Everyone wants to talk about municipal law. Well, that may not actually be the case. The truth is that not many people truly understand the full scope of municipal law. What is compelling is that it can, and often does, influence and affect our day-to-day lives.
Municipal attorneys deal with the laws of a city
Many of the attorneys who work in municipal law serve the needs of a city government. There are four classifications of cities: from first class with the highest population, to second, third and fourth.
Some attorneys will specialize and only represent one or two classes of cities. Other attorneys represent all four. Laws can vary by city type.
- For example, a city may be a statutory city. This type of city is organized and operates under state statutes.
- A city could also be a home rule charter city, which is organized and operated as per the charter that was approved by the voters in the city.
Municipal attorneys have been known to keep audiences entirely engrossed for hours in conversations about city types. Well, that may be somewhat of an exaggeration.
The different areas of municipal law
Many municipal attorneys “fell” into municipal law. Not many people head into law school with the goal of working on variances and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Standard Operating Guidelines (SOG). But at one point or another a “moment” happened where the reason for that attorney being in municipal law became clear.
Basically, what municipal attorneys handle are the things that make a city work. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Land use, disputes zoning, platting, conditional use, annexation
- Licensing and regulation, traffic, liquor, nuisances
- Purchase and sale of real estate, contracts
- Council meetings and ordinances
- Utilities and telecommunications
- Environmental law
- Eminent domain issues and condemnation
- Development and housing
- Bonds, public finance, taxes, special use, user fees
Municipal attorneys are in some ways the people who are here to “pick up the pieces” after a natural disaster, pandemic, or city-wide trauma. It is typically in these times that the role of a municipal attorney becomes crucial. It is also in these times that having attorneys who do this work matters most.