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Cities, municipalities, counties, school districts and boards of education all employ lawyers. Because of the preponderance of federal cases in law school coursework, many students come to assume that federal practice is somehow “better” than local government practice; however, attorneys working in local government know that there is tremendous satisfaction in seeing the direct impact of their work in their own community.
Large urban centers often have city attorney, solicitor, or corporation counsel’s offices (all carrying out essentially the same functions and referred to here as the “city attorney’s office”), which provide legal counsel to city officials and represent the city in litigation (like the Attorney General's Office on the state, or DOJ on the federal, level). In the biggest cities, the city attorney’s office can be as large and complex as a small state AG’s office. Many large cities also have in-house counsel for individual city agencies, such as the local Civil Rights Commission or the city child welfare agency. Smaller municipalities may also employ city attorneys to provide representation in litigation and legal advice on day-to-day issues such as personnel and zoning questions, as well as drafting and negotiating legislation, public contracts and real estate agreements.
Lawyers hired for local positions are generally required to have prior legal experience, as well as relevant state bar admission. Municipalities sometimes contract out all or part of their legal work to private public interest law firms specializing in public sector law.
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