Attorney Advisor Job: How to Gain Key Competencies

How to Gain the Competencies for an Attorney Advisor Job


Government agencies undertake tremendous responsibilities such as protecting the nation from terrorist attacks and safeguarding public health. The work often requires completing tasks with complex legal implications, which demands expert legal counsel. Attorney advisors help agencies to operate within the law and provide advice on domestic and international issues.

Securing an attorney advisor job requires legal and diplomatic expertise. Those inspired by the opportunity to counsel government agencies should consider the benefits of earning an advanced degree in diplomacy. A Master of Arts in Diplomacy degree can help professionals develop specialized skills for success as an attorney advisor. 

What Is an Attorney Advisor?

Attorney advisors work closely with government officials to help them understand pending laws that will affect their agencies or for which they hold responsibility for implementation and enforcement. If Congress passes a cybersecurity law, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for cybersecurity, will counsel with attorney advisors to determine the regulations needed to enact the intent of the law. When necessary, attorney advisors recommend ways to alter agencies’ current policies. They also consider the policies needed to ensure that the agencies’ operations and practices adhere to the new legislation. They may also give advice on issues relevant to the agencies. For instance, an attorney advisor working for the Office of Tribal Justice may discuss legal ways to protect Native American rights.

Attorney advisors also represent their agencies before state and federal regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and federal and appellate courts. Additionally, they may represent their agencies in meetings or on task forces with domestic and international government officials, deliberating on the legal aspects of subjects like arms control or information sharing in the intelligence community.

Attorney advisors also assist in formulating and putting into practice U.S. foreign policies.  These legal professionals also participate in U.S. diplomacy. When government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of State, handle international issues, attorney advisors help them make decisions within an international legal framework that best promotes U.S. interests. These issues may relate to the environment, economics, and international business, among other topics. The attorney advisor’s work can involve advising agencies about the technical language of international agreements and helping officials to consider specific legal provisions. Responsibilities also may require participating in diplomatic conferences, representing the U.S. in meetings with international organizations, and assisting in the representation of the U.S. in United Nations sessions.

The Skills of an Attorney Advisor               

Attorney advisors’ duties and responsibilities require fundamental skills. Researching intricate legal issues, accurately interpreting complex laws and understanding their implications demand advanced analytical skills. Offering legal analysis to non-legal experts and collaborating in the development and implementation of policies and regulations require superior interpersonal and communication skills. Attorney advisors also must possess in-depth knowledge of their field. For instance, to effectively serve the Office of Tribal Justice, an attorney advisor needs a layered understanding of federal Indian law. 

Developing these key skills requires the right education. Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy offers a curriculum that refines the skills needed to meet the challenges of an attorney advisor job. The program’s concentrations prepare graduates for specific roles that fall under the attorney advisor umbrella.

  • Cyber Diplomacy (Policy):  Offers an in-depth study of the issues and debates in international relations relevant to cyberspace. Students select from courses addressing terrorism, cyber laws, and the protection of critical infrastructure.
  • International Commerce: Focuses on developing expertise with tools that help to manage public and private international organizations. Coursework covers economics, commerce, and cross-cultural management in the international system.
  • International Conflict Management: Examines what causes international conflicts. Students study the international economic system, how conflicts are avoided and resolved, and the use of conflict management in diplomacy.
  • International Terrorism: Explores state-sponsored terrorism’s role in the international community. Coursework covers international security, the response to transnational terrorism, and the practice of diplomacy.

Attorney Advisor Salary and Job Market

Attorney advisors can find positions throughout the government. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that legal occupations will grow by 7% and diplomacy occupations will grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028. In addition, according to November 2019 data from PayScale, the median annual salary of attorney advisors is around $79,000. The following are some government agencies in which attorney advisors may seek employment:

  • U.S. Department of Justice: The top law enforcement agency that protects the public against threats and crime and seeking fair punishment for those found guilty.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: With a mission of protecting the health of Americans, this department houses a legal team that provides advice on its programs.
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: Helps protect investors by creating regulations that support fair, organized, efficient markets that encourage economic growth.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Many agencies exist within this department that addresses security issues, including border control, emergency response, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and terrorism.

Learn More About Becoming an Attorney Advisor

Attorney advisors enjoy unique opportunities to engage in diplomacy and shape legal policies in the government. Those interested in acquiring an attorney advisor job need the right mix of legal and diplomatic expertise. Discover how Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program educates professionals on diplomacy.

Recommended Readings

5 Bodies of International Law
An Introduction to America’s Foreign Policy
8 Books for Students Obtaining a Master of Arts in Diplomacy


Master of Arts in Diplomacy, Norwich University
Average Legal Advisor Salary, PayScale
Lawyers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
About Us, Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State
Attorney Advisor, U.S. Department of Justice
Attorney Advisor (Division Counsel - Public and Government Affairs), U.S. Department of Justice
Political Scientists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Office of the General Counsel (OGC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
About DOJ, U.S. Department of Justice
What We Do, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
About DHS, U.S. Department of Homeland Security


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