Lerner is a member of the Massachusetts bar, having earned her juris doctorate degree from Western New England College School of Law, graduating cum laude. She completed her undergraduate studies cum laude at Northeastern University.
Lerner began her career in government as a staff attorney in the Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice. She served as a Special Assistant in the U.S. Attorney’s Office where she was lead counsel handling felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. In 1981, Lerner moved to the Federal Election Commission, serving as the Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement, and ultimately as the Acting General Counsel.
Lerner is a past president of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) and an active member of the Humane Society of the United States.
Lerner began her IRS service in 2001 as Director Rulings and Agreements in the Exempt Organizations function of TEGE.  In January 2006, she was selected as Director Exempt Organizations. In this capacity, Lerner led an organization of 900 employees responsible for a broad range of compliance activities, including examining the operational and financial activities of exempt organizations, processing applications for tax exemption, providing direction through private letter rulings and technical guidance and providing customer education and outreach to the exempt community.
On May 23, 2013 Lerner was placed on administrative leave. Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel selected Ken Corbin as the acting director of the exempt organizations division. Corbin was the deputy director of the submission processing, wage, and investment division.
2014 Contempt of Congress
In 2014, Lerner was held in Contempt of Congress in connection with the 2013 IRS controversy. The resolution, H.Res. 574, was introduced into the United States House of Representatives on May 7, 2014 by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). The bill was considered on May 7, 2014, and passed in Roll Call Vote 203 with a vote of 231–187. All of the Republicans voted in favor of the bill, along with six Democrats. The resolution holds Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a congressional hearing. Rep. Steve Stockman filed a motion on July 10, 2014 that, if enacted by the House, would direct congressional police to arrest Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress.
- "LOIS G. LERNER DESIGNATED ACTING GENERAL COUNSEL". Federal Election Commission. 2000-12-01.
- Fahrenthold, David A. (May 13, 2013). "IRS official Lois Lerner becomes face of scandal over targeting of conservative groups". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
- "Lois G. Lerner Selected as Director of IRS Exempt Organizations Division". IRC. 2005-12-22.
- "Lois Lerner's Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations - Committee on Oversight & Government Reform".
- "House votes to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress". Fox News.
- "H.Res. 574 - All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- Marcos, Cristina (7 May 2014). "Six Dems vote for Lerner contempt resolution". The Hill. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- Urban, Peter (10 May 2014). "Washington Digest: House GOP takes on Obama administration". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- Rachael Bade. "Steve Stockman pushes House GOP to arrest Lois Lerner". POLITICO.
- Resolution within congressional press release http://stockman.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/stockman-files-motion-ordering-the-arrest-of-lois-lerner
- "Adeline Lerner Obituary: View Adeline Lerner's Obituary by Hartford Courant". Hartford Courant.
- "Amended Filed Complaint - True the Vote v. IRS".