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Conditions of Employment

Conditions of Employment
Experienced and Entry-Level (Honors Program) Attorneys

Hiring Process
Length of Appointment
Security and Suitability Issues (Background Investigation)
Drug Testing
Withdrawal of An Offer of Employment
Residency and Citizenship Requirements
Bar Membership
Veterans' Preference Eligibility and Attorney Hiring

Experienced Attorneys: Experienced attorneys (defined as individuals with a law degree who are active members of a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) and who have at least one year post-law school experience) are hired through direct responses to posted vacancy announcements. Specific qualifications, application deadlines, how to submit an application, and other important information is contained in each announcement. Attorney vacancy announcements are posted online and can be accessed from the Office of Attorney Recruitment website using the navigation panel on the left.

Entry-Level Attorneys: Entry-level attorneys (graduating law students, judicial law clerks and graduate law students) are hired only though the centrally managed Attorney General's Honors Program, which has an annual application season that begins on August 1 and ends in mid-September. Please review the Honors Program eligibility criteria to determine the appropriate time frame in which to apply. Applications are accepted online through this web site. Detailed information is available under the "Opportunities for Attorneys/ Entry-Level Attorneys" link.

Experienced Attorneys: Experienced attorney hiring is generally for a permanent position. If the position is for a limited term appointment, that information is specified in the vacancy announcement.

Entry-Level Attorneys: Honors Program appointments are for permanent attorney positions, with the exception of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and certain U.S. Attorney’s Offices. EOIR hires candidates for one- or two-year clerkships. BOP hires candidates for two-year fellowships. DEA participates informally, but generally hires two candidates each year for one-year clerkships. Some U.S. Attorney’s Offices hire for two-year term appointments.

Security and Suitability Issues (Background Investigation): Candidates who accept an offer must undergo a full field background investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation includes a name and fingerprint check; interviews with references, close personal associates, former spouses, former employers, co-workers, neighbors, landlords, and educational institutions; and a thorough check of credit, military, tax, and police records. The background investigation covers a period of seven to ten years. This process may take seven months or more to complete.

Drug Testing: It is the policy of the Department to achieve a drug-free workplace, and persons selected for employment will be required to pass a drug test to screen for current illegal drug use prior to final appointment.

Withdrawal of An Offer of Employment: The Department can withdraw an offer of employment if the investigation process reveals information that precludes a security and/or suitability clearance. Common problems that arise in background investigations that may result in the withdrawal of an offer include a history of unlawful use of drugs, failure to fulfill tax obligations, failure to comply with financial obligations, failure to register for the selective service (male applicants only), abuse of alcohol, or misrepresentation on the security forms. The Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) can advise candidates who receive offers of employment on issues regarding potential suitability problems.

Residency and Citizenship Requirements: The Department of Justice coordinates with the U.S. Department of State to identify the countries whose citizens may lawfully be employed by a U.S. federal agency. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for positions with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the U.S. Trustee's Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Positions at U.S. Attorney's Offices are restricted to U.S. citizens and individuals who owe permanent allegiance to the United States (currently, natives of American Samoa, Swains Island, and certain inhabitants of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.) Dual citizens of the United States and another country are considered on a case-by-case basis. Non-U.S. citizens may apply for employment with other Department components, but appointments are extremely rare; an appointment would be possible only if necessary to accomplish the Department's mission and would be subject to statutory restrictions on the expenditure of funds and strict security requirements.

Candidates are subject to a residency requirement. Any candidate who has lived outside the United States for two of the past five years may have difficulty being approved for appointment by the Department's Security Staff. Federal or military employees, or dependents of federal or military employees serving overseas, are excepted from this requirement.

Experienced Attorneys: Experienced attorneys must be an active member in good standing of a bar of any U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, U.S. Attorney's Offices (USAOs) frequently have specific residency and bar admission requirements. It is not unusual for USAOs to require Assistant U.S. Attorneys to be admitted to the bar of the state where the USAO is located.

Entry-level Attorneys: All Honors Program attorneys are required to pass a bar examination and be active members of the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of entry on duty. Only one 14-month federal appointment pending bar admission can be approved. This can affect Honors Program attorneys who are hired for one-year clerkships (i.e., for an Immigration or Administrative Law judge) who then reapply to the Honors Program. It is not unusual for U.S. Attorneys' Offices that hire Honors Program attorneys to require them to become admitted to the bar of the state in which the USAO is located.

VETERANS’ PREFERENCE ELIGIBILITY AND ATTORNEY HIRING: There is no formal rating system for applying veterans' preference to attorney appointments in the excepted service; however, the Department of Justice considers veterans' preference eligibility as a positive factor in attorney hiring. Attorney appointments within the Department of Justice are positions in the excepted service, not the competitive civil service. The online application system for the Honors Program permits applicants eligible for veterans' preference to include that information on a voluntary basis. Preference eligible veterans responding to vacancy announcements may claim preference in a cover letter or resume. Submission of a DD Form 214 is required to confirm veterans’ preference eligibility.

Not all veterans are eligible for veterans' preference. Preference eligibility is generally limited to those honorably separated veterans who served on active duty (not active duty for training) in the Armed Forces who meet the other specific requirements (e.g., served in a campaign or expedition for which an expeditionary medal is authorized, were awarded a Purple Heart, are disabled, etc.) "Armed Forces" is defined in 5 U.S. Code § 2101(2) and means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. To find out whether you qualify, visit the Veterans' Preference Advisor, operated by the Department of Labor "elaws". For additional information on eligibility, visit the Office of Personnel Management Veterans Employment Information and review the "Vets Info Guide" and the "Vets Guide."

Military retirees at the rank of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or higher, are not eligible for veterans' preference unless they are disabled veterans. (This does not apply to Reservists who do not begin drawing military retired pay until age 60.)

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