before applying. All attorneys should review the CPCS Assigned Counsel Manual before applying. Attorneys who have not been certified to accept appointments through the Committee for Public Counsel Services must also complete a CPCS Training Application if they have not received training requirement waivers. Applicants who are certified bar advocates currently working with SLJ or another county's panel are not required to submit the training application.




Certification Procedures

In addition to receiving admission to a county program, attorneys performing bar advocate work must be certified to accept appointments through the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). Most attorneys are required to complete a training entitled "Zealous Advocacy in the District and Juvenile Courts". This is a multiple-day course offered several times per year by CPCS and Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education. See the CPCS Training Calendar for information on upcoming Zealous Advocacy trainings. To enroll in the training, attorneys first must be admitted to a county bar advocate program such as Suffolk Lawyers for Justice.

Attorneys with extensive experience practicing criminal law may apply to CPCS for a waiver of the training requirement. Please note that waivers have been given to allow the Bar Advocate to begin taking reassignments, but in most situations CPCS is now requiring the Bar Advocate to take the next upcoming scheduled Zealous Advocacy course.




Renewal Applicants

Attorneys who have earned a three-year contract are required to reapply at the termination date of the previous contract. SLJ is completing the fourth three-year cycle, so those that received a contract for FY2016-2018 will need to reapply by the deadline of 1/1/18. While past experience in SLJ or another county program is helpful, it does not ensure a contract will be offered again.




Selection Criteria

The selection process is highly competitive. Pursuant to CPCS policies, SLJ reviews applicants based on the following criteria:

a.   Criminal or delinquency trial experience as characterized by:
    1.   Positive relations with clients demonstrated by prompt and consistent communication outside of court, jail visits to incarcerated clients, and timely appearance for clients at all court proceedings
    2.   Conduct of trials and litigation of substantive motions
    3.   Pretrial preparation including witness interviews and appropriate use of investigators
    4.   Legal research and skilled drafting and filing of motions and memoranda of law
    5.   Practice consistent with the CPCS Performance Standards
b.   Languages spoken
c.   Contribution to panel diversity
d.   Demonstrated commitment to indigent defense or other indigent services
e.   Academic background and skills training indicating strong potential to provide high quality representation
f.   Possession of related skills
g.   Writing skills
h.   Ability to provide juvenile delinquency representation
i.   Efficiency in providing high quality legal services as evidenced by reasonable hourly billing
j.   File maintenance and record keeping consistent with CPCS standards and ethical obligations
k.   Lack of substantiated complaints by assigned clients and lack of history of bar discipline, criminal involvement, or other misconduct that would indicate a risk to assigned clients
l.   Commitment to developing and maintaining professional skills evidenced by participation in CLE and consultation with Resource Attorneys, Supervising attorneys, and other mentors
m.   Consistency in timely meeting obligations to assigned counsel program and cooperation with CPCS published policies including billing policies.