THE NEIGHBORHOOD DEFENDER SERVICE OF HARLEM (NDS) is a community-based, client-centered, holistic public defense office located in Harlem, providing criminal, civil, and family representation.  NDS is accepting applications for the position of Arraignment Social Worker with the Criminal Defense Practice.

The Criminal Defense Practice at NDS represents residents of Northern Manhattan who are charged with crimes and cannot afford to hire a lawyer.  Clients are represented by teams composed of lawyers, investigators, social workers, client advocates, team administrators and interns. NDS also provides pre-arrest representation to clients under threat of arrest.  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.  


  1. Work closely with NDS team members in Manhattan’s arraignment courts, possibly including evening, night and weekend arraignment shifts, to assist team members in advocating for pre-trial release of clients and/or alternatives to incarceration.  This advocacy includes:
    • Interviewing clients and their families in the holding pens and courthouse.
    • Identify clients’ cross-practice social work issues, including family defense, immigration defense, housing defense and other civil defense.
    • Researching and recommending alternatives to incarceration.
    • Communicate clearly with clients who are often under great stress.
    • Make appropriate referrals to address clients’ social service needs (drug treatment, mental health treatment, housing and other benefits).
    • Assist clients in navigating New York City Social Service Agencies. 
    • Advocate on behalf of clients to social service agencies.
    • Where appropriate, advocate orally on behalf of clients to judges, programs and assistant district attorneys.
    • Where appropriate, escort clients to treatment providers in the community.


  1. Must have a MSW degree. LMSW preferred
  2. Must possess a demonstrated commitment to criminal justice, indigent defense, social justice issues and/or the Harlem communities.
  3. Must possess strong organizational skills in order to manage a high caseload and multi-task in a very fast-paced environment.
  4. Must possess excellent interpersonal, analytical, writing, and communication skills.
  5. Must possess a high level of organization, unlimited energy and patience, and the ability to work on a team.
  6. Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply.  Spanish language fluency is preferred.


Compensation is commensurate with experience and is in adherence to the NDS compensation scale.  Full medical and dental benefits, as well as other benefits, are provided.

How to Apply:

Interested applicants should email a cover letter and resume to with the subject line, “Arraignment Social Worker, Criminal Defense Practice.”  Please send your application as one document, preferably PDF. 

NDS is an equal opportunity employer.