State, Local, and Municipal Law Lawyers

While federal law is the law of the entire country, most people are more affected by state laws. State, local, and municipal law lawyers specialize in their regional jurisdictions and help clients with a variety of legal issues.

Determining the Jurisdiction of a Case

The vast majority of legal issues are handled at a state or local level, which is why it is so important to work with a local lawyer. The federal court system is limited to:[1][2]

  • Cases that involve the United States as a party
  • Violations of the U.S. Constitution
  • Violations of federal laws, with certain requirements in place
  • Cases between residents of different states with amounts involved that exceed $75,000
  • Bankruptcy cases
  • Maritime law cases
  • Intellectual property cases
  • Cases that involve international treaties or ambassadors
  • Disputes between states

In some instances, you may have a choice of state or federal courts. In these situations, a lawyer can determine which makes the most sense for you.

When Do I Need a State, Local, and Municipal Law Lawyer?

For the average person, most legal issues fall under state jurisdiction or municipal policies. Some of the examples of cases that require a state lawyer include:[2]

  • Tort cases, including personal injury and other types of negligence
  • Probate cases involving wills and estates
  • Most cases involving contracts
  • Family law, such as divorce and child support cases
  • Most criminal cases

In many cases, it’s also important to have a lawyer based right in your local area. Municipal and local laws and regulations impact certain kinds of cases:

  • Issues that arise over zoning and land use
  • Local safety concerns
  • Rent and tenancy disputes
  • Issues in local public schools

You must have a lawyer who understands not just state laws but also the local and city laws and regulations that impact your case.

Reasons to Work with State, Local, and Municipal Law Lawyers

If your legal issue falls within state or local jurisdiction, a lawyer specializing in federal laws won’t be much help. You will benefit more from having a lawyer who knows your state, county, and city laws.

  1. They know the laws that matter
    Most people with legal issues do not have federal court cases or that are relevant to the U.S. Constitution. Your matter is likely local or based on state laws, which means you need a lawyer versed in these laws.
  2. They’ll keep you on deadline
    State laws are largely responsible for setting time limits on lawsuits. You must adhere to your state’s statute of limitations, or you can lose your chance to file suit. State lawyers know these details and keep their clients on track.
  3. They have a local network
    Not only do state and local lawyers know the applicable laws, but they also have a network that is relevant to your case. They know local experts that can help in your lawsuit. They are also familiar with the judges who may hear your case.
  4. They understand the court system
    State courts operate differently from federal courts. Each state court system operates in its own way. A lawyer from your state knows how to get a case through the unique court system relevant to your case.

How to Choose State, Local, and Municipal Law Lawyers

It’s not difficult to find a local lawyer. Most firms advertise locally and have their offices in the cities and states where they operate. You can find a local firm online or through advertisements in the newspaper or on your local television stations.

Just because a lawyer is local does not mean they are the right choice for your case. You need to match the location to your specific need. For instance, if you have a rent dispute with a landlord, a lawyer local to your municipality and versed in real estate and tenancy laws is essential.

Begin with lawyers or firms with the right expertise and jurisdiction and request free initial consultations to interview them. Hiring a lawyer is a significant expense, so take care doing it and reject anyone who will not see you initially for free. Important questions to ask include:

  • How long have you been working in this area of the law and in this state?
  • Have you handled cases like mine or worked with clients like me?
  • Can you provide client references and show me the outcomes of similar cases?
  • Who will handle my case?
  • What will you do to research and investigate to build my case?
  • What do you recommend I do next?
  • How do you see my case turning out, and how long do you think it will take?
  • What are your fees?

Avoid any lawyers you cannot afford or ask for a lot of money upfront. Also, be suspicious of any lawyers who are hard to reach or seem unorganized and overwhelmed. Firms with too many cases may not have time for yours.

How to Work with Your State Lawyer

Once you have selected the right lawyer to help you, it’s time to build a good working relationship. This works both ways. You want a lawyer with the right expertise and experience, who has the time and resources to help you, and who has had good outcomes in the past.

They want clients who are communicative and easy to reach, who provide all the information they need to help them, and who pay their bills on time. Ask questions throughout the process and be available to your lawyer. While they do most of the work, they need your input, support, and honesty.

Work with state, local, and municipal law lawyers when you have a case relevant to these jurisdictions. For most situations, you need these lawyers rather than those who work with federal laws and courts.

  1. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Federal Question Jurisdiction.
    Retrieved from:
  2. United States Courts. (n.d.). Comparing Federal & State Courts.
    Retrieved from: