Core 101“I believe the training I received here will forever change the way I view indigent defense, the way I deal with clients, and the way I practice law overall. I was so amazed at the things I learned in this program — many of which I did not learn in law school.”

— Gideon’s Promise Class of 2011 participant

What is the “Core” 101 Program?

This three-year program, which is at the heart of the Gideon’s Promise model, is designed to provide new public defenders the skills and knowledge necessary to become excellent advocates for those they represent, as well as strategies to overcome the many challenges that make it hard for public defenders to live up to their constitutional obligations to each client.

Each year, Gideon’s Promise selects a new class to join our growing community of committed, passionate public defenders. The class comes together initially at our Summer Institute, an intensive, 14-day training session, and meets one weekend every six months for the remainder of the three-year program. Each participant is assigned a mentor from our faculty of over 75 of the most committed current and former public defenders across the country. This support is augmented via an internet-based community through which they can share resources, victories, challenges, and other information.

Click here to meet our participants.

Throughout the “Core” 101 Program Gideon’s Promise promotes six specific goals. Everything we do is designed to promote one or more of the following goals:

6 Goals - Core 101

Over a three-year timespan, participants learn from some of the best current and former public defenders in the country while engaging in interactive workshops. This model not only allows Gideon’s Promise to support new public defenders during the formative years of their careers, but encourages sharing among peers, thereby building a community of attorneys who can support one another for years to come.


The curriculum includes 100+ hours (16 days) of instruction during the first year, followed by 20-28 hours of instruction, which is offered semi-annually in the second and third years. 

Summer Institute

All new participants begin their training at the Gideon’s Promise Summer Institute, a fourteen-day ‘boot camp,’ which is designed to be taught in three curricular segments:

1. The ethics and professionalism of public defense
2. Pre-trial practice and trial preparation
3. Trial advocacy and persuasion

This intensive initial training takes place in Oxford, Mississippi at University of Mississippi School of Law. With a 3:1 student to faculty ratio, all participants receive considerable individual attention.

Semi-Annual Meetings

Upon completion of the Summer Institute, participants join the larger community every six months for follow-up meetings. These semi-annual gatherings offer a selection of training sessions that both build on the foundational lessons introduced at the Summer Institute (e.g. advanced trial skills and dealing with specific evidentiary issues) and introduce new topics that are critical to the group’s development (e.g. sentencing advocacy, immigration consequences, mental health, and forensic science).
At these meetings the participants are joined by their peers from previous classes, members of the Gideon’s Promise Graduate Program, Chief public defenders participating in the Leadership Summit, and Gideon’s Promise faculty members. These meetings foster a sense of community where participants are given the opportunity to share questions, concerns, resources, and advice as they work together to continue to raise the standard of representation in their respective offices.


Each participant is paired with a mentor who is either a Gideon’s Promise faculty member or 201 Graduate participant (current and former public defenders). These mentors serve as a source of ongoing support to participants between training sessions. This aspect of the Core 101 program is critical because it provides participants with the support, encouragement, and inspiration they need to sustain their motivation to continue to raise the standard of representation for their clients.

Applicant Requirements

Attorneys who have been public defenders for three years or less* are encouraged to apply. All new lawyers who are admitted to the Core 101 training program enter Gideon’s Promise as a cohort (e.g. Class of 20XX). All applicants must demonstrate a commitment to the Gideon’s Promise vision and an intent to complete the three-year program. All applications must be approved by the Chief public defender in that office or his/her representative.

If you would like to apply to Core Training 101 please complete the following application: CLICK HERE TO APPLY 

All Core Program 101 applications are due April 15th  5pm (ET) and must be accompanied by a Public Defender Office Site Application, which the Chief Public Defender of the office should complete.

*While the Core Program is geared towards new public defenders, exceptions may be made.