As residents of Texas’s Gulf Coast cities go about their daily lives, few stop to think about their city’s laws and who helps create them. That is where a city attorney comes in. City attorneys play a major role in shaping the everyday lives of thousands – sometimes millions – of people. So, what exactly does a city attorney do?
Handling the important legal tasks
City attorneys handle all the legal issues involved in operating a city. Like district attorneys and public defenders, city attorneys are employed through the state. Unlike district attorneys and public defenders, they typically handle civil and not criminal cases. The daily work of a city attorney can vary widely depending on the size of the city and how many attorneys the city employs. Some of their most common duties, though, include:
- Developing and implementing city laws, also called ordinances
- Helping to run the city’s municipal court
- Defending the city from claims and representing them in litigation
- Representing the city in negotiations with public employees or unions
- Ensuring the city complies with state and federal regulations
- Providing legal advice to the mayor and the city’s various departments
Most cities have at least one city attorney that works for the City Attorney’s Office. Larger cities often have multiple attorneys. Small towns might employ only one attorney or might contract a nearby law firm to handle legal services. City Attorney’s Offices frequently collaborate with outside counsel, particularly for complex or large issues.
Helping behind the scenes
It is not common to stop and think about who is handling legal procedures, drafting regulations and guiding the city council behind the scenes. But the work of city attorneys is apparent in just about every facet of one’s daily life. From having a municipal court system that runs efficiently to setting the policy that guides residents’ lives, we have city attorneys to thank for it.