Tens of thousands of attorneys work in government entities from federal agencies to state attorney general’s offices to city attorney’s offices and municipal courts, and many more. Government employment offers significant responsibility early in one’s career, intellectually challenging work, and an opportunity to serve the public good. Attorneys work in all three branches of government and in numerous capacities, including litigating civil and criminal cases, counseling lawmakers, drafting statutes and regulations, enforcing regulatory compliance, issuing administrative legal opinions and much more. In addition to working in all three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial), government attorneys also are employed by independent agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Communications Commission.
State Attorney General’s Offices represent the state in litigation, which includes civil litigation (both defensive and affirmative) and appellate work; State AG’s Offices also provide legal advice to state officials and agencies. Many state agencies have in-house counsel with expertise in the law relevant to that agency’s particular area of responsibility, such as public health or transportation, as well as in legal issues generic to running a state agency, such as employment and contracts. Additionally, state legislatures employ lawyers in positions comparable to those on Capitol Hill; lawyers work as legislative assistants and counsel to members, and as staff to state senate and house committees.
Cities, municipalities, counties, school districts, and boards of education all employ lawyers. Large urban centers often have city attorney, solicitor, or corporation counsel’s offices, which provide legal counsel to city officials and represent the city in litigation (like the Attorney General’s Office on the state level, or the DOJ on the federal level). Many large cities also have in-house counsel for individual city agencies, such as the local Civil Rights Commission or the city child welfare agency. Smaller municipalities may also employ city attorneys to provide representation in litigation and legal advice on day-to-day issues such as personnel and zoning questions, as well as drafting and negotiating legislation, public contracts, and real estate agreements.
Government hiring is largely decentralized, on no set timeline, and networking often plays a critical role in landing a permanent job. To support Georgetown Law students in networking and job searching, the Office of Public Interest and Community Service hosts several government recruiting and networking programs.
Capitol Hill offers many opportunities for law students and lawyers interested in federal legislation and policy work. Positions exist in the individual House and Senate members’ personal offices; the House and Senate committees; the Leadership Offices (Majority and Minority Leaders, Speaker of the House, etc.); various Democrat and Republican Party offices; and the Executive Offices.
Committee work will generally be more focused and more high-level, both in scale and in substance. Committee staff is responsible for planning and holding hearings, drafting legislation, negotiating bill language, and navigating bills through the legislative process. Individual member staff is responsible for overseeing legislative and policy developments within their issue areas, being the member’s primary representative to outside groups in their issue area, briefing and assisting the member at various meetings and hearings, developing legislative and policy proposals, and interacting with stakeholders in the state. As a recent graduate, you will want to know what issue areas you would like to work on, which will help you narrow your focus in terms of members and Committees.
Review our Capitol Hill Resources page for brief descriptions of some of the positions that recent law grads may consider on the Hill, as well as helpful job search resources for Hill and lobbying positions.