Public Interest Work Types

The work done by public interest lawyers covers a broad range of activities. For some people, the type of work/the way they work is one of the most critical components of job satisfaction. The following are examples of types of work that public interest lawyers might do.  Please note that the descriptions included here are not meant to be fully comprehensive, but are instead designed to give you a flavor of the day-to-day activities associated with different kinds of legal practice.

 

 

Administrative Advocacy
Administrative advocacy encompasses a variety of positions concerned with influencing the formation, application, or change of rules that government agencies put in place to implement statutory law. Administrative advocacy takes place at all levels of government—federal, state, and local. Administrative lawyers might serve as in-house counsel to government agencies, as litigators in the federal courts or special hearings, as administrative law judges, or in non-governmental posts with advocacy organizations. Practitioners in this field work to create and enforce regulations and to shape the functions of government agencies and programs that affect many citizens’ lives.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Write regulations.
  • Advise agency officials on statutory interpretation.
  • Plan and organize regulatory hearings.
  • Write comments on proposed rules.
  • Prosecute or defend regulatory violations.
  • Represent parties or make adjudications in administrative hearings.
  • Challenge or defend agency regulatory action.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Private Practice 
  • Unions

 

Skill Set Required

  • Research skills 
  • Writing skills 
  • Oral Advocacy skills 
  • Analytic skills
Administrative/Management
Administrative and management positions may involve non-legal work, such as overseeing a large staff and coordinating long-term projects.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Supervise organization’s large projects.
  • Meet with project directors to evaluate project success.
  • Meet with the Board of Directors, allies, partner organization, or donors.
  • Recruit new staff members and plan staff development events.
  • Write and edit annual reports.
  • Build morale among staff and colleagues as well as a comfortable office culture.
  • Envision and strategically plan long term goals for the organization.

Practice Settings

  • Academic
  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Foundation/Think Tank
  • Intergovernmental
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Legal Services
  • Unions

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Long-term vision
  • Ability to analytically scrutinize projects and provide constructive criticism
  • Communication skills
Advice-Only Phone Line
This type of work involves providing legal advice to clients who call an organization’s hotline for assistance. Some hotlines may be dedicated to a specific type of legal advice—targeted toward a particular government benefit, medical condition, or demographic group, for instance—while others may provide more generalized guidance to clients, especially in low-income or otherwise underserved communities. Advice-only phone lines provide clients with information to enable them to represent themselves more adequately in court or to resolve their issue through alternative methods.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Field client calls.
  • Take case histories.
  • Offer legal advice.
  • Research legal remedies for clients.
  • Contact human services. professionals for resources.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Analytic skills
  • Research skills
  • Communication skills
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to a variety of processes and techniques designed to help disagreeing parties come to an agreement short of litigation.  These processes can include everything from facilitated settlement negotiation, in which disagreeing parties are encouraged to consult directly with each other prior to some other legal process, to arbitration, which can look and feel very much like a standard trial.  The most commonly used ADR systems are negotiation, mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration.  Lawyers often play a major role in ADR processes, either by advising clients on and representing them in proceedings, or by serving as adjudicators, arbitrators, conciliators, and/or mediators.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Assist clients in evaluating the potential for using an ADR process in lieu of litigation.
  • Select arbitrators and mediators for particular client matters.
  • Design ADR processes.
  • Represent clients in ADR processes.
  • Serve as adjudicators, arbitrators, conciliators, and/or mediators
  • Work with government agencies or nonprofit organizations to institutionalize ADR practices within the agency/organization.
  • Serve as ombudsmen.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Private Practice
  • Courts
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Client relations
  • Negotiation
  • Teamwork
  • Understanding of the litigation process
Appellate Litigation
When cases in litigation are appealed to a higher court, appellate litigators handle the proceedings.  While some litigators manage both trial and appellate litigation, appellate litigation is generally considered a specialty.  Although both civil and criminal cases can result in appellate litigation, there are far fewer appellate opportunities for lawyers than trial opportunities.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Work with the client to identify overall strategy for appeal
  • Analyze the trial record and opinion
  • Identify and narrow the issues for appeal
  • Research and draft the brief(s) for the case
  • Argue the case before the appellate court

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Private Practice
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Trade Associations
  • Unions
  • Public Defenders
  • Courts

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Client relations
  • Teamwork
Civil Litigation
The term civil litigation refers to a legal dispute between two or more parties that seek money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions.   A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a litigator or trial lawyer.  Lawyers who practice civil litigation represent parties in trials, arbitrations and mediations before administrative agencies, foreign tribunals, and federal, state, and local courts.  Several common types of civil litigation include environmental law, housing law, products liability, intellectual property, labor and employment, and antitrust.  

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Interview the client and conduct an initial case investigation.
  • Draft complaints, answers and counterclaims.
  • Propound and respond to interrogatories and document requests.
  • Conduct and defend depositions.
  • Draft motions and memoranda of law.
  • Determine overall trial strategy.
  • Conduct settlement negotiations.
  • Perform jury selection as necessary.
  • Appear and argue for clients in federal and state court.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Ability to synthesize complex legal and factual materials
  • Client relations
  • Negotiation
  • Teamwork
Class Action
A class action is a type of civil lawsuit brought on behalf of many similarly situated people who have been harmed in the same way by the same entity; because they do not have the resources individually to sue the responsible party, they band together in a single case.   Class action litigators are trial attorneys who usually work on a contingency basis, which means that they will receive a portion of the award if the lawsuit is successful, but will charge their clients no fees if it fails.  Common issues in class action litigation include illegal hiring or salary practices, dangerous or defective drugs or products (such as motor vehicles, machinery, toys, and electronics), environmental or health concerns, and financial fraud.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Conduct an initial case investigation
  • Seek class certification from the appropriate court; draft complaints, answers and counterclaims
  • Propound and respond to interrogatories and document requests.
  • Conduct and defend depositions.
  • Draft motions and memoranda of law.
  • Determine overall trial strategy.
  • Conduct settlement negotiations.
  • Perform jury selection as necessary.
  • Appear and argue for clients in federal and state court.

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Government (Federal, State, and Local)
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Ability to synthesize complex legal and factual materials
  • Negotiation
  • Teamwork
Client-Based
Client-based public interest lawyering entails handling individual client cases. In the context of public interest work, client-based advocacy often takes the form of representing low-income clients on a low- or no-fee basis. Cases may involve family, domestic violence, housing, health, government benefits, civil rights, consumer or employment law, or criminal work in the case of a public defender’s office.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Perform intake and referral.
  • Research legal remedies for clients.
  • Contact human services professionals for resources.
  • Write briefs; file motions.
  • Represent clients in court.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Public Defense
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Oral Advocacy skills
  • Language skills
  • Ability to convey complex legal concepts to a lay audience
Community Education
Providing education in community-based settings and information on legal rights related to specific topics (e.g. your rights as a tenant), typically to underserved communities in a neighborhood setting.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Preparing and presenting educational materials that can break down complex legal topics into user-friendly readable text for target audience.
  • Coalition building with other organizations focused on related or intersecting issues.
  • Ongoing involvement in community issues and activities to build trust and relationships with target constituency.

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Legal Services

Skill Set Required

  • Communication skills
  • Writing skills
  • Knowledge of target community or willingness to learn
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to coalition build across organizations
  • Political acumen
  • Language skills
Community Organizing
A process by which people are brought together to act in common self-interest and in the pursuit of a common agenda.  Community organizers create social movements by building a base of concerned people, mobilizing these community members to act, and in developing leadership from and relationships among the people involved.  Organized community groups seek accountability from elected officials, corporations and institutions as well as increased direct representation within decision-making bodies and social reform.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Working with and developing local leaders.
  • Coalition building.
  • Assisting in the development of campaigns.
  • Grant writing
  • Conducting legislative or policy advocacy.
  • Fundraising.
  • Engaging in innovative advocacy using new media techniques.  

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Political campaigns
  • Unions

Skill Set Required

  • Versatility
  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
Community Outreach
Going out in the community to identify local needs and issues and to inform people of events and resources.  The aim of such outreach is to not only provide information and assistance in demonstrated areas of need, but also to identify new areas upon which to direct future attention.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Door-to-door advocacy.
  • General advertising
  • Organizing community meetings.
  • Teaching.
  • Conducting trainings.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Some Government (Federal, State, Local)

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Language skills
  • Ability to adapt to specific client or community interests
Enforcement
Enforcement of federal, state, and local laws and regulations is a vital part of ensuring that governments, companies, and individuals meet their legal and societal obligations. Enforcement lawyers are responsible for taking legal action in federal or state court or within administrative agencies to bring violators into compliance with the law.  A criminal enforcement lawyer prosecutes individuals or organizations accused of a committing a crime, whereas civil enforcement lawyers seek compensation from an individual or organization accused of breaching civil law, or seek a court-ordered prohibition against an alleged act.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Investigate cases.
  • Research legal questions relating to breaches of criminal and/or civil law.
  • Collect evidence.
  • Prepare documents and help fulfill discovery requirements.
  • Appear before an administrative judge to resolve a dispute before a government agency and an individual/organization.
  • Try cases in federal or state court.
  • Conduct settlement negotiations.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State, and Local)
  • Prosecution

Skill Set Required

  • Research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Oral advocacy skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to sort through and condense large amounts of factual information from records and witnesses
  • Ability to manage a heavy caseload
  • Ability to collaborate effectively with law enforcement officials
Factual Investigation
Factual investigation refers to the process of gathering information about the facts of a particular case, issue, or cause. In a trial setting, this type of work might entail doing discovery—that is, obtaining access to potentially relevant documents and testimony—and/or interviewing witnesses. In a policy advocacy setting, factual investigation refers to the assembly of facts and figures regarding an issue to elucidate its complexities or support a particular stance.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Review documents.
  • Research contact information and client history.
  • Interview witnesses.
  • Search published reports.
  • Gather statistics and expert testimony.

Practice Settings

  • Prosecution
  • Public Defense
  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Research skills  
  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal skills
Impact Litigation
Planning, preparing, and filing or defending law suits focused on changing or advancing or retaining laws or on the rights of specific groups of people.  Impact litigation is brought or defended typically when the case affects more than one individual even if there is one individual involved. Many impact litigation organizations are also deeply involved in policy work.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Building and planning cases from the “ground up.” 
  • Developing legal strategy.
  • Selecting plaintiffs.
  • Identifying and working collaboratively with co-counsel (often from private firms).
  • Drafting briefs.
  • Preparing for and presenting oral arguments in court.
  • Drafting educational materials for press and for larger community.  

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Writing skills (particularly motion and brief drafting)
  • Courtroom experience
  • Oral advocacy
  • Political or legislative experience can also be very helpful, but is not generally required
Individual Cases
In an individual case, a lawyer represents one client in his/her matter, regardless of whether it affects a larger set of issues.  In a given case, the lawyer applies the relevant federal, state, local or international law to the client’s particular legal claim.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Provide legal advice and make recommendations to a client in regard to a particular legal claim.
  • Negotiate with disputing parties in order to avoid litigation.
  • Represent clients in civil or criminal trials.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Public Defense
  • Government (Federal, State, and Local)
  • Unions
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Communication skills
  • Ability to convey complex legal concepts to a lay audience
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Analytic skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Attention to detail
Innovative Advocacy
This field includes a broad spectrum of activities that deploy non-traditional strategies to advocate for clients or causes. Innovative advocacy can encompass community education and organizing; the establishment of entrepreneurial ventures that push for social change; or the use of online fora and grassroots networks to build support for a particular reform agenda.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Write and post blog or social media content.
  • Reach out to community members.
  • Engage in organizing efforts
  • Fundraise for projects, events, or causes.
  • Write or evaluate grant applications.

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Legal Services
  • Foundations/Think Tanks

Skill Set Required

  • Creative thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Written advocacy skills
  • An understanding of media and technology
Intake and Referral
In-person or phone intake interviews and screenings of clients with legal problems.  Identification of key issues and referrals to appropriate lawyers and other service providers as needed.  Can also involve recruiting private practice lawyers in specific fields to take on cases.  

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Client interviews (either by phone or in person).
  • Legal issue spotting (typically at a relatively fast pace).
  • Referrals to appropriate lawyers, legal organizations or social service agencies.
  • Development of relationships with myriad of lawyers and others to whom clients are referred.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Social Service Agencies

Skill Set Required

  • Client interview skills
  • Issue spotting
  • Ability with and comfort working at a fast pace
  • Organizational skills
  • Relationship building skills
Law Reform
Law reform is the process of analyzing current laws and advocating and carrying out changes in a legal system, usually with the aim of enhancing justice or efficiency. By promoting and executing changes in a legal system, individuals and groups can implement changes in a given society. Law reform can be achieved through litigation, legislation, or regulatory change, and often requires the collaboration of a variety of groups in different practice settings. Law reform may also be defensive – stopping changes in existing law through litigation or legislative advocacy.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Draft and research legislation.
  • Lobby government officials to change legislation or regulations.
  • Participate in a campaign in support of ballot initiatives or referenda. 
  • Review and comment on proposed legislation or regulations. 
  • Advise individual legislators at the state, federal, or local level. 
  • File lawsuits in federal or state court seeking legal reform.

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Government  (Federal, State, Local)
  • Think Tanks
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Communication skills
  • Negotiation skills
Legal Writing
Legal writing refers generally to the analysis of fact patterns and presentation of arguments in legal memos and briefs. The vast majority of legal internships and permanent positions will require the deployment of legal writing skills. Those working in settings where client-based or impact litigation are the principal focus will draft and file legal briefs that coherently present their side’s written arguments to the court. Certain positions might entail the drafting of predictive memos, which anticipate the arguments of opposing counsel. Even non-litigation positions may require you to research a legal question, analyze the relevant legal precedents, and present an answer in a memo. Work in academia may involve not only writing for scholarly publications but also teaching law students the basics of legal writing and citation.  Some larger government agencies and non-profit organizations may also hire someone to provide legal writing training to new hires or to oversee their legal publications.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Drafting briefs and memos.
  • Presenting written arguments in support of a client.
  • Applying legal reasoning and analysis to a fact pattern.
  • Researching and incorporating relevant legal precedents.
  • Training new hires in the legal writing style preferred by the organization.
  • Acting as a writer or editor of legal publications.

Practice Settings

  • Academia
  • Government (Federal, State, and Local)
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Legal Services
  • Private Practice
  • Prosecution 
  • Public Defense
  • Unions

Skill Set Required

  • Exceptionally strong writing and legal citation skills
  • Thorough grasp of grammatical and style conventions
  • Close attention to detail
  • Logical reasoning skills 
  • Persuasive abilities
Legislative Work
Lawyers often play a major role in the development, negotiation and drafting of new legislation or amendments to existing legislation, in Congressional or state legislative oversight of government activity, and in lobbying legislators.  Both legislative staffers and elected legislators themselves are often lawyers.  Legislative activity can range from championing major policy goals to careful tweaking of language to fix unanticipated consequences.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Understand and communicate the goals and priorities of the legislator or client.
  • Learn new subject areas and brief legislator or staff.
  • Draft briefing memos.
  • Identify witnesses for hearings.
  • Draft hearing statements and questions for legislators.
  • Work closely with legislative staffers and interest groups to develop strategies and reach consensus.
  • Draft legislative language.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State, and Local)
  • Lobbying Organizations
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Trade Associations
  • Private Practice
  • Think Tanks

Skill Set Required

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to absorb information quickly, then explain it succinctly
  • Ability to work in fast-paced , sometimes pressured environment
Lobbying
A lobbyist is paid by an organization to promote the organization’s positions to federal and state legislatures and, less frequently, to administrative agencies.  Lobbyists may also work to change public opinion through advertising campaigns or by influencing “opinion leaders” or pundits, thereby creating a climate for the desired change.   Many lobbyists are lawyers who have served in federal or state government (usually in legislative roles); because lobbyists depend on their personal relationships with legislative members, their staffs, and agency officials, prior government experience is often a prerequisite for this type of work.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Prepare and present information to legislative members, their staffs, and/or agency officials.
  • Assist in formulating legislative strategy.
  • Arrange testimony for legislative hearings.
  • Arrange and attend face-to-face meetings with legislative members, their staffs, and/or agency officials.
  • Create grassroots support for legislative or administrative change.
  • Work with advocates and interest groups to advance good legislation or alter bad legislation.

Practice Settings

  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Trade Associations
  • Lobbying Organizations
  • Unions

Skill Set Required

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to absorb information quickly, then explain it succinctly
  • Ability to work in fast-paced , sometimes pressured environment
Non-Legal
Use of non-legal strategies to advocate for clients or a cause. Can also refer to high-level administration or management duties.  

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Program administration
  • Consulting
  • Development
  • Training
  • Teaching
  • Non-legal client contact, such as social work

Practice Settings

Non-legal work can be found in any practice setting.

Skill Set Required

Depending on the nature of work, a number of attributes may be desired.  Some of these may include:

  • Strong communication abilities
  • Strong writing abilities
  • Creativity
  • Management skills
  • Leadership skills
Policy
A policy is a course of action for tackling a political problem. Policymaking is itself a process; it is conceived by public or private groups who formulate strategy with regard to a political issue, and carried out by government officials who implement policies as concrete programs and actions. Policymaking thus refers not only to the end result of policies, but more generally to the analysis of government decisions and the way in which different groups attempt to get government policymakers to act in a particular way.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Prepare position statements on particular issues.
  • Formulate broad strategy to protect legal rights or to bring about social change in particular practice area.
  • Meet with elected officials and advise them on issues.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Intergovernmental Organizations
  • Political Campaigns
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Foundation/Think  Tank
  • Some Legal Services

Skill Set Required

  • Substantive expertise in particular policy area
  • Research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Ability to communicate well with a diverse group of people.
Pro Se Clinics
A party to a lawsuit who represents himself without a lawyer is appearing in the case “pro se.”  Lawyers can facilitate pro se representation by leading workshops at clinics or preparing instructional resources for those interested in representing themselves.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Hold walk-in hours weekly at a courthouse or legal services center to answer legal questions. 
  • Provide instructions as clinic participants fill out divorce, custody, or bankruptcy forms.
  • Create a step-by-step online or print guide to preparing a case and understanding legal terminology.

Practice Settings

  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Student Organizations

Skill Set Required

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to explain complex legal language and procedures in simple terms
  • Language fluency
Regulatory Reform
Lawyers often play a major role in efforts within and outside of government agencies to enhance or alter regulations, to simplify the enactment of regulations, to improve the implementation and enforcement of regulations, and to develop mechanisms to allow greater public participation in the regulatory process.  Regulatory reform efforts take place at all levels of government—federal, state, and local.  Lawyers working to reform the regulatory process might serve as in-house counsel to government agencies or in non-governmental posts with advocacy organizations or private firms.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Formulate regulatory strategy.
  • Draft or revise regulations.
  • Plan and organize regulatory hearings.
  • Arrange for testimony at regulatory hearings.
  • Provide comments on proposed regulations.
  • Arrange and attend face-to-face meetings with agency officials.
  • Challenge regulatory action in federal or state court.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Trade Associations
  • Lobbying Organizations
  • Unions
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Communication
  • Negotiation
Research and Publications
Research and publication work encompasses either legal research for briefs and memos or preparing publications such as articles, books, guides, and “know your rights” materials. Most legal jobs and internships involve this type of work.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Research information for briefs, memos, amicus briefs, and law review articles.
  • Compile news for monthly organization-wide publications.
  • Conduct interviews with experts in the field.
  • Seek out and select articles or other information in creating a book or guide for publication.

Practice Settings

  • Academic
  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Foundation/Think Tank
  • Intergovernmental
  • Legal Services
  • Interest/Advocacy Organizations
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Analytic skills
  • Attention to detail
Teaching
Law school, university, or college teaching generally involves three components: research, classroom instruction, and service. Other levels of teaching generally focus on classroom instruction. At the law school level, clinical teaching involves practical instruction and supervision of students doing real legal work in one of a law school’s subject-specific clinics.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Prepare lecture and materials for the day’s classes.
  • Design a new seminar.
  • Research and edit scholarly articles that are in progress.
  • Brainstorm ideas for new research projects.
  • Supervise clinical work by law students.
  • Select new cases for clinic.
  • Advise undergraduates and graduates on theses or other independent work.
  • Attend department and committee meetings.
  • Attend conferences.
  • Conduct pro bono work.
  • Collaborate with professional organizations in the field.
  • Grade students’ work.

Practice Settings

  • Academic

Skill Set Required

  • Research skills
  • Writing skills
  • Enjoyment of and success in independent work
  • Creativity
  • Public speaking skills
  • Communication skills
Training
In the public sector, training directors are often hired by government agencies and nonprofits to oversee the training and integration of new lawyers into the organization. This involves leading/organizing comprehensive trainings for new lawyers and other personnel.  Can also be referred to as “Professional Development.”  In the government context, professional development or training can involve organizing summer intern orientation and training, first year lawyer orientation and training, and specialized trainings for upper-level lawyers as needed.  There are also training positions in community based organizations. In these organizations, a training director or coordinator might principally be tasked with legal training and outreach to the targeted community, or with leading an outreach team whose job it is to provide legal education to a specific community.  

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Conceiving, planning, and implementing comprehensive training programs for beginning lawyers.
  • Planning trainings in the following general areas:  legal writing, time management, presentations and public speaking, client/community relations, working collaboratively, and work-life balance. 
  • Planning specialized trainings for upper-level lawyers.   
  • In the government agency or non-profit organization context, Training Directors often sit on the management team of the organization. 
  • In the community education context, training will involve working collaboratively with other community based organizations to learn the legal educational needs of the community.  It will also involve understanding and coordinating the best educational approach, including what language materials should be in, what format (i.e. written, video, etc.).

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Private Practice
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Trade Associations
  • Unions
  • Public Defenders
  • Courts

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy
  • Client relations
  • Teamwork
Transactional
Transactional lawyers counsel individuals and organizations on the legal issues generated by their business dealings.  Most public-sector transactional lawyers work for nonprofits, government agencies, or private public interest law firms.  Many transactional attorneys are drawn to this type of work because it is generally less adversarial than litigation.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Transactional attorneys assisting organizations or agencies may: create/form legal entities;
  • draft and negotiate contracts;
  • advise on general governance, commercial and compliance matters;
  • complete and file legally required forms, including tax exemption applications;
  • design personnel policies; and/or counsel on real estate, regulatory, intellectual property and licensing matters. 
  • Transactional attorneys assisting individual clients may, by contrast:  draft wills, powers or attorney and other estate planning documents; 
  • draft and negotiate personal contracts such as leases, employment agreements, or loan modification documents; 
  • and/or file tax documents or other forms required to access government benefits.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups
  • Legal Services
  • Unions
  • Private Practice

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Drafting skills
  • Client relations
  • Negotiation
Watchdog
Critically monitoring the activities of governments, industry, courts or other organizations and alerting the public or taking legal action when the activities appear to go against the public interest.  Watchdog work is generally performed either by nonprofit organizations that monitor specific government or industry actions, or by special government officials known as “inspectors general” who are tasked with ensuring that the government operates in compliance with customary laws and policies and without waste, fraud, or theft of taxpayer money.

Day-to-Day Activities

  • Attorneys working with non-governmental organizations may: file complaints with government agencies and legislative committees to bring issues to the public’s attention and force agencies and/or legislatures to conduct investigations; 
  • submit Freedom of Information Act requests to government agencies requesting documents on a wide variety of issues; 
  • and/or pursue litigation as necessary to force government agencies, industry, or other organizations to fulfill their legal duties.  
  • Attorneys working in Inspectors General offices may investigate and address complaints concerning the agency’s actions;
  • conduct audits and evaluations of agency expenditures; 
  • and draft reports conveying to the agency the results of the office’s audits/ investigations and recommending remedial procedures to be taken by the agency.

Practice Settings

  • Government (Federal, State and Local)
  • Interest/Advocacy Groups

Skill Set Required

  • Analytic skills
  • Legal research
  • Written advocacy
  • Oral advocacy/public speaking
Last modified: December 13, 2011

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