Volunteer Legal Internships - Conditions of Employment


Eligibility  |   Security and Suitability Issues  |  Drug Testing  | Multiple Internships Within 12  MonthsOffer Response Deadlines |  Withdrawal of An Offer of Employment  |   Residency and Citizenship Requirements  |  Veterans' Preference Eligibility


Students enrolled at least half-time in law school may participate in volunteer legal internships up to the time of graduation from law school. Law school graduates who are enrolled in graduate law programs (e.g., LL.M. programs) at least half time may also serve as volunteer interns.

Security and Suitability Issues:

Prior to entry on duty, all interns undergo a suitability determination based on information provided in their security forms, a credit report, and fingerprint check. This process can take two to three months to complete. The Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) can advise candidates considering employment on issues regarding potential suitability problems. Law students who have received offers should contact the individual listed in their formal offer letter. Other law students should reach out to their Career Services Office to contact OARM.

Drug Testing:

It is the policy of the Department of Justice to achieve a drug-free workplace. Drug testing for volunteer internships may be required at the discretion of the employing office.

Multiple Internships Within 12 Months:

Working at the Department requires access to DOJ information, DOJ IT systems, and DOJ facilities.  Security regulations permit short term access for not more than six months.  Beyond six months, or for two short term appointments within a 12 month period, a background investigation is required.  In some cases, organizations sponsoring legal interns may not be in a position to justify the time and cost of the BI process in these short term employment situations.  If you have served in a prior DOJ internship/externship and are considering a second DOJ internship within 12 months of the start of the first internship, we encourage you to raise this issue with the hiring component prior to accepting an offer. 

Offer Response Deadlines:

Volunteer legal internship offers to law students will remain open for at least 14 days after the date the offer was issued.  Components have the discretion to extend response deadlines.

Withdrawal of An Offer of Employment:

The Department can withdraw an offer of employment if the suitability inquiry 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 with the Selective Service, or misrepresentation on the security forms.

Residency and Citizenship Requirements:

Congress generally prohibits agencies from employing non-citizens within the United States, except for a few narrow exceptions as set forth in the annual Appropriations Act .  Pursuant to DOJ component policies, only U.S. citizens are eligible for employment with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Trustee’s Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Unless otherwise indicated in a particular job advertisement, qualifying non-U.S. citizens meeting immigration and appropriations law criteria may apply for employment with other DOJ organizations.  However, please be advised that the appointment of non-U.S. citizens is extremely rare; such appointments would be possible only if necessary to accomplish the Department's mission and would be subject to strict security requirements.  Applicants who hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and another country will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

All DOJ employees are subject to a residency requirement. Candidates must have lived in the United States for at least three of the past five years.  The three-year period is cumulative, not necessarily consecutive.   Federal or military employees, or dependents of federal or military employees serving overseas, are excepted from this requirement.  This is a Department security requirement which is waived only for extreme circumstances and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Veterans’ Preference Eligibility:

The Department of Justice’s policy in excepted service legal intern employment is to select the best qualified applicant for the position in terms of skills, background, knowledge, and relevant experience. Excepted service legal intern positions within DOJ are wholly exempted from the appointment procedures of 5 C.F.R. Part 302; however, the Department follows the principle of veterans’ preference in its legal intern selection procedures as far as administratively feasible.

Veterans’ preference eligibility is treated as a positive factor at all stages of the selection process. When making final selections, if all relevant considerations for the position are deemed equal, the selecting official must offer the position to a preference eligible candidate as opposed to an equally well-qualified non-preference eligible candidate. Further, if there are multiple preference eligible applicants in the final group of candidates, the selecting official will consider the degree of preference associated with the veterans' preference "points" held by qualified candidates. Although the points are not used, per se, in selecting legal interns, the underlying principle behind the point system reflects the degree of preference that Congress intended eligible candidates to be afforded and will be followed to the extent administratively feasible.

Preference eligible applicants responding to vacancy announcements for volunteer intern positions should claim preference in a cover letter or resume. Submission of a DD Form 214 and appropriate supporting documents is required to confirm veterans' preference eligibility and, if asserted, eligibility to claim “10-point” preference.

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) "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.)

If you are a veteran and wish to contact someone in the Department’s Veterans Employment Program Office, contact Cortez Puryear or call (202) 514-0349.


Updated August 10, 2021

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