Home Jobs & Education What Does the Attorney General Do?

To put it straight, the answer to “what does the attorney general do” is that he or she is the counselor to its legislature as well as to state agencies. At the same time, he or she acts as the “people’s lawyer.” As the primary legal officer, the attorney general office is the place from where investigations are conducted.

The position originates from 13th century England. Back then the title was “King’s Attorney”. The position, up until the American Revolution, became that of an advisor to both the Royalty and agencies that composed the government. Nevertheless, the roots for the position of Attorney General can be seen in England during the Middle Ages.

what does the attorney general do

There are 50 state attorney generals, one for each state. Each one of them is nominated by the President and approved by the U.S. Senate. However, there is only one General Attorney, also appointed and confirmed by the President and U.S. Senate. Although there is no fixed term for the attorney generals office, the President can remove  the state attorney at any time. Furthermore, the Congress can impeach and trial the general attorney at any time, if necessary.

Throughout the history of the United States of America there have been 83 Attorney Generals. Janet Reno has held the office of Attorney General for eight years, making it one of the longest serving U.S. attorney generals. She served from March 12, 1993 until January 20, 2001. However, William Wirt served for twelve years as the head of the Justice Department, from November 15, 1817 to March 3, 1829. Other important Attorney Generals who served for more than four years are:

  • Eric Holder
  • William F. Smith
  • Thomas Gregory
  • Benjamin F. Butler
  • Herbert Brownell, Jr.
  • Caesar Rodney
  • Charles Lee
  • Homer Cummings


What Does the Attorney General Do: Daily Duties

  • Represents the United States government in legal matters.
  • Supervises and directs both the operations and the administration of the Department that is made of bureaus, divisions. boards and offices, including the state attorney office.
  • Provides opinions and advice, both formal and informal, to the President, Cabinet and the leading executive heads of various departments and agencies within the government. All of these actions must be given on legal issues.
  • Provides to the President recommendations for positions of U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals. All of these recommendations must be provided in regard to federal judicial and Department seats.
  • Acts as the representative of the United States Government in all courts, both domestic and foreign, the Supreme Court included.
  • Supervises all duties needed as shown by the statute or Executive Order.

General Attorney Job Description

The office of Attorney General was created in 1789, as a result of the Judiciary Act in the same year. The Congress adopted in June 187o the law “An Act to Establish the Department of Justice”. Through this law, the Attorney General was given direct supervision and control of the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Marshals.

The Attorney General must also supersive and administer the operations of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Prisons. All of them are within the Department of Justice.

What does the attorney general do apart from the duties enumerated above? According to the job description, the Attorney General must also enforce federal laws, engage in legal counseling within federal cases, describe and enact laws that govern executive departments, investigates supposed violations of federal laws. It is important to make the distinction between state and general attorney.

For example, both Ohio attorney general office and the Texas attorney general office are state attorney generals. There are some differences between the two. For instance, the Texas office of the attorney general can sentence people to death if not proven otherwise.

Therefore, the office of the attorney general, head of the U.S. Department of Justice must first and foremost provide legal counseling to state agencies as well as the President, in legal matters that threaten the U.S. Government.

Skills Needed to be an Attorney General

As the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Attorney General must be a law school graduate. Afterward, the person must be a licensed attorney who practiced for at least five years. Other than that, the person must have U.S. citizenship and to be a qualified voter.

Other skills implied are patience and also be versed in law enforcement psychomotor skills. The Attorney General must also be a good administrator. This is due to the fact that there are many bureaus and offices under the direct supervision and administration of the Attorney General.

We hope that our answers to “what does the Attorney General do?” are most helpful in learning about this well-regarded occupation. If you know of other Attorney Generals that have served for long periods of time, or know more about the position of Head of the Justice Department, please let us know. You can leave your feedback or inquiries in the comment section below.

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Erika Schwartz

Dear reader, my name is Erika and I am an actress, arts teacher and film analyst. I studied theatre and film for over four years, and changed more than 15 part-time jobs. What can I say? It is a tough industry. I love dance, especially tango, music, and basically anything art-related. I also enjoy writing about the captivating and dynamic world of entertainment. When I work, I seek the perfect balance between usefulness and beauty. I like to describe myself as the most optimistic person alive.


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