By Jedidiah McKeehan

If you have ever been having a discussion with a lawyer about their work, you may have had a conversation with them that went something like this:


You: What do you do for a living?

Lawyer: I am a lawyer.

You: What kind of work do you do?

Lawyer: I’m in private practice.

You: (Have no idea what that means)


So what does “private practice” means. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “a professional business (such as that of a lawyer or doctor) that is not controlled or paid for by the government or a larger company (such as a hospital).”

Practically, that means that if a lawyer works for the District Attorney’s Office or the State of Tennessee, or any other branch of the government, then they would be considered to have a “public practice,” although that terminology is not used nearly as often as, “private practice.”

For a lawyer a normal way this would get worked into a discussion is, “After 15 years at the Attorney General’s office I decided to go into private practice.”

For those lawyers who are employees of one company, they are not considered to have a private practice or a public practice. These lawyers are called “in-house counsel.” That means they are directly employed by one client and are typically prevented from being able to take on any other clients.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.