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 2014-2015 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 have completed the academic requirements for a law degree but who have not been awarded the law degree pending completion of another graduate degree should select the appropriate category under "Current Students.")

General eligibility information for law school graduates (applicable to law school graduates who have completed all academic programs).

Select the link that best describes your current status.


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 2014-2015 (i.e., between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015).

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 2014-2015 (i.e., between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015). (This category is 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 graduate law degree requirements.) The following conditions apply:

  • There cannot be a significant break in time between completion of law school academic requirements and continuation of graduate law studies.
  • 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 2014-2015 (i.e., between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015). (This category is 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.) The following conditions apply:

  • There cannot be a significant break in time between completion of law school academic requirements and continuation of graduate studies.
  • 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 been awarded a law degree.) (Joint-degree students who have completed the academic requirements for a law degree but who have not been awarded the law degree pending completion of another graduate degree should select the appropriate category under "Current Students.")

Law school graduates may preserve their eligibility to apply to the Honors Program for not more than three Honors Program recruitment cycles following law school graduation (i.e., a spring 2014 law school graduate must both remain eligible and apply to the HP not later than the 2016 application deadline). The Honors Program has an annual recruitment cycle beginning in late summer with an application deadline the Tuesday following Labor Day.

To preserve HP eligibility, the graduate must start an “eligibility preserving activity” (defined as a judicial clerkship, a qualifying full-time legal fellowship, a Presidential Management Fellowship, or a full-time graduate law program) within 9 months of law school graduation. Generally speaking, eligibility producing activities are approximately one year in duration, but they can be longer (e.g., a two-year clerkship, an 18 month fellowship). Graduates cannot practice as an attorney or work as an associate at a private law firm (engage in significant legal employment) between completion of law school and the start of an eligibility preserving activity. Short-term paid legal internships (not to exceed 90 days) at private law firms, public interest organizations, or with other legal employers between law school graduation and the start of an eligibility preserving activity are permissible.

  • Short-term (e.g., less than 9 month) school-sponsored “bridge the gap” fellowships designed to assist recent law school graduates gain legal experience while seeking full-time employment do not qualify as an “eligibility preserving activity.” However, a recent graduate who participates in such a fellowship, but also starts an eligibility preserving activity within 9 months of law school graduation is not disqualified by such participation.

    • A December law school graduate will, for this purpose, be treated the same as a January law school graduate, i.e., must start the first eligibility preserving activity not later than the following October.
  • It is possible for a graduate to participate in more than one eligibility preserving activity; however, all activities combined 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 (i.e., no more than 90 days), and the graduate must apply to the HP on or before 36 months from the start of the first activity. Additionally:

    • The relevant eligibility preserving activity run through December of the year the application is submitted (e.g., for fall 2014 HP applicants, the activity must end in December 2014 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 2014 HP, the applicant must be able to enter on duty in 2015).
    • HP eligibility will not be extended beyond the third post-graduation HP recruitment cycle (i.e., candidates must apply not later than the third HP recruitment cycle). In some cases, candidates must apply not later than the second post-graduation HP recruitment cycle because, based on the start date of the first activity and the time period between successive activities, combined with the timing requirements, the candidate will not meet all eligibility requirements by the third HP recruitment cycle.
    • Generally, the longer the period between law school graduation and the start of the first activity, and the longer the time period between successive activities, the less likely it will be for a candidate to participate in more than one or two eligibility preserving activities and still meet all the eligibility timing requirements.
  • These guidelines should not be interpreted as a guarantee that any specific candidate will be eligible to apply during all three post-graduation HP 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 HP the first HP cycle following law school, but may be eligible to apply for the second cycle. For example:  A May 2014 law school graduate starts an eligibility-preserving activity in January 2015 (within 9 months of law school graduation).

-  This candidate is NOT eligible to apply to the first HP cycle following graduation (September 2013 application deadline) because the eligibility preserving activity has not yet started and thus is not active through December 2013 and the individual is not available to enter on duty in 2014.

-  This candidate will be eligible to apply to the second HP cycle following graduation (September 2014 application deadline) because the eligibility preserving activity began within 9 months of law school graduation, is active through December 2014, and the candidate is available to enter on duty in 2015 (the year following the HP 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 HP within three HP cycles following law school graduation. With a May 2013 graduation date, the final HP cycle application deadline would be September 2015, the final eligibility producing activity must run through December 2015, and the individual must be available to enter on duty in 2016.

  • The 2014-2105 Honors Program application cycle is the final opportunity for applicants who graduated in December 2011/Jan 2012 to apply (provided they preserved eligibility.  Applicants who graduated prior to December 2011 are not eligible.

Judicial Clerkships: Judicial clerkships (any U.S. jurisdiction) 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).

Qualifying Full-time Legal Fellowships: There are an increasing number of legal fellowships that may preserve HP eligibility. Due to the wide variety of programs, OARM cannot provide an exclusive list. Presidential Management Fellowships qualify.  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 (see General Honors Program eligibility rules for law school graduates, above). The following additional conditions apply:

  • The Fellowship may not be part-time.
  • If the Fellowship involves the practice of law, it must be the only significant legal employment following law school graduation. (Work performed in other eligibility preserving activities excluded).
  • 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 year, not to exceed two years, or not to exceed three 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) qualify as eligibility-preserving activities. You must meet all 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. (Joint-degree students who have not completed both degrees should review the eligibility criteria under “Current Students.”)

None of the above: If you do not meet the criteria of one of the categories 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).