Careers in Government & Public Lawyering
All sorts of interesting, challenging and fulfilling jobs and careers are available to law graduates interested in capital lawyering. Some lawyers move in and out of government or public law work. New lawyers can look for jobs in a wide range of careers in government agencies, nonprofits, and private lobbying and law firms.
- Government Jobs — Governments at the federal, state, county and city level employ attorneys to work with executive branch officers, agencies, legislative bodies and courts.
- Nonprofit Organizations/Public Interest Jobs — Public interest lawyers work in organizations representing particular types of needy clients, in public interest law centers or advocacy organizations engaged in impact litigation and legislative work, and other types of nonprofits, which usually employ at least one attorney to do a number of different types of legal work.
- Private Firm Jobs — Many different types of specialties practiced by law firm attorneys involve government or public lawyering. These include lobbying or other types of political law or legislative practice, representing governments or government bodies as clients, such as cities, counties or school boards, and representing private corporate or individual clients in practice areas subject to heavy government regulation, such as communications, employment, environmental, health or immigration.
Federal Government Jobs
The Federal Government is the single biggest employer of lawyers in the U.S.. Many jobs are located in Washington., D.C., with many field offices around the U.S. Federal jobs are searchable at http://www.usajobs.gov/.
For those wishing to stay in California, here are listings for possible public law and policy employment in the Federal Government:
All executive departments (commerce, education, homeland security housing and urban development, interior, labor, transportation, treasury, CIA, FBI, IRS) hire attorneys, many through entry-level Honors Programs run by each department. The Department of Justice has Honors Programs for attorneys and law students at http://www.usdoj.gov/oarm/arm/hp/hp.htm.
All administrative agencies hire attorneys, most through entry-level Honors Programs run by each agency, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal Trade Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Legislative offices hire attorneys to work as aids on their staffs, including House & Senate members, legislative committees, the Congressional Research Service and the Office of Comptroller General.
The courts employ attorneys to fill roles such as judicial law clerk, research attorney or court administrator.
State Government Jobs
The state is the single biggest employer of lawyers in Sacramento. Many externships provide experience in these jobs. Most jobs will have alumni contacts. Being hired requires taking a test and being placed on a list.
Here are listings for possible public law and policy employment in the State Government:
Many executive agencies take externs and hire attorneys to work in such places as the attorney general's office (with specialized criminal and civil departments), the Department of Education, and the Fair Political Practices Commission
Examples include the Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission, and the California Coastal State Lands Commission.
Possible jobs include staffer to House member or Senator, a staffer to a legislative committee, or a post with the Legislative Counsel's Office.
The courts employ attorneys to fill roles such as judicial law clerk, research attorney or court administrator
Cities hire municipal lawyers to advise local government officers and departments. Some municipal lawyers do transactional work. Some do litigation. In addition to local municipal governments, special purpose, limited, government entities are common. Examples include school districts and utilities districts, district attorney's offices, public defender offices, city attorney or county counsel offices, and specialized municipal agencies
Nonprofit Organizations/Public Interest Jobs
- Legal Services — These organizations represent indigent clients in civil proceedings, involving, for example, housing, welfare, social security, and family law. They may be defined by geographical area — e.g., Legal Services of Northern California — or by a particular group, such as immigrants, the disabled, and the elderly.
- Public Interest Law Centers/Advocacy Organizations — These organizations are concerned with law reform and class action litigation in specific areas such as employment discrimination, housing, civil rights, and the environment. They may be local, national, or international. Work may include — community organizing, legislative advocacy, drafting legislation, appellate advocacy.
- Other Nonprofits — These include labor unions, NGOs (non-governmental agencies, sometimes based in other countries), social action organizations and other nonprofits. In addition to staff attorneys, many will employ at least one attorney to serve as in-house counsel, doing a broad range of day-to-day legal activities. They may be local, national or international.
Here are some lists of non-profit public interest employers in California:
Law firms provide a wide array of public interest opportunities. Listings of law firms in California:
Some firms do this exclusively. Others do it as a department within a larger law firm. In either event, these firms employ many lawyers to advocate for different interests. The work involves constant contact with legislators and the client group, and drafting and commenting on legislation and regulations. Many of these jobs are located in Sacramento, and many have McGeorge alumni contacts.
Law Firm Practice Areas
A number of different types of practices within private law firms involve government and public lawyering. One of the most common is the municipal law department. Applicants should carefully review each firm's website or promotional materials to ascertain whether the firm's practice includes public law.
Political, Lobbying & Election Law
Activities include: providing advice and systems to comply with election statutes and regulations, representing clients in elections and ethics enforcement matters before government commissions, advising political parties and opponents or proponents of ballot measures.
Municipal Law/Public Law
This area involves a broad array of practice areas representing government entities, such as cities, counties, redevelopment agencies, special districts and local and state government agencies like water boards and school boards. Activities include preventative counseling, negotiation, advocacy in court, to legislators, or before administrative agencies and financial guidance.
Areas of practice include land use and environmental issues, education or school law, employment disputes, conflicts of interest, affirmative action controversies, public contracts and contract bidding, public finance, fees and taxes, redevelopment and housing, labor relations, and eminent domain.
Government & Administrative Law
This is a general grouping that involves representing mostly private clients in a wide variety of subject areas in which interpreting and advising about statutes and regulations, and advocating before administrative agencies is a substantial part of the practice.
Subject areas include: Bankruptcy, Eminent Domain, Energy Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, Land Use and Planning.
Specialized, Often Small Firm, Administrative Law Practices
These practices involve representing individual clients in hearings before an administrative law judge.
Practice areas include immigration and naturalization, social security, and worker's compensation.