Many of us need government services throughout our lives. Government agencies provide essential services and regulatory oversight in a range of areas. Programs like the Social Security Administration (SSA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) help protect our jobs, health, and safety.
Public services involve legal advice from both sides. The public needing the services needs legal assistance when applying for these services. The state and federal government officials who operate the agencies need legal help so the benefits reach the people who need them. These legal professionals are government attorneys.
Government Law Practice Areas
Government law, also known as administrative law, covers almost every other area of the law. Some areas are obvious. The U.S. Department of Justice handles federal criminal cases and oversees legal services for the federal government. Some are less obvious, like guardians ad litem assigned to children in dependency court.
Some types of cases where you may want legal representation or help in accessing government services include:
- Social Security disability benefits. Applying for Social Security benefits (SSI/SSDI) can be a nightmare for those with mental or physical disabilities. Federal agencies have complicated paperwork. SSI attorneys can help you navigate the labyrinth of documentation and doctor's visits in getting your benefits.
- Sexual harassment or discrimination claims. The EEOC has a lengthy process for managing legal matters of discrimination and harassment at work. Employment attorneys or civil rights lawyers can help you with these claims.
- Housing rights. State housing agencies regulate landlord-tenant laws. The parties can resolve most disputes themselves. If discrimination or unfair rental practices are part of the problem, you need an attorney.
- Criminal law. Prosecutors are one type of government attorney, but so are public defenders. The public defender's office provides your defense if you need an attorney for a criminal case and can't afford to hire one.
Suppose you need an attorney in any of these areas with government or state law expertise. In that case, your local bar association, state bar association, or the American Bar Association (ABA) can help you with your hunt.
Public Interest Law
Many public service agencies provide low-cost/no-cost legal aid with federal or state funding. Public interest law can help low-income families and people with these legal issues for free or nominal legal fees. Law clerks, paralegals, law students in internships, and attorneys doing their pro bono hours staff public interest legal clinics.
Government Agency Lawyers
Attorneys who work in the government administer regulations and agencies. Government lawyers are government employees and work as attorneys for their agencies. Attorneys in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may investigate crimes committed against the United States. Or they may prosecute those crimes in federal court.
Attorneys in local government may work on zoning boards or city councils. They give legal advice on new regulations and related topics. These may not be government jobs, but they help government operations.
These attorney positions are "in-house" jobs. If you need to hire a lawyer for a federal legal matter, such as bankruptcy, you can't hire a federal attorney who works for the IRS.
How To Hire a Government Lawyer
Finding the right lawyer for your legal matter requires a good referral service. If you need an attorney who specializes in government agencies and programs near you, FindLaw has a place for you to start.