What Is a Bond Attorney?

A bond attorney is a lawyer who represents municipal bondholders' interests during a bond offering and who prepares a legal opinion attesting that the issue is legal, valid, and binding. They also play other roles to ensure value for the bondholders during bond and note offerings.

Key Takeaways

  • A bond attorney is a lawyer who represents municipal bondholders' best interests during a bond offering.
  • Bond attorneys prepare legal opinions attesting that the issue is legal, valid, and binding. They also help develop strategies for municipalities and manage the documentation of a bond issuance, among other roles.
  • To practice as a bond attorney, an individual needs to pass the state bar exam and have a Juris Doctor degree.
  • Bond attorneys work for government agencies and banks and are well trained in tax and security law.
  • When working for a government or municipality, a bond attorney is responsible for assisting in the raising of funds to finance certain projects.
  • When working for a bank, a bond attorney represents the bank's interests.
  • Bond attorney industry groups will sometimes lobby on behalf of certain issues affecting their lawyer members.

Understanding a Bond Attorney

A municipal bond refers to a debt security offered by a state, county, or local government to finance capital expenditures in a locality, such as infrastructure construction or school funding. Such bonds and notes are exempt from federal taxes, and often state and local taxes, depending on the location of the bondholder. The tax-exempt status makes them appealing investment vehicles.

Bond attorneys are highly trained and very specialized. They are required to pass the state bar exam and need a Juris Doctor degree to practice. Typically, they work for government agencies or banks and are well-trained in tax and security law. 

As part of their assessment of the bond, the attorney will often investigate its intended purpose and research the applicable laws accordingly. They will also help the government agency or bank ascertain that an issue is correct, complete, and properly structured.

Given that such bonds pledge the full faith and credit of the issuer, which is payable from limited municipal revenue sources, strict attention to detail and an understanding of legal and financial requirements are critical to protecting the interests of bondholders. It is also critical to protect the interests of the funding bank when the bond attorney is representing the financial institution involved in the issuance.

Career as a Bond Attorney

Some of the bond attorney's responsibilities include:

  • Helping state or local governments develop strategies for structuring their bond offerings
  • Attending or presiding over bond hearings
  • Managing the documentation for the bond issuance
  • Attesting to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or other agencies about the validity of a sale

As the American College of Bond Counsel explains, bond lawyers are experts in all facets of municipal issues. These issues might include "bonds, notes, revenue certificates, warrants and other forms of debt issued by or on behalf of states, territories, and possessions of the United States, their political subdivisions, Native American tribes, and the District of Columbia."

When working for a government or municipality, a bond attorney is responsible for assisting in the raising of funds to finance certain projects. They must make sure that the bond issuance abides by all laws and helps the municipality.

When working for a bank, a bond attorney represents the bank that is providing the funding for the municipal project and that will issue the bonds.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for all lawyers, including a bond attorney, was $122,960 in 2019. The projected job growth for all lawyers between 2019-2029 is 4%.

Lobbying Activities of a Bond Attorney

Bond attorney industry groups will sometimes lobby on behalf of certain issues affecting their lawyer members. For example, in August 2017, the National Association of Bond Lawyers recommended the creation of new categories of tax-exempt and taxable bonds to help with the financing of infrastructure, utilities, and schools.

As the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress weighed spending as much as $1 billion on national infrastructure projects, NABL saw it as an opportunity to put forth a series of suggestions for the ways tax-exempt bonds could be used to pay for public works.