Attorneys that serve the public's interest may practice law in several capacities. They offer individualized legal services to clients, as well as work on legal reformation. They are found in many nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Public lawyers work with charitable organizations, educational institutions and international organizations. They will often perform services for clients for reduced fees or at no cost to an individual.
You need to earn a juris doctorate degree from an institution accredited by the American Bar Association. The student must obtain a license from their state in order to practice law. Continuing education is often required due to the fact that the law is fluid and changes often, especially as new public policies are set.
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The primary characteristic of a public attorney that separates them from a private attorney is their clientele. They serve the public interest in some fashion. They may become a public defender taking on clients who are unable to afford an attorney, upholding the rights of all citizens to have legal representation. Or they may work for a large branch of government on international law. In both cases a public attorney's efforts benefit the public. Some of the cases a public lawyer may get involved with are:
The best candidates will be able to write well. They also must have the ability to work with agency officials on all levels. Any lawyer needs to be well organized and analytical. As with any attorney, good communications skills are vital. They also must have a strong understanding of any particular regulations or rules unique to their area of practice. For instance, if an attorney works in patents, they will want to have a good understanding of patent law.
Because the public lawyer will be an advocate for legal matters that affect private citizens or public policy, their caseloads reflect this fact. They may work with an individual or group. Here are just a few examples:
The salary for a public lawyer will largely depend on the employer. Public defenders salaries are regulated by U.S. circuit courts of appeals. They stipulate that a public defender's salary not exceed the U.S. attorney who makes $157,000 according to Law.com. Other public lawyers' salaries are not as well defined. A New York public attorney may start out at $38,000 a year, less than the reported median entry-level salary of $42,000.
The jobs available for public lawyers will continue to grow at about 10% a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure covers all attorneys; therefore, the need for public attorneys may vary--especially as the economy continues to change.
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