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Working For the Government

published May 28, 2012

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 3 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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Why should an attorney go for a government job?

Government jobs have always been great avenues for lawyer careers, whether for their networking advantages, greater opportunities of gathering experience, or for the attractions of a career given in working for the public. In a tight job market, despite continuous federal budget cuts, the truth remains that at least 60% of federal employees are eligible for retirement within the next decade, and vacancies need to be manned.

Where in the government are there jobs for attorneys?

All three branches of the federal government including the executive, legislative and judicial, hire attorneys, as do independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, or the FBI, to name a few. However, the highest numbers of attorneys are employed by the executive branch of the government and independent agencies. Comparatively, the number of attorney jobs in the legislative and judiciary are fewer than that in the executive.

Common practice areas for attorneys in government jobs:

Litigation: For those attorneys who love litigation, there are huge opportunities in the government sector, especially within the DOJ or the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney's office has its headquarters in Washington D.C. and 93 offices across the country.

Government offices that have independent litigating authority include the Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor and the Securities Exchange Commission, Division of Enforcement, among others.

Government offices where attorneys with knowledge in litigation also carry out non-litigation functions like counseling and advising include departments like the Office of Legal Counsel and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

However, both litigating and non-litigating offices are coordinated from within the DOJ and DOJ attorneys initiate lawsuits, handle depositions, and submit oral arguments, while attorneys working with agencies draft documents and petitions and submissions and offer their expertise on subject matters.


Regulations and compliance enforcement are very big areas of law practice within the government. Regulatory lawyers help in policy implementation and in the enforcement of rules through agencies like the FDA, EPA, OSHA and others that have the authority to form and execute rules. Attorneys working in these areas prepare the pleadings, and also provide their opinion on proposed regulations.


A lot of attorney work within the government comes within the role of an “attorney advisor” or “counselor.” Regulatory and other agencies have distinct groups of lawyers for litigation and counseling work. Counselors primarily aid congressional inquiries, FOIA requests, citizen petitions and rulemaking.

Public policy work – beyond the role of a simple attorney:

Top notch attorneys and learned lawyers revel in work related to public policy formation which is considered above the positions of ordinary attorneys. Lawyers who want to work in public policy formation and moderation find work with agencies such as the Department of State, the Congressional Research Service and the Department of Commerce, among others.

It cannot be denied that for law students and attorneys, government jobs can be special for many reasons, not the least of which is that balances of federal student loans can be waived after ten years of qualifying service. Add to this the advantages of greater job security and the prospects of federal retirement benefits, and you'd know why many smart law graduates just love working for the public. Also, when you gather experience in dealing with cases of a certain government sector for a long time, private law firms vie with each other to hire you. So, knowing your law and gathering material experience is of utmost importance while on government law jobs.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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