Labor unions, representing both public and private sector employees, offer a significant number of public service lawyering opportunities. Almost all national and international unions have central legal departments that provide overall legal direction and advice for both the leadership and for local constituents.
Work in a union legal department can include advising officers in contract negotiations, strategizing on organizing campaigns, representing the union before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and working with lobbyists and legislators to develop federal and state legislation.
Union-side labor law firms supplement the work of inside counsel at the national, international and local levels. Such firms also play a major role in local labor-management bargaining and engage in representation before the NLRB and various public sector arbitration bodies.
Lawyers representing unions have extended their practice areas beyond traditional labor law. For instance, these lawyers now practice in such fields as bankruptcy law, as many employers are forced into reorganization or liquidation and corporate law, as more employees become partial or full owners of their corporate employers through employee stock ownership plans, cooperatives or various other kinds of profit-sharing arrangements.