What does a government lawyer do?Government employment offers significant responsibility early in your career, intellectually challenging work and an opportunity to serve the public. Government lawyers work on everything from constitutional issues to coal-mine safety regulations to public housing matters. They work for federal, state and local attorneys general, public defenders, district attorneys and the courts. At the federal level, they draft and interpret policy, engage in agency rulemaking, conduct factual investigations of possible violations of federal laws, and file and try lawsuits in court on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies. They respond to congressional inquiries, Freedom of Information Act requests and citizen petitions. Many also work for members of Congress on Capitol Hill or for the federal judiciary.
What skills do I need to be a government lawyer?
Government lawyers need to be able to skillfully interpret and analyze the law, write clearly about complex issues, keep up with changes in the law, and defend or prosecute clients in court. They benefit from having a keen interest in and understanding of local, state, national and international policy issues and debates. Because they are acting on the government’s behalf, they must be able to inspire confidence and respect, both in court and from members of the public. Government lawyers often put in very long hours for less pay than they might obtain in private practice. They are often motivated by a strong sense of ethics and public responsibility. Some government jobs require security clearances and/or U.S. citizenship.
What kinds of jobs are available for government lawyers?
Although many government attorneys are prosecutors, litigators, attorney advisors or counselors by job description, there are many government jobs filled by attorneys that are not classified as attorney positions. It is therefore important that you “do your homework” to determine which government entities best fit your interests and skill sets, and then visit the corresponding websites to explore the mission statements and available positions. Many federal agencies hire new attorneys primarily (and sometimes solely) through an “Honors Program.” For the federal government, good places to start learning about job opportunities are USA.gov, USAJOBS.gov and gogovernment.org. In addition, military legal careers offer significant immediate responsibility for managing cases and exposure to a wide variety of law. All five military branches have a JAG Corps that can be explored through their websites.
What courses should I take?
- Administrative Law
- Federal Courts
- Legislation Workshop
- Maryland Administrative Law
- Banking Law Workshop
- Environmental Law
- Federal Income Tax
- Health Care Law
- Immigration Law
- Insurance Law
- Labor Law
- Land Use
- Military Law Seminar (upper-level writing)
- Election Law Seminar
- Employment Law
- Employment Discrimination Law
- Government Contracting Seminar
- Local Economic Development Seminar
- Juvenile Justice
- Law and Disabilities Seminar
- Law and Human Rights
- Bankruptcy and Creditor Remedies
- Consumer Law
- Civil Advocacy Clinic
- Family Law Clinic
- Community Development Clinic
- Immigrant Rights Clinic
- Innocence Project Clinic
- Disability Law Clinic
- Family Mediation Clinic
- Attorney Practice externship in public interest law (that is approved by the director of the Attorney Practice externship)
What co-curricular and volunteer activities should I consider?
You should consider participating in an Attorney Practice Externship with a governmental organization or aMoot Court team or writing for the Law Review or another law journal. You can also join relevant student organizations such as the American Constitution Society or the Federalist Society.