Executive Branch

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This branch includes federal, state and local agencies that create and administer regulations and government cabinet departments.

Federal Government

The Cabinet of the President of the United States includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 federal departments: the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Attorney General (who heads the Department of Justice). Each of these departments (except the Department of Justice) is divided into staff offices, including the Office of the General Counsel, where most attorney positions are found. Attorneys are also found in policy-oriented positions throughout each cabinet department. At the Department of Justice, almost all members of the "executive" (as opposed to "clerical") staff are lawyers. They represent the United States in litigation.

In addition to the 15 Departments, the Executive branch of the US government also includes hundreds of agencies, bureaus, and commissions, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Census Bureau, and the Peace Corps. Generally, federal agency attorneys administer federal programs, conduct investigations of possible violations of administrative regulations, and write and interpret regulations and advisory opinions.

Many federal agencies hire summer interns (paid and unpaid) and new attorneys through their "honors" programs. Government honors programs provide a great opportunity for students and recent graduates to explore a career in federal government. Many government agencies, such as the US Department of Justice, only hire recent graduates through their honors programs. Honors programs for new graduates are a two year commitment with potential for moving on to additional government career opportunities after program completion. Deadlines for honors program applications are often as early as July for the following summer or fall, so do not wait until spring if you wish to pursue an internship or fellowship with the federal government.

State Government

Similar to the federal government, state governments have their own cabinet departments and agencies responsible for promulgating state regulations on specific legal areas. These state agencies also employ attorneys to investigate violations of these regulations, write and interpret regulations, and write advisory opinions.

The Attorney General's office is the state counterpart of the federal Department of Justice. This office represents the state government in court and has regulatory and law enforcement responsibilities. State government also includes District Attorneys and Public Defenders who are paid by the state.

Local Government

At the local level, attorneys can be found in positions such as City or County Attorneys or "Corporation Counsels" (the equivalent of a City Attorney in large cities). These positions may involve representing city councils, county boards, mayors, and other municipal employees in local government issues such as economic development, zoning, environmental regulations, labor relations, and civil rights. Larger cities or counties may have attorneys who represent specific factions of the local government such as the police department, the Department of Social Services, or the city or county housing department.

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