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Entry-Level (Honors Program) and Experienced Attorneys - Attorney Salaries, Promotions, and Benefits


The Department has two pay scales applicable to attorneys. Attorneys hired by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices are compensated under an Administratively Determined (AD) pay scale authorized by Title 28, U.S. Code. All other attorneys, with the exception of Assistant U.S. Trustees who are compensated under a separate AD pay plan, are compensated under the General Schedule (GS) for federal employees authorized by Title 5, U.S. Code. Federal salaries vary by geographic location and attorneys assigned to high cost of living areas receive a percentage of their base pay as "locality pay." The Office of Personnel Management publishes annual GS salary tables that list base and locality pay for the various geographic areas.  Salary ranges for Assistant U.S. Attorneys differ from the GS salary for each location and are graded based on experience and level of responsibility. Candidates interviewing with a U.S. Attorney's Office should review the salary information for U.S. Attorneys' Offices and discuss salary requirements with the hiring office.

Experienced Attorneys:  Starting salaries for experienced attorneys are set at the discretion of the hiring office and are based on a combination of factors including the type of work required by the position and the candidate’s level of experience and years out of law school.  The salary range for a particular attorney position is listed in the vacancy announcement for that position.

Entry-level (Honors Program) Attorneys: Starting salaries for Honors Program attorneys are set at the discretion of the hiring office.  Honors Program attorneys hired as Assistant U.S. Attorneys are subject to the salary policies for those offices.  Honors Program salaries under the GS scale are based on the following qualifications:

  • Law degree (J.D. or equivalent): eligible for a GS-11, step 1
  • 1 year of post-law school full time judicial clerkship experience: eligible for a GS-12, step 1
  • 1 year of post-law school full-time graduate law study (LL.M. or equivalent) or qualifying full time legal fellowship: eligible for a GS-12, step 1
  • 2 – 3 years of full-time judicial clerkships, or combination of 2 – 3 years of post-law school full-time clerkships, qualifying full-time legal fellowships, or a post-law school full-time graduate law degree program: eligible for a GS-13, step 1


Attorney promotions are generally performance-based, and are subject to time-in-grade requirements. It is possible for attorneys starting at the GS-11 grade level to reach the GS-15 level in three and one-half years. Some components may require longer times-in-grade or restrict the grade level to which non-supervisory attorneys may be promoted. Meeting the minimum time-in-grade requirement does not automatically entitle an attorney to a promotion. The chart below reflects the minimum time-in-grade requirements for attorneys compensated under the GS schedule. Promotions for Assistant U.S. Attorneys paid under Title 28 are subject to different time-in-grade requirements.

Grade Level Minimum Time-In-Grade for Consideration
GS-11 to GS-12 6 months
GS-12 to GS-13 6 months if hired at the GS-12 level; otherwise, 1 year
GS-13 to GS-14 1 year
GS-14 to GS-15 18 months (can be accelerated to 12 months, depending on performance and policy of the organization)

Entry-Level Attorneys: Entry-level (Honors Program) attorneys compensated under the GS schedule may be considered for promotion from their current GS level (e.g., GS-11) to the next higher GS level (e.g., GS-12) once they have served the minimum time-in-grade and have passed or been admitted to the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction).

Benefits and Services

The Department of Justice offers an array of benefits and opportunities to its employees. It recognizes the need to support employees both at work and in their lives outside the workplace by providing both standard Federal benefits and tailored Department benefits.

Federal Benefits

Annual Leave: A minimum of 13 days a year. Attorneys earn vacation or annual leave based on the length of their Federal service (0-3 years of federal service = 13 days per year; 3-15 years of service = 20 days per year; 15+ years of federal service = 26 days per year). For more information, see the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM) Annual Leave Fact Sheet.

Sick Leave: Regardless of the length of service, attorneys can earn 13 days of sick leave each year. Unused sick leave accumulates indefinitely. For more information, see the Office of Personnel Managment (OPM) Sick Leave Fact Sheet.

Paid Holidays: Federal employees receive 10 paid holidays each year: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Health Care Coverage: Attorneys and their families can enroll in one of many health insurance plans with part of the cost paid by the government. Plans include traditional fee-for-service plans and prepaid plans (Comprehensive Medical Plans and Health Maintenance Organizations). In addition, Federal employees are covered by Medicare. For more information, see Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Program.

Health Care Flexible Spending Account: Attorneys can use Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts for expenses that are tax-deductible, but not reimbursed by any other source, including out-of-pocket expenses and non-covered benefits under the FEHB plans.

Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program: Attorneys may apply for the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Participants must be approved based on insurability. The coverage may continue post-retirement.

Life Insurance: Attorneys may purchase life insurance coverage through the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program with part of the cost paid by the Federal government. Face value of the insurance is based on the attorney's salary, and coverage includes payment for loss of limbs and eyesight and accidental death. Additional insurance is optional and available to each attorney.

Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS): The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is a three-part retirement plan: social security, basic annuity, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a retirement savings and investment plan. Attorneys pay full social security taxes and a small contribution to the basic annuity. In addition, attorneys may make tax-deferred contributions of up to 14% of their annual salary to the TSP, and a portion (up to 5%) is matched by the government. FERS has many features that are portable, so that if the attorney leaves the Federal government, he or she may still qualify for the benefits.

Department Benefits

Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP): All attorneys employed by the Department assigned to attorney positions may request consideration for the ALSRP.

Worklife Programs: The Department's worklife philosophy offers an array of benefits to support employees and maximize their performance through practical and workable solutions to balancing the demands of work and personal lives. Benefits include: family-friendly leave programs, dependent care support (including a child care center and emergency child care services in the Washington, D.C. area), dependent care resource and referral services, and flexible work options. An Employee Assistance Program offers confidential counseling and referral services. As part of the worklife program, subject to mission requirements, the Department's Flexible Work Options Program offers modified work schedules, such as flexible hours, compressed work schedules, telecommuting, and part-time schedules.

Health Units: Health units staffed by medical professionals offer a full-array of professional services in convenient on-site locations, and provide free health awareness/screening programs, emergency response, walk-in care and first aid.

Fitness Centers: The Justice Occupational Health Organization offers a state-of-the-art gym for a small annual membership fee. Some components offer in-house fitness centers at satellite locations.

Pro-Bono and Community Involvement Opportunities: The Department sponsors an organized pro-bono program and supports other volunteer activities, such as tutoring to local schools.

Transit Subsidy: DOJ provides a transit subsidy to employees residing in areas served by mass transit to encourage the use of public transportation.

Incentive Awards Program: DOJ offers cash and honorary awards for superior performance, special acts or services, or suggestions deserving recognition.

Justice Federal Credit Union: A full-service financial institution serves DOJ employee members and their families.

Employee Organizations: DOJ has a variety of employee organizations including DOJ Association of Black Attorneys; DOJ AHEAD (Association of Hispanic Employees for Advancement and Development); DOJ Native American Association; DOJ Pan Asia Employees Association; DOJ Gender Equality Network; and DOJ Pride.

Updated February 21, 2024