Though many law graduates aim to work for law firms or start private practices, there are other interesting career paths to consider. With a law degree, government jobs are among the opportunities available to you. If you’re interested in a career related to both the law and the government, it’s important to understand what to expect and what options you might have.
In this article, we define government jobs, discuss some reasons for pursuing government work, introduce eight such jobs you can get with a law degree and provide some tips to help you find a position.
What is a government job?
A government job is any position in which the employer is a local, state, or federal government. These jobs exist in various sectors and departments, such as education, defense, agriculture, energy and human services. For many job seekers, occupations in government are attractive because of the relatively high job security and the broad range of benefits that government employees have. Government jobs can also present unique opportunities, such as the chance to travel, to contribute to your country or community or explore various career paths.
Why consider a government job as a law graduate?
There are several reasons you might consider a government job as a law graduate, including:
For law graduates, the government offers various opportunities at the local, state and federal levels. The following are just some of the government agencies that regularly hire candidates with law degrees:
Department of Defense
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Justice
Department of Labor
Department of State
Department of Veterans Affairs
Social Security Administration
With a broad variety, you’re likely to find a position that matches your interests and aspirations.
Government jobs may offer predictable working hours and a higher-than-average amount of paid time off, which allows employees to enjoy more time to pursue personal interests or spend with loved ones. The workweek for government employees is generally 40 hours. In contrast, with a private law firm, you may regularly work more than that amount. As for time off, beginning government employees get 10 holidays, 13 days of vacation and 13 days of sick leave every year. The amount of vacation time increases to 20 days after three years and 26 days after 15 years.
Career building refers to the approach of taking on experiences and developing competencies to improve your professional future. A government job can be excellent for building a career in law because it can introduce you to various cases while teaching you valuable skills such as organization and time management. If you decide to enter the private sector later in your career, the experience gained as a government employee can prepare you for success at a law firm. Potential employers may also be impressed by your credentials as a government employee, improving your chances of being hired.
8 government jobs you can get with a law degree
If you have a law degree or plan to earn one, you might consider pursuing one of these government jobs:
1. Tax law specialist
National average salary: $60,946 per year
Primary duties: A tax law specialist is an individual who specializes in issues of federal taxation. Their responsibilities typically include analyzing tax claims, reviewing technical documents related to taxes and researching tax treaties and rulings. Their role is part attorney and part accountant and auditor, as their work involves interpreting laws, preparing briefs and examining tax forms and records. Agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Personnel Management hire tax law specialists.
2. Public defender
National average salary: $71,239 per year
Primary duties: A public defender is an attorney employed by a local or state government agency. Their primary responsibility is to represent clients who don’t have or can’t afford their counsel. Public defenders work for and receive payment from their agency, so they provide legal services at no charge to their clients. Aside from serving as the legal representative of individuals accused of crimes, public defenders also submit legal paperwork, negotiate with the prosecution, and advise their clients.
3. Policy analyst
National average salary: $72,871 per year
Primary duties: A policy analyst is responsible for researching and developing policies in response to social and political issues. Their duties include investigating the effects of public policy, analyzing various perspectives to devise fair policies, proposing new policies and explaining their implications and drafting reports to policymakers. Many government agencies employ policy analysts to guide initiatives, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and local treasuries or budget departments.
4. Regulatory affairs specialist
National average salary: $79,164 per year
Primary duties: A regulatory affairs specialist, also known as a regulatory specialist, is responsible for ensuring that an organization meets all government regulations and standards, particularly concerning products or policies. Applying their knowledge of applicable laws, they evaluate levels of compliance, advise decision-makers and educate other members of the organization about regulations. Agencies such as the Department of Labor may hire regulatory affairs specialists to develop health and safety standards and ensure adherence to certain laws.
5. Judge advocate general
National average salary: $88,350 per year
Primary duties: A judge advocate general, or JAG, is an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces who functions as a legal adviser. A judge advocate general may practice in various areas of the law, depending on the needs of their assignment. Their duties are those of attorneys and lawyers. They provide legal advice to members of their military branch and may participate in court-martial as either the prosecution or the defense.
6. Assistant prosecutor
National average salary: $96,057 per year
Primary duties: A prosecutor, typically an elected official, is the chief law enforcement officer of a local government, while an assistant prosecutor is an attorney who represents the prosecutor’s office. Also known as assistant district attorneys or assistant state attorneys, these prosecutors are responsible for prosecuting individuals accused of crimes. Their duties include investigating suspects, gathering evidence, filing charges, issuing subpoenas and negotiating with defense attorneys.
7. Special agent
National average salary: $104,440 per year
Primary duties: A special agent is an investigator for one of the federal law enforcement agencies, which includes the ATF, CIA, DEA and FBI. Their priority task is to investigate suspected criminal cases to decide whether there’s enough evidence to pursue prosecution. Depending on their agency, special agents may work on cases related to trafficking, financial crimes, terrorism, federal statutes and more. Common activities include surveillance, witness interviews, undercover work and examinations of records.
8. General counsel
National average salary: $145,559 per year
Primary duties: The general counsel, also known as the chief legal officer, is the top attorney of an organization’s legal department. Their primary responsibility is serving as legal advisers to high-ranking members of the organization. They provide legal opinions and guidance on operations to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. Further duties may include devising policies concerning legal matters. Numerous government agencies hire general counsel, including the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Tips for finding a government job with a law degree
Consider the following tips to help you find a law job with the government:
Look into the Attorney General Honors Program
The Attorney General Honors Program is an entry-level hiring program with the Department of Justice. The program recruits law school students approaching graduation and recent law school graduates. It lasts two years, during which time program recruits gain experience in public law under the guidance of veteran attorneys. The legal disciplines they may cover during the program include criminal law, antitrust law, consumer protection, litigation and constitutional matters.
If you’re interested in on-the-job training as an attorney, refer to the Department of Justice website for more information. The application is online and accessible through the website. The application procedure requires the submission of a resume, a law school transcript, a writing sample, a letter of interest and two letters of recommendation.
Search federal websites
Many government agencies hire lawyers and legal consultants of various types. To find openings, search through the careers or jobs sections of federal websites. Some government sites are dedicated to searching for government positions. It may be necessary to create accounts to apply for jobs. Check listings regularly to find a position that’s right for you.
Ask your local government
County and city governments also need legal experts for various reasons, and positions with local government agencies may be more accessible than federal jobs. Search your local government’s websites and their separate departments to find job openings related to law. You can also send cold emails to inquire about potential needs for a lawyer or legal adviser.
I hope you find this article helpful.