The type of cases the attorney may handle is also determined by what level they may be appointed at. This article will focus on city attorneys, with a brief comparison with other attorneys as well.
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Who Is A City Attorney General?
A city attorney is an attorney or a lawyer that is elected or appointed to work on the city or municipal level in the USA. They are a part of all the cases that may involve the city in any way.
What Does A City Attorney Do?
The job description for a city attorney general encompasses all matters of legal assistance to the city or municipality he or she may be assigned to. These include
- Advisory role: The city attorney acts as an advisor to the city’s various departments and officials, for example, the City Council and the Mayor.
- Civil Litigation: The city attorney handles all disputes to which the city might be a part of.
- Prosecution of Criminals: All crimes committed within the city’s jurisdiction and as that fall under the authority of the city attorney are to be handled by him or her. The city attorney functions as the prosecutor in such cases.
City Attorney Vs District Attorney
The city attorney and the district attorney differ in great part over the type of cases each handles. The district attorney will generally handle the more serious cases and felonies, like drug trafficking, domestic violence, misdemeanour, case filing, child support and victim assistance. The city attorney, on the other hand, handles crimes of lesser importance, like driving under influence or traffic violations. The offices for both the attorney are situated in the district courthouse.
City Attorney Vs Attorney General
The attorney general is the attorney responsible for handling all cases against a state or the government and also represent these two entities if a case is brought against them. Each state has its own elected attorney general that is liable to serve for a fixed term. 43 of the 50 states hold elections to vote for the attorney general. They mostly serve a 4-year term.
The attorney general is responsible for high profile cases and litigations, unlike the city attorney who takes on cases of lesser seriousness and only represents a city within a state.
Working As A City Attorney
Working as a city attorney is a very diverse role to play. Unlike dedicated corporate or criminal lawyers, a city attorney fills in wherever the city may require him, whether it is business dealings, disgruntled partners, neighbours disputing over land, child custody battles, and even minor offences like DUI’s and traffic violations. A normal day at work for a city attorney involves drafting and reviewing resolutions and policies for the City Council to make sure they comply with all federal and state laws. An attorney may also be caught up with municipal law and enforcing the civil code in different cases. He or she has to be aware of the labour rights, land demarcation laws and city zoning. A city attorney goes over all contracts the city makes to make sure there are no discrepancies in them. It is his or her duty stay updated about any changes in state or federal laws and to help in the drafting of new laws as well.
How To Become A City Attorney
To become a city attorney normally requires 7 years of full-time study to obtain a doctoral law degree. This includes 4 years of undergraduate studies in subjects like English, public speaking, history, economics, government and mathematics, followed by 3 years of law school. Many states require that you get a Juris Degree (JD) from an American Bar Association (ABA) certified college after your undergrad. Getting admission in a law school requires the candidate to take a Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam.
To get their license, city attorneys have to pass the bar exam held in the state they want to work in. Multiple bar exams are given if the attorney wants to work in multiple states. After completing the bar exam, the attorney has to appear before an admitting board so they can assess if the individual has enough capability to represent the state in legal matters. This assessment is of both hard and soft skills. Factors that may lead to disqualification include a former felony conviction, past criminal record, academic or professional misconduct, and insufficient subject knowledge.
Lawyers are expected to continue their legal education throughout their practice so they stay updated with current developments in the field. Many states offer licensing and certification programmes on specific subject matter like tax evasion and fraud, healthcare, legal ethics, legal writing and drafting, legislative matters etc.
City Attorney Jobs
City attorney jobs are posted on the respective municipality website as well as on local government websites and newspapers. Make sure you fulfil all the educational requirements of being a city attorney before you apply. Some states, like the state of California, also require the potential candidate to possess a valid driver’s license or be able to do so in the future. Being a member of the state bar association is also helpful when applying.
The experience required to land the job varies from 0 to 2 years. Most city attorneys start as a law clerk and then move on to the positions of the assistant city attorney and city attorney. The skills required for the job include:
- Ability to research
- Ability to communicate effectively
- Ability to solve legal disputes
The expected rate of growth in city attorney jobs is to be 4 per cent by 2029, which is almost the same as the average for all other occupations, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program.
City Attorney Salary
On average, a city attorney makes $37.12 per hour. That comes to about $77,202 per year.
According to Payscale, the median annual city attorney salary stands at about $94,000 per year, with the top 10 per cent talent receiving $152,000 and the bottom 10 per cent getting $50,000, per year.
The city attorney’s salary also depends on the size of the city he is working in.
To wrap it up, a city attorney is responsible for all the legal matters of the city which he represents. This doesn’t mean court practice only – it can range from reviewing agreements to staying ahead of all new state and government legislature, to providing advice to the city’s offices and official personnel. It is a well-paid job, with options for advances in career.