There are many options for lawyers who want to work with a wide variety of government employers, including, but not limited to, the federal government, attorney general’s offices, district attorney’s offices, and state and local agencies. In some areas, such as criminal prosecution, government employment provides the only available practice setting. Over the last several years, approximately nine percent of UT Law graduates have pursued legal careers in government practice.
Finding a job in the public sector often requires more time and pro-activity than a private law firm search for several reasons. First, many government employers lack resources for formal recruiting programs. (That said, large government employers, such as the U.S. Attorney or U.S. Department of Justice - see U.S. Department of Justice Security and Suitability Review Process, may have official recruitment programs. Also, the CSO tries to provide law students with multiple opportunities to meet and interview with government agencies through Public Service Table Talk and Public Service Career Fair.) Second, employers tend to recruit at various times on the calendar and sometimes after many private firms have already done their recruiting. Some government agencies may even wait to recruit until positions actually become available or until prospective employees are actually licensed. Finally, financing a career in the public sector can be a challenge. Salaries for those employed in government positions vary greatly, but are generally lower than salaries in private practice and often summer internships are unpaid. However, there are many public service fellowships available for summer and postgraduate employment. The CSO has several resources available to help students identify and secure these fellowships.
Groundbreaking strides have recently been made to initiate student loan repayment assistance programs at both UT Law and through federal legislation. Government jobs often provide generous benefits. Moreover, government service is an excellent way to get hands-on experience. Often, lawyers in the public sector get a great amount of responsibility and experience soon after beginning their first job. In addition, for those persons who are passionate about helping the public, there is a great amount of satisfaction that comes from this type of work. Finally, depending on the type of practice, government attorneys may have a better chance of achieving a work-life balance than private sector attorneys.
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