Litigation for Government Agencies
The military branch has its own laws and its own litigators, who serve in the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG Corps). Judge advocates are members of the armed forces whose primary function is to ensure that all members of the military adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The military not only has its own litigators but its own courts, with their own jurisdiction and procedural rules. Judge advocates usually get litigation experience very early in their careers and may work as prosecutors or for the defense in criminal trials and practice in military, state and federal courts. They prepare investigations and conduct trials like any other litigator, but they often have a host of other legal responsibilities as well, like advising officers and providing general legal services to the members of the military.
Military attorneys must make a four-year commitment to the sector of the armed forces for which they work, attend training sessions in military law and, in some cases, be prepared for combat. JAG lawyers could find themselves practicing law on a ship or overseas. Some attorneys enter the JAG Corps after law school, while others enroll in the training program during law school, in which case the military pays for most of their legal education. The salary for JAG lawyers ranges from $45,000 to $58,000 over the course of the four years. The military also pays for housing and various cost-of-living expenses.
Some states have a civil legal aid division which helps indigent people with housing complaints, matrimonial law and children's issues. These lawyers represent clients in different state courts like family court, juvenile court or housing court. It's quite possible to start work as a litigator in a public service agency right out of law school. These agencies have limited funding and are always looking for eager young litigators. As might be expected, these agencies pay very little, often as little as $25,000 in some states. The work, however, can be extremely rewarding. Other government jobs require more experience. SEC prosecutors generally have at least a few years of litigation experience, usually in securities litigation. Similarly, IRS attorneys have prior experience as tax attorneys. Such positions tend to pay more than entry-level jobs, with SEC prosecutors usually earning upwards of $50,000.
Most government attorneys work standard business hours, although exceptions are made during trials and other hectic periods. Government jobs also offer substantial medical and dental benefits and vacations. "I never wanted to try the firm life," says one government litigator. "It pays well, but they really work you over. Here, I work hard, but I have more control over my life." One downside is dealing with the bureaucracy of often inefficient government programs.