About Municipal & Local Government Law
Lawyers who practice municipal and local government law deal with the powers, procedures and operations of local governmental units. The primary focus is on service to municipal clients, including cities, towns, villages, counties, and special districts. Municipal attorneys often handle a full range of trial and non-trial representation, from defending suits brought against the municipality to drafting ordinances. Lawyers who do this kind of work may also be involved in lobbying, labor and employment law, taxation, urban renewal, land acquisition and development, land use regulation, public bidding and contracts, waste disposal, traffic and ordinance violations, and much more.
Municipal lawyers often work directly for a governmental unit as city attorneys or corporation counsel, often specializing in a particular area of law. However, many private practitioners serve as general counsel for smaller municipalities who do not have in-house counsel, providing a full range of legal services for their municipal clients. Private practitioners are also frequently hired as special counsel for specific projects or matters.
Note: Whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand. View the Course Descriptions for more information about each course and when it's offered.
These are the entry level courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have.
Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.
These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty area.
Judicial Internship Program
The Judicial Internship Program gives students an opportunity to work with trial and appellate judges and view the judicial process from the perspective of the decision maker. Placements include the Wisconsin Supreme Court; Wisconsin Court of Appeals; Dane County Circuit Courts; United States District Court in both Milwaukee and Madison; and, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Students able to get placement within a court outside of Wisconsin are also allowed to participate. Students get to observe the court system from the inside; meet judges, clerks, and lawyers; learn about the work of judges and their law clerks; and evaluate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of lawyers appearing before the courts. The actual work performed may vary from judge to judge but the emphasis is on research and writing.
Labor Law Externship
The Labor Law Externship provides placements for students in a labor law setting. Students spend two days a week working under the supervision of attorneys of the National Labor Relations Board in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in Madison, or in other similar agencies. They attend hearings, write draft opinions, research issues, write memos, and in general are exposed to the broad range of work done by the agency. A weekly seminar on current issues provides additional learning opportunities.
Wisconsin Department of Justice Externship
Students work in various civil units of the Wisconsin Department of Justice,at the Department of Natural Resources, 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, or the Midwest Environmental Advocates. The program offers law students a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in public advocacy and litigation. Externs practice trial, appellate and administrative law with some of the state's most well-respected litigators, working on matters statewide importance. A weekly seminar accompanies the placement.
Student Organizations & Related Activities
Students involved in student activities and organizations are often strong job candidates. Employers look for students who show leadership, public service, and community involvement.
For a full list of student organizations at UW Law, view the Student Organizations, Journals, & Activities.
The Law School's adjunct faculty members — prominent practicing lawyers and judges — bring their specialized knowledge and experience to the classroom in this area. Filter by "Adjunct" in the Law School Directory for a full list.