A person has the right to an attorney or legal counsel in the event that he or she is charged with an offense, whether criminal or civil. If the person cannot afford an attorney of his or her own, then he or she will be provided for one by the state. A public defender is an attorney-at-law who represents those who cannot afford their own lawyers. Attorneys who practice as public defenders are usually compensated for by the state in an effort to provide everyone with legal representation. However, this compensation is considerably smaller compared to what an attorney in a private practice earns.
Public defenders work a case like any other attorney would. He or she may act as an advocate or legal counsel for a client assigned to him or her in a court case. The public defender presents an argument on behalf of his or her client that provides the best feasible resolution under the terms and conditions set forth by the law.
Public defenders may also be referred to as criminal defense attorneys since they usually represent defendants in a court of law. It is the duty of the public defender to prepare his or her client for trial and to take into consideration plea bargains that the prosecution may offer. He or she is also tasked with investigating the claims made against his or her client, which includes fact-finding.
Because public defenders are assigned to those who cannot afford lawyers, which constitute a vast majority, most public defenders must deal with heavy caseloads and numerous clients.