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Working For the Government

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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.

About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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About Harrison Barnes

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 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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