Conditions of Employment

Experienced Attorneys

Conditions of Employment

Eligibility | Length of Appointment | Security and Suitability Issues (Background Investigation) | Drug Testing | Withdrawal of An Offer | Residency & Citizenship Requirements | Bar Membership | Veterans' Preference Eligibility


Experienced attorneys (defined as individuals with a law degree who are active members of a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) and who have at least one year post-law school experience) are hired through direct responses to posted vacancy announcements. Specific qualifications, application deadlines, how to submit an application, and other important information is contained in each announcement. Attorney vacancy announcements are posted online and can be accessed from the Search Current Vacancies section on the left.

Length of Appointment:

Experienced attorney hiring is generally for a permanent position. If the position is for a limited term appointment, that information is specified in the vacancy announcement.

Security and Suitability Issues (Background Investigation):

Candidates who accept an offer must undergo a full field background investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation includes a name and fingerprint check, interviews with references, close personal associates, former spouses, former employers, co-workers, neighbors, landlords, and educational institutions.  The investigation also includes and a thorough check of credit, military, tax, and police records. The background investigation covers a period of seven to ten years. This process may take seven months or more to complete.

Drug Testing:

It is the policy of the Department of Justice to achieve a drug-free workplace, and persons selected for employment will be required to pass a drug test to screen for current illegal drug use prior to entry on duty.

Withdrawal of An Offer of Employment:

The Department can withdraw an offer of employment if the investigation process 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 for the selective service (male applicants only), or misrepresentation on the security forms. The Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) can advise candidates who receive offers of employment on issues regarding potential suitability problems.

Residency and Citizenship Requirements:

The Department of Justice coordinates with the U.S. Department of State to identify the countries whose citizens may lawfully be employed by a U.S. federal agency. Only U.S. citizens are eligible for internships with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the U.S. Trustee's Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Positions at U.S. Attorney's Offices are restricted to U.S. citizens and individuals who owe permanent allegiance to the United States (currently, natives of American Samoa, Swains Island, and certain inhabitants of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.) Dual citizens of the United States and another country are considered on a case-by-case basis. Non-U.S. citizens may apply for employment with other Department components, but appointments are extremely rare; an appointment would be possible only if necessary to accomplish the Department's mission and would be subject to statutory restrictions on the expenditure of funds and strict security requirements.

Candidates are subject to a residency requirement. Any candidate who has lived outside the United States for two of the past five years may have difficulty being approved for appointment by the Department's Security Staff. Federal or military employees, or dependents of federal or military employees serving overseas, are excepted from this requirement.

Bar Membership:

Experienced attorneys must be an active member in good standing of a bar of any U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs) frequently have specific residency and bar admission requirements. It is not unusual for USAOs to require Assistant U.S. Attorneys to be admitted to the bar of the state where the USAO is located.

Veterans’ Preference Eligibility and Attorney Hiring:

The Department of Justice’s policy in excepted service career attorney hiring is to select the best qualified applicant for the position in terms of skills, background, knowledge, and relevant experience. Excepted service attorney 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 attorney hiring procedures as far as administratively feasible.

Veterans’ preference eligibility is treated as a positive factor at all stages of the attorney hiring 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 eligibles in the final group of candidates, the selecting official will consider the degree of preference associated with the "points" held by qualified candidates. Although the points are not used, per se, in attorney hiring, 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 experienced attorneys 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, etc.) “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 May 12, 2014

Was this page helpful?

Was this page helpful?
Yes No