SIC 9222

This classification includes government establishments primarily engaged in providing legal counsel to or prosecution for their governments and operation or administration of crime prevention programs. Government establishments primarily engaged in the collection of criminal justice statistics are classified in SIC 9229: Public Order and Safety, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

922130 (Legal Counsel and Prosecution)

Criminal practice and procedure is an area of law that encompasses both private and public employment. As further discussed, those accused of a crime may hire private legal counsel for their defense or, if they qualify as indigent, may request the trial court to appoint counsel for them ("public defenders"). Conversely, all prosecuting and "district" attorneys are public employees at the local, state, or federal level. This is because all crimes, even if committed against individuals, actually are violations of local, state, or federal laws. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there were at least 474,000 judicial and legal employees working at all levels of government in 2000, including approximately 400 federal magistrate judges. Magistrates render findings of probable cause, order warrants, and often conduct criminal misdemeanor trials.

Defense attorneys may represent clients accused of nearly any crime, including "white-collar" offenses such as fraud, stock manipulation, or tax evasion. Many defense attorneys work for a local office of the public defender—a state or county government agency established to provide legal representation for accused who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. Because the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to adequate legal counsel, many people use this service. In fact, some offices are overwhelmed by the number of people in need of legal representation, in which case the court appoints an attorney from a private law firm—compensated at a given rate at government expense—to represent the accused. Defense attorneys also come from private law firms or from legal aid clinics established to provide legal services to the poor. Finally, public interest organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), among others, sometimes employ lawyers to represent clients in criminal court proceedings.

Prosecuting attorneys may work for federal government offices such as the Justice Department or the U.S. Attorney's Office, for state offices of the attorney general, or for a city or county in the office of the district attorney. The majority of prosecuting attorneys work at the county level as deputy district attorneys, representing the government against those accused of violating state and local laws, including the initiation of proceedings against inebriates, the mentally ill, narcotics addicts, and those accused of nonsupport of minor children.

The district attorney also is the legal advisor to the county grand jury, which is utilized to hear testimony and examine evidence for the purpose of determining whether an indictment will be pursued against the accused. District attorneys often maintain their own staff of investigators to pursue crimes of greater severity in efforts to assure a more successful prosecution. District attorneys may operate their own intelligence units to combat organized crime.

The Justice Department and U.S. attorney conduct investigations and prosecutions of serious federal crimes, such as political assassination, organized crime and racketeering, and crimes that take place on federal lands such as national parks, museums, and federal government buildings. Drug trafficking also falls within their jurisdiction. In 2003, there were 93 U.S. attorneys (appointed by the president of the United States) serving throughout the United States and its territories/possessions.

For lawyers interested in government service, job prospects may become brighter. Public concerns about crime and the administration of justice may lead to increased funding to payroll additional government-employed lawyers and judges. Government lawyers generally enjoy greater job security than lawyers in private practice but may earn significantly less, at least in the early stages of a career.

By contrast, government lawyers frequently are given greater responsibility at an earlier stage of their career than their counterparts in private practice. They sometimes handle trials for significant criminal prosecutions early in their career, often battling skilled and prominent private lawyers in the courtroom. In addition, many government prosecutors and defense attorneys utilize the valuable experience gained through government service to successfully pursue careers in private law firms, elective office, or judgeships.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys primarily are employed by city and county government entities, as well as state and federal agencies. Some legal positions also are available in the armed forces. The majority of the lawyers who work for the government do so at the local level, where judicial and legal employees outnumber their federal counterparts more than four to one. Most of the lawyers working for the federal government are employed by the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Defense, and advance through the civil service system.

Further Reading

American Bar Association. Chicago: American Bar Association. Available from .

U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States:2002. Washington, DC. Available from .

U.S. Department of Justice. "United States Attorneys. &rdqou; 11 February 2002. Available from .

——. Comparing Case Processing Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998. Available from .

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2003. Available from .

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