Both federal, state and local government budgets have been slashed significantly in the last few years, being an aftereffect of the 2009 Recession. When the economy sunk, so did tax revenues, the lifeblood of government programs. No surprise then, their reduction process happened with a lag period a few years later as property taxes, corporate taxes, and income taxes all shrunk and slowed down. And many of the areas cut in government agencies involved payroll and positions. So it’s a fair question today from someone looking to start a public legal career as a prosecutor, defender, policy attorney, or agency counsel as to whether there are any jobs available in the government sector.
Interestingly, a good number of jobs exist. The largest field and the most competitive remains law enforcement. Candidates with law degrees can work both as law enforcement agents for the federal government as well as outright attorneys. The FBI, for example, specifically has a candidacy route for recruits with law degrees. State and local governments also have varying levels of law enforcement positions, and all three government levels have grown significantly with efforts in homeland security protection. However, one definitely needs to have an interest in criminal law as the hours are long and the cases can be grinding. Additionally, there is lots of competition, so recruits have to be at the top of their game as well as have a clean background. That means party photos on Facebook or an indiscretion in the past could nullify an application.
Further, government attorneys often switch over to private side to continue their careers after gaining experience or civil service retirement and similar. For example, Jim Nelson of Nelson, MacNeil & Rayfield Law Offices first worked as a deputy district attorney after graduating from law school and passing the Oregon Bar. He then transitioned to private practice after three years of heavy trial experience in prosecution.
The next area of government legal hiring tends to be in general counsel positions. These are the attorneys who function as do-it-all general counsel for a specific department or agency. They also work in specialized agencies representing all of government, such as the civil branch of the Department of Justice or a state’s Attorney General Office. These positions are relatively few and often involve political appointment. Who you know matters as much as well you perform as an attorney. Many hires already come with heavy experience private-side and were picked up as a political appointment after supporting a winning election campaign. The positions exist all the way down to the city level, such as Albany Oregon attorneys working for the City of Albany.
The third category are staff attorney positions. There are actually two ways into this type of job, and there are dotted all over government. The first is to be hired outright. It tends to be very competitive and a crapshoot. The alternative approach is to get hired in a non-attorney but related position like budgets, accounting, contracts, procurement or similar, where law still applies a lot. The candidate gets in, gets recognized, and can maneuver within civil service and government jobs far easier than off the street. Many new government attorneys have records of being prior functions elsewhere in the same agency, and such candidates are often recognized for their inside knowledge and experience. This approach also widens the job field for a graduate fresh out of school while still working to eventually win a government attorney position.
The principles to remember for government legal jobs are to have a lot of patience, network regularly, and find work in the meantime to be on standby for a hiring call. Government hiring can be slow, but the careers can be rewarding and well-recognized for later career paths.
Article Submitted By Community Writer