How to Become a Government Lawyer


If you are in law school, a recent law school graduate, or a seasoned attorney looking for a lateral move, you might want to consider expanding your job search outside the private sector and into the public sector. The United States government, state government, and local governments need attorneys like any other entity, and there are a variety of offices within the government that utilize the services of attorneys. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Solicitor General's Office, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Judiciary are all federal government agencies that hire attorneys. State governments hire attorneys for positions such as: the state attorney general's office, state solicitor general, and state environmental protection agency. Local governments hire attorneys for positions such as: public defenders, district attorneys, and school solicitors.

How to Become a United States Federal Government Lawyer

  • Determine the type of attorney you would like to become. The United States government is a large entity that has agencies that impact all areas of the law. If you are interested in criminal law, then you should consider working for the Justice Department. If you are more interested in scholarly research and writing, then you should consider the Judiciary, where you can clerk for an individual judge or become a staff attorney who works with multiple judges. If you are interested in civil practice, then you should consider the Solicitor General's office.

  • Navigate to the USA Jobs web page. The United States government posts all of its open employment opportunities, and solicits applications through the USA Jobs web page.

  • Search for open attorney positions. Using the USA Jobs web page, search for positions by using a key word and a location. The United States government hires applicants for positions that are located throughout the United States; however, most of them are in the District of Columbia. Complete searches using the keywords "attorney" and "lawyer." Most positions will be listed as "attorney," but as a matter of due diligence, search for "lawyer" as well. If you are still looking for ideas on what type of law you wish to practice, you can use the web page's "Browse Jobs" function.

  • Apply for a position. Once you have the position that is right for you, read all of the information on the web page describing the position. In many cases, the description will tell you the duties of the position, the requirements, and the minimum qualifications for the position. Often this will describe how long you must be a practicing attorney and the type of specific prior attorney experience is necessary. It will also describe any other particular steps that are necessary to be hired as a government attorney. Once you have read the complete job description, apply for the position using the USA Jobs web page "Apply Online" function.

How to Become a State or Local Government Lawyer

  • Decide whether you would prefer to work for the government at the state level or the local level. Consider the type of attorney you wish to become, and if there is a particular agency for which you would like to work. The state government is larger and offers a greater variety of attorney positions within its agencies. However, you may be required to move to the state capital or a larger urban area of the state. If you wish to become an attorney at the local level, the opportunities are generally limited to a public defender, district attorney, or a solicitor for a school board or town council. However, you may have a greater choice regarding relocation.

  • Search for attorney positions. Generally, states will post positions for attorneys on their web pages under the human resources section, or each state government agency web page will have its own employment positions web page. Therefore, be sure to check the web page of the particular agency in which you are interested, such as the state attorney general. If you are interested in becoming a local government attorney, you must check the local city or county's web page for employment positions.

  • Apply for the position. Carefully read the job description for specific qualifications and application instructions. Be sure to check whether you must obtain a criminal history or a driving history, as well as the required practice experience. Many times the state and local governments require that you have prior practice experience in the particular area of law before they will hire you. Depending on the state or local government, the method for applying may vary. Some will allow you to create a profile and apply for the position through the government agency's web page, while others may require you to mail a hard copy of your application to the particular agency or department.

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