Remarks* of Deputy Attorney General
LARRY D. THOMPSON
Wednesday - February 5, 2003
Great Hall, Department of Justice
Thank you, General Ashcroft.
How fitting it is that we gather today in this Great Hall, a symbol of our stewardship of justice. In the men and women of this Department reposes the trust of a great people to achieve justice under the rule of law.
Our pursuit of justice is stronger, and the fulfillment of our national mission more effective, when we bring to bear the experience, judgment, and energy of colleagues from a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds.
To succeed fully in our mission, we must earn and retain the trust and confidence of all Americans in how we fulfill our responsibility as custodians of justice. And that trust and confidence is a function of the American people's understanding that the Department of Justice draws on the finest legal talent from every quarter of this great nation.
As the Attorney General announced, today we embark on a series of initiatives that will enhance our ability both to pursue justice, and to demonstrate to the American people our commitment to justice. These initiatives differ in form and substance. But all of them have a common purpose: namely, to strengthen the Department of Justice's attorney workforce by intensifying outreach to individuals from a wide range of racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds, and by creating incentives to enter and remain in public service. Of course, in undertaking these initiatives, we will continue to demand that the attorneys who comprise and represent the Department of Justice meet the highest standards of excellence and professionalism.
These, I believe, important initiatives are as follows: First, we will make a more aggressive and focused effort to reach out to and educate law students and young lawyers - especially minority students and lawyers - about the benefits of a career at the Department of Justice, and to make information more readily available about employment opportunities at the Department - both at Main Justice and in the field. This effort commenced last year when a number of senior Department officials, myself included, visited law schools throughout the United States to recruit applicants for the Attorney General's Honors Program.
In the coming months, we will expand this initiative to include the placement of advertisements about careers at the Department of Justice in publications aimed at minority audiences, as well as in state and local bar publications throughout the United States. In addition, we will increase the number and regional distribution of appearances by senior Department officials at conferences and symposia attended by minority attorneys. Overseeing this initiative will be a new Deputy for Recruitment in the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, whose responsibility, among other things, will be to proactively identify ways to recruit a diverse and talented applicant pool for the Attorney General's Honors Program and lateral vacancies at the Department.
Second, we will make information about attorney and supervisory vacancies more transparent and accessible both to attorneys outside the Department, and to our own personnel. Within 30 days, all attorney and supervisory vacancies, including vacancies at U.S. Attorney's Offices, will be posted on the DOJ Intranet, thereby facilitating lateral movement on a competitive basis within the Department. In the coming months, we will take steps to broaden the applicant pool for the Attorney General's Honors Program and lateral vacancies by requiring that all attorney and supervisory vacancies be posted on the Internet.
Third, to make public service more financially viable, we will take advantage of longstanding regulatory authority to institute a program of student loan repayment for all qualifying new attorneys entering the Department under the Honors Program or laterally, and as a mechanism to retain experienced attorneys. Under OPM regulations, federal agencies can pay up to $6,000 annually toward the repayment of qualifying federal student loans for an employee who meets the requisite criteria, up to a maximum of $40,000 per employee. According to the law, individuals receiving the benefit of this loan repayment program will, in turn, have a minimum 3-year service obligation to the Department of Justice.
For Fiscal Year 2003, we have reallocated $300,000 from the Department's Special Projects Fund to begin immediate implementation of the loan repayment program, enabling the Department to defray the burden of loan obligations for as many as 50 graduating law students and practicing attorneys. Beginning in fiscal year 2004, we expect to double our annual financial commitment to $600,000, enabling the Department to provide financial assistance to as many as 100 qualifying individuals.
The Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management will administer the loan repayment program and make determinations regarding eligibility. Individual components and U.S. Attorneys' Offices will continue to make their own hiring decisions. Within the next month, application forms for this loan repayment program will be available on-line on the Department of Justice website.
Fourth, we will institute a mandatory mentoring program for all incoming attorneys. This program will be in place within all Department components by the fall of 2003, when the next incoming class of the Honors Program enters on duty.
Fifth, we will initiate diversity training throughout the Department in the coming months. This training will focus on ways to prevent stereotyping and other subtle forms of identity-related employment issues in order to help managers create a positive workplace climate in their components. Training will be provided to Section Chiefs, senior supervisory attorneys, component heads, and Department leadership.
Sixth, we will establish a formal career development program for all Department attorneys in collaboration with OPM. This program will be aimed at assessing managerial potential and developing the skill sets and qualifications in attorneys necessary to assume management responsibility at the SES level.
Seventh, we will take appropriate steps to monitor our progress in achieving the goal of a more diverse attorney workforce. Among other things, we will engage outside expertise to help us administer periodic internal surveys to assess our progress in improving the Department's diversity environment.
And finally, we will conduct exit interviews with all voluntarily departing attorneys to determine their reasons for leaving and to develop strategies to promote increased retention.
I would like to thank Attorney General Ashcroft for his steadfast leadership on this issue. In addition, I would like to thank Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joanne Simms, Acting Director of OARM Lou DeFalaise, and Department Comptroller Eugene Schied for their assistance in shaping these initiatives. I would also like to thank and recognize OPM Director Kay Cole James for her valuable counsel and guidance.
The initiatives we announce today represent an investment in the most important asset of this great institution - its people. They will require sustained leadership and commitment not only from the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, but from component heads and supervisory attorneys throughout the Department, both in Washington and in the field. These initiatives, simply put, recognize the importance of inclusion. And it is the spirit of inclusion that has made this country great. Working together, we will further strengthen the fabric and foundation of this Department and continue to earn the trust and confidence of all Americans. I have been affiliated with (as a prosecutor) or working with the Department (as a defense lawyer) for over 20 years. These are worthwhile efforts.
*NOTE: Mr. Thompson frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, he stands behind the speech as presented in written format.