Home Career Management Horizon Expansion 101.3: Government

Horizon Expansion 101.3: Government


The first two blogs in this series looked at non-mainstream legal and JD Advantage jobs and careers in (1) law firms and (2) corporations. In this blog, we’ll focus on similar opportunities in government at all levels.

The U.S. Government

Executive and Legislative Branches

The federal government has more than 150 law-related job titles in which attorneys work.  With few exceptions, they are open to new law school graduates.  These jobs are found in every one of the 150-plus federal departments and agencies.

If you contemplate a federal legal job search, it is important to understand that government is full of overlapping and sometimes duplicative programs. For example, 31 departments, agencies and other organizations outside of the Environmental Protection Agency have environmental law practices; 16 outside of the Department of Energy have energy law practices. Selected duplicative and overlapping government functions include the following (the name of the function is followed by the number of federal organizations with responsibilities for the function):

  • Admiralty and Maritime Law – 19
  • Food Law – 18
  • Antitrust Law  – 18
  • Aviation Law – 12
  • Banking and Finance Law – 30
  • Civil Rights – 23
  • Communications Law – 10
  • Controlled Substances – 12
  • Criminal Law – 61 (not including 94 U.S. Attorney Offices)
  • Economic Development Law – 20
  • Health Law – 32
  • Housing Law – 12
  • Insurance Law – 26
  • Intellectual Property Law – 37
  • Real Estate Law – 35
  • Tax Law – 22

Below are listed some of the most abundant U.S. government JD Advantage job titles:

  • Adjudications Officer
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist
  • Bankruptcy Examiner/Analyst
  • Compliance Specialist
  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Officer
  • Ethics Program Specialist
  • Hearings and Appeals Officers
  • International Trade Specialist
  • Labor Relations Specialist
  • Legal Instruments Examiner
  • Legislative Assistant
  • Legislative/Regulatory Analyst
  • Patent Adviser
  • Privacy Officer
  • Program Integrity Specialist
  • Technology Transfer/Licensing Specialist

Federal Court System

The federal court system is also a good place to look for law-related positions. Several thousand attorneys besides Justices, Judges, and Magistrate Judges work in support positions in the federal courts. In addition to working as Judicial Law Clerks, Career Law Clerks, “Elbow” Law Clerks and Staff Attorneys, lawyers work as Clerks and Deputy Clerks of Court, Circuit and District Executives, Legal Research Specialists, and in other law-related positions.

Quasi-Federal Sector

The “quasi-federal” sector also offers numerous attorney and law-related jobs. This sector consists of the following selected organizations (among others with only a few attorney and law-related jobs—and lower turnover—than the ones listed below):

Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs)

SROs are organizations authorized (primarily by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission) to develop and enforce regulations for a regulated industry. The SROs that employ the largest number of attorneys include:

Other Federally-Chartered or Affiliated Organizations

State and Local Government

State and local governments also employ a great many attorneys in mainstream and JD Advantage positions. Many of these mirror the law-related job titles at the federal level; others are unique to the states or municipalities.

Special Purpose Districts

Special purpose districts are governmental and quasi-governmental units established to perform specific functions, usually for a region that cuts across state and/or municipal boundaries. There are approximately 12,000 such entities nationwide and most of them hire lawyers for attorney and law-related  positions. Some of the better known special districts include: the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.

Next: Horizon Expansion 101.4: Selected Nonprofits


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