Entry-Level Attorneys

Eligibility for the Attorney General's Honors Program

Please select the appropriate link below to determine whether you are eligible to apply for the 2015-2016 Honors Program. Please note that these tables do not address citizenship or residency issues

 Current Students

Law School Graduates

Current law students who have not yet met the graduation requirements for any law degree and joint-degree students who are simultaneously pursuing a law degree and a graduate degree. (This includes Joint-degree students who have met the academic requirements for the law degree but who have not completed the graduate degree.)

Select the link that best describes your current status.

Individuals who have graduated from law school and been awarded a law degree. Joint-degree students who are simultaneously completing the academic requirements for a law degree and either a graduate law degree (L.LM) or a non-legal graduate degree (e.g., Masters, Ph.D etc.) should select the appropriate category under "Current Students."

General eligibility information for all law school graduates 

For supplemental information, select the relevant link below. 


Current Students

Law students (full-time or part-time): You are eligible if you are attending law school, have not yet been awarded an initial law degree (J.D. or equivalent), and will complete all degree requirements and graduate from law school (be awarded a law degree) in academic year 2015-2016 (between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016).

Joint-degree law students (J.D./L.LM): You are eligible if you are a joint-degree student simultaneously pursuing a law degree and a graduate law degree (e.g., J.D./L.LM) who will complete all academic requirements for both degrees, including a thesis, if required, and graduate from both programs in academic year 2015-2016 (between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016). (This category is also appropriate for students who have completed the course requirements for a J.D., but whose educational institution will not confer the law degree until completion of the graduate law degree requirements.)  If you completed your J.D. prior to starting a full-time graduate law program, you may not apply as a current student and should refer to the information for law school graduates. The following conditions apply:

  • There cannot be a significant break in time (e.g., no more than a normal interim between semesters/quarters or a regular summer break) between completion of law school academic requirements and continuation of graduate law studies.
  • You must be a full-time student.
  • You cannot practice as an attorney (engage in significant legal employment) between completion of law school academic requirements and completion of graduate law studies)

Joint-degree law students (J.D./Masters, Ph.D., etc): You are eligible if you are a joint degree student simultaneously pursuing a law degree and a non-legal graduate degree (e.g., J.D./MBA or J.D./Ph.D.) who will complete all academic requirements for both degrees, including a thesis, if required, and graduate from both programs in academic year 2015-2016 (between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016). (This category is also appropriate for students who have completed the course requirements for a law degree but whose educational institution will not confer the law degree until completion of the non-legal graduate degree or vice versa.)  If you received your J.D. prior to starting a non-legal graduate degree, you may not apply as a current student and should refer to the information for law school graduates. The following conditions apply:

  • Courses pertaining to the non-legal degree must commence prior to law school graduation.
  • There cannot be a significant break in time (e.g., no more than a normal interim between semesters/quarters or a regular summer break) between completion of law school academic requirements and continuation of graduate studies.
  • You must be a full-time student.
  • You cannot practice as an attorney (engage in significant legal employment) between completion of law school academic requirements and completion of graduate studies)

Law School Graduates

General Eligibility Information for Law School Graduates (Individuals who have completed law school and have been awarded a law degree).

Law school graduates may, by participating in qualifying activities, preserve their eligibility to apply to the Honors Program for not more than three Honors Program recruitment cycles following law school graduation (e.g., a spring 2015 law school graduate must both remain eligible and apply to the Honors Program not later than the 2017 application deadline).  The Honors Program has an annual recruitment cycle beginning in late summer with an application deadline the Tuesday following Labor Day.  For eligibility purposes, winter graduates (December/January) will be treated the same.  For example, for December 2014/January 2015 graduates, the first post-graduation recruitment cycle ends the Tuesday after Labor Day 2015.  Please note:  Winter/spring/summer 2015 law school graduates who are not starting a full-time eligibility preserving activity within 9 months of law school graduation are not eligible for the 2015-2016 Honors Program. 

Eligibility Preserving Activities:  To preserve Honors Program eligibility after law school graduation, the graduate must start a full time “eligibility preserving activity” (defined as a judicial clerkship, a qualifying full-time legal fellowship or a Presidential Management Fellowship, or a full-time graduate law program) within 9 months of law school graduation.  

  • Duration.  Generally speaking, qualifying clerkships and legal fellowships are approximately one year in duration, but they can be longer (e.g., a two-year clerkship, an 18-month fellowship).  The Department reviews clerkships and fellowships with durations less than 12 months on a case-by-case basis.  Qualifying graduate law programs are generally 9-12 months in duration; programs with shorter duration are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  U.S. Attorney's Office Fellowships or unpaid Special Assistant U.S. Attorney appointments are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

    • Short-term activities, including short-term school-sponsored “bridge the gap” fellowships designed to assist recent law school graduates gain legal experience while seeking full-time employment, do not preserve Honors Program eligibility; however, a recent graduate who participates in such a fellowship, and also starts an eligibility preserving activity within 9 months of law school graduation is not disqualified by such participation.
    • Part-time activities do not preserve Honors Program eligibility.
  • Multiple Activities:  It is possible for a graduate to participate in more than one eligibility preserving activity; however, all activities combined, including time between activities, should total no more than three years in duration, there cannot be a significant break in time between the end of one activity and the start of the next activity (not to exceed 120 days), and the graduate must apply to the Honors Program not later than the third recruitment cycle following law school graduation. Additionally:

    • The relevant eligibility preserving activity must run through December of the year the application is submitted (e.g., for fall 2015 Honors Program applicants, the activity must end in December 2015 or later); and,
    • The applicant must be able to enter on duty the calendar year following his or her application deadline (e.g., for the 2015 Honors Program, the applicant must be able to enter on duty in 2016).
    • Applicants cannot practice as an attorney or work as an associate at a private law firm or "for profit" legal employer (engage in significant legal employment) prior to the start of the first eligibility preserving activity or during gaps between eligibility-preserving activities.  However, short-term (not to exceed 120 days) paid legal internships at private law firms, other for-profit legal employers, public interest, judicial, or governmental employers is permissible. 
  • Timing Rules

    • Applicants must apply to the Honors Program not later than the third recruitment cycle following law school graduation.  The annual recruitment cycle begins in late July and closes the Tuesday after Labor Day.
    • Law school graduates must enter a full-time eligibility preserving activity not later than 9 months following law school graduation to preserve Honors Program eligibility.
    • Law school graduates must be actively participating in an eligibility preserving activity that runs into December of the year they apply. 
    • Applicants must be available to enter on duty during the calendar year after the year they apply.  For example, an applicant who applies by the September 8, 2015 deadline for the the upcoming recruitment cycle must be available to enter on duty during 2016. 
    • Breaks between eligibility preserving activities cannot exceed 120 days.
  • These guidelines should not be interpreted as a guarantee that any specific candidate will be eligible to apply during all three post-graduation Honors Program recruitment cycles. In some cases, due to a long delay before the start of the first eligibility preserving activity, an individual may be disqualified from applying to the Honors Program the first recruitment cycle following law school, but may be eligible to apply for the second cycle.  For example:  A May 2015 law school graduate starts a one-year eligibility-preserving activity in January 2016 (within 9 months of law school graduation).

-  This candidate is NOT eligible to apply to the first recruitment cycle following graduation (September 2015 application deadline) because the eligibility preserving activity has not yet started and thus is not active through December 2015, and the individual is not available to enter on duty in 2016.

-  This candidate will be eligible to apply to the second Honors Program recruitment cycle following graduation (September 2016 application deadline) because the eligibility preserving activity began within 9 months of law school graduation, is active through December 2016, and the candidate is available to enter on duty in 2017 (the year following the Honors Program application).

-  Should this candidate pursue a second eligibility preserving activity, he or she must still meet all the eligibility timing requirements and apply to the Honors Program within three recruitment cycles following law school graduation. With a May 2015 graduation date, the final Honors Program recruitment cycle application deadline would be in September 2017, the final eligibility producing activity must run through December 2017, and the individual must be available to enter on duty in 2018.

  • The 2015-2016 Honors Program application cycle is the final opportunity for applicants who graduated between October 1, 2012 - August, 2013 to apply (provided they preserved eligibility).  Applicants who graduated prior to October 1, 2012 are no longer eligible for the Honors Program but may apply for experienced attorney positions provided they are admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction).

Judicial Clerkships: Judicial clerkships (any U.S. jurisdiction, state or federal) are qualifying eligibility preserving activities. You can have multiple clerkships or combine judicial clerkships with other prior or subsequent eligibility-preserving activities (e.g., fellowships, graduate law programs). (Note: If you had a prior Honors Program clerkship with an Executive Office for Immigration Review Immigration Court or a Drug Enforcement Agency Administrative Law Judge, and entered federal service via 14-month appointment to the excepted service as a law clerk trainee, then you must be admitted to the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of your initial entry on duty date. An appointment that was initially made for less than 14 months may be extended for a period not to exceed 14 months in total duration. Only one such appointment is authorized (5 C.F.R. §§ 213.101, 213.3102).  Staff attorneys working for a court (and its judges) as a whole rather than for individual judges are also considered judicial law clerks for purposes of determining Honors Program eligibility.

Qualifying Full-time Legal Fellowships and Presidential Management Fellowships: There are an increasing number of legal fellowships that may preserve Honors Program eligibility. Due to the wide variety of programs, OARM cannot provide an exclusive list. Presidential Management Fellowships qualify if the Fellow has a law degree.  The online application will permit candidates with fellowships to apply on a conditional basis. Candidates will be asked to provide specific information about the fellowship in order to permit OARM to determine whether an exception to policy will be granted. Legal fellowships may be paid or unpaid, and are subject to the same requirements as other eligibility preserving activities. The following additional conditions apply:

  • The Fellowship must be full-time.
  • If the Fellowship involves the practice of law, it must be the only significant legal employment following law school graduation (excluding work performed in other eligibility preserving activities and in short-term internships/public interest work performed during gaps between eligibility-preserving activities).
  • If a fellowship was with an Executive Branch agency, and the fellow entered federal service via 14-month appointment to the excepted service as a law clerk trainee, then he or she must be admitted to the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of the initial federal service entry on duty date. An appointment that was initially made for less than 14 months may be extended for a period not to exceed 14 months in total duration. Only one such appointment is authorized (5 C.F.R. §§ 213.101, 213.3102).

Previous DOJ (or other federal agency) Honors Program or DOJ (or other federal agency) Time-Limited Appointment (e.g., not to exceed 1 to 3 years).
Several Department of Justice components hire Honors Program attorneys to serve as one- to two-year judicial law clerks, for one- to three-year fellowships, or for other time-limited appointments. These individuals may reapply to the Honors Program in subsequent years, provided they meet the eligibility criteria.  In addition, other federal agencies may hire law students or recent graduates into their agency equivalent of the Attorney General’s Honors Program. These individuals may conditionally apply to the Attorney General’s Honors Program using the “other legal fellowship” option on the online application. OARM will review the information relating to their prior position in determining whether a waiver of eligibility will be granted.  Any attorney who entered federal service through an Executive Branch Honors Program (or otherwise) on a 14-month appointment to the excepted service as a law clerk trainee must be admitted to the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of his or her initial federal service entry on duty date. An appointment that was initially made for less than 14 months may be extended for a period not to exceed 14 months in total duration. Only one such appointment is authorized (5 C.F.R. §§ 213.101, 213.3102).

Graduate Law Degree Programs: Full-time graduate law degree programs (e.g., LLM) culminating in an advanced legal degree qualify as eligibility-preserving activities. You must meet all Honors Program eligibility requirements, in particular the timing rules.

Non-legal Graduate Program Student (e.g., Masters Degree, Ph.D., etc.): If you graduated from law school, then began a non-legal graduate program, then you are not eligible for the Honors Program. You may apply to the Department as an experienced attorney one year after law school graduation provided you are admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction). (Joint-degree students who are simultaneously earning a law degree and a non-legal graduate degree should review the eligibility criteria under “Current Students.”)

Ineligibility: If you do not meet the criteria above, then you are not eligible for the Honors Program. You may apply to the Department as an experienced attorney one year after law school graduation provided you are admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction).  Listed below are other disqualifying conditions:

  • Prohibition on Certain Legal Employment.  Graduates cannot practice as an attorney or work as an associate at a private law firm or other “for profit” legal employer (engage in significant legal employment) between completion of law school and the start of an eligibility preserving activity or between eligibility-preserving activities. Short-term paid legal internships (not to exceed 120 days) at private law firms or other for-profit legal employers; or short-term legal internships/clerkships (not to exceed 120 days) at public interest, judicial, or governmental organizations are permissible.
  • Recent Graduates:  Winter/Spring/summer 2015 law school graduates who are not committed to an eligibility-preserving activity starting within 9 months of law school graduation are not eligible to apply to the Honors Program during the 2015 recruitment cycle.  "Committed to" means that by the application deadline, the graduate has (1) accepted a full-time judicial clerkship; (2) enrolled in a full-time graduate law program; (3) accepted a full-time legal fellowship or Presidential Management Fellowship; (4) accepted a DOJ (or other federal agency Honors Program appointment or similar time-limited appointment (not to exceed 3 years). 
  • Graduated From Law School Prior to October 1, 2012:  If you graduated from law school prior to October 1, 2012, then you are no longer eligible for the Attorney General's Honors Program.  You may apply as an experienced attorney provided you are admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction). 
  • Part-time Post-Law School Activities:  Part-time post-law school judicial clerkships, legal fellowships, or graduate law programs do not preserve Honors Program eligibility.
Updated June 24, 2015