Entry-Level (Honors Program) and Experienced Attorneys - Conditions of Employment

Entry-Level and Experienced Attorneys

Eligibility, Bar Membership, Citizenship & Residency Requirements | Application Process | Interview, Selection and Offers of Employment |  Security and Suitability (Background Investigation) | Salary and Benefits

Eligibility, Bar Membership, and Citizenship & Residency Requirements

Who is eligible for the Honors Program?

You are eligible to apply for the Attorney General’s Honors Program this year if you are a law student who will graduate between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022; or you are a joint degree law student who will complete all academic requirements for both degrees and graduate from both programs between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022; or you are a  law school graduate who preserved your eligibility by accepting or participating in a full-time judicial clerkship, a full-time qualifying legal fellowship, or a full-time graduate law program, and who meets other eligibility requirements.  Presidential Management Fellows who meet certain requirements are also eligible.  For a more detailed explanation, view the Honors Program Eligibility Requirements.

Must my law school be ABA-accredited for me to work at Justice?

Not necessarily. Entry-level attorneys are required to pass a bar and be an active member of a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of entry on duty. You must, therefore, attend a law school whose graduates are eligible to sit for a bar exam. If the state in which your law school is located allows only candidates from accredited law schools to sit for the bar exam, your law school must be accredited. If the state in which your law school is located (e.g., California) allows candidates from all law schools in that state to sit for the bar, accreditation is not required. While this is a general policy, some hiring components may specifically require graduation from an ABA accredited law school.

What are the bar admission requirements for the Entry Level and Experienced Attorneys?

Entry-level attorneys: All Honors Program attorneys are required to pass a bar examination and be an active member of the bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of entry on duty.  Incoming hires not yet admitted to a bar may enter on duty under a special appointment authority for "law clerk/trainees" for a period not to exceed 14 months. Only one 14-month Executive branch federal appointment pending bar admission can be approved. This can affect Honors Program attorneys who are hired for one-year clerkships (e.g., for an Immigration or Administrative Law judge) or for other time-limited Honors Program positions who then reapply to the Honors Program and law school graduates who participated in Honors Programs sponsored by other federal agencies. It is not unusual for U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAO) that hire Honors Program attorneys to require them to become admitted to the bar of the state in which the respective USAO is located.

Experienced attorneys must be an active member in good standing of a bar of any U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, 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.

What is the Department’s citizenship and residency requirement for Entry Level and Experienced Attorneys?

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 excepted service 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.

May I be considered simultaneously for both the Honors Program and the Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP)?

No. If you are eligible for one, you are not eligible for the other.  Justice has, however, unified its Honors Program and SLIP applications into one system to permit limited transfers from the Honors Program applicant pool to the SLIP applicant pool. This affects recent law student graduates who are applying for judicial law clerkships, legal fellowships, or graduate law programs following law school graduation but who have not yet accepted a clerkship or been accepted into a graduate law program prior to the DOJ application deadline . Initially, those applicants will be considered through the Honors Program for an entry-level position following law school graduation.

If, after the September application deadline but before the Department finalizes its SLIP selections, an Honors Program applicant accepts a judicial clerkship, or is admitted to a graduate law program, then the online system will permit that applicant to re-access their application for the limited purpose of adding clerkship data (e.g., name of the court, name of the judge, start and end dates of the clerkship) or graduate law program data (e.g., the law school, type of degree program, start and end dates), and requesting transfer out of the Honors Program applicant pool and into the SLIP applicant pool. The hiring components will be notified of the change electronically.

What opportunities are available to me if I am in my last year of law school and plan to enter a judicial clerkship, graduate law program (e.g., LL.M.), or legal fellowship following law school?

If you are currently in law school, will graduate between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022, and are applying for a judicial clerkship, legal fellowship, or full-time graduate law program following graduation, then you have two options. If you already have accepted a judicial clerkship, legal fellowship, or have been accepted into a full-time graduate law program, then you may apply for the Summer Law Intern Program for the summer of 2022 (between graduation and the start of your clerkship or graduate law program). If you have not yet accepted a clerkship or been accepted into a full-time graduate law program, then you should apply to the Honors Program. If your clerkship, fellowship, or graduate law program is finalized after the application deadline but before the Department finalizes its selections, you can return to the online system and transfer your Honors Program application to the Summer Law Intern Program. For a more detailed explanation, view the Honors Program Eligibility Requirements.

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Application Process

Where can I find an Honors Program application?

The Department of Justice uses an online application that you can access electronically.  We strongly recommend that you review the eligibility criteria before applying.  Individuals with disabilities or special needs who need an accommodation may leave a voice mail message at (202) 514-8900 or email AskOARM for assistance.

When is the Honors Program application available and what is the submission deadline?

The application opens on July 31st. This year's deadline for receipt of electronic applications is Wednesday, September 8, 2021 (11:59 p.m., Eastern time; 10:59 p.m. Central; 9:59 p.m. Mountain; 8:59 p.m. Pacific). Due to the volume of applications submitted just prior to the deadline, we encourage you to apply early to avoid late submission associated with potential server problems.  The time recorded by Avue Digital Services, which hosts the online application, is the official time for all deadline determinations.  The Department does not accept late, hard copy, faxed, or mailed Honors Program applications.

Honors Program applicants who participated in the 2021 Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP) who anticipate that they may receive a funnel offer into the Honors Program may want to consider deferring final certification and submission of their Honors Program application until later in the application period, but prior to the application deadline, so that they can list the issuing component as an employment preference.  All SLIPs who accept a funnel offer MUST also apply to the Honors Program for continuity in management and tracking. We cannot accept applications after the deadline. We regret that we cannot make any exceptions.

 I have a disability or special needs and need assistance with the Honors Program application.  Who do I contact?

Individuals with disabilities or special needs who need an accommodation may contact OARM at (202) 514-8900 or leave a message at (202) 514-3396 or contact us via email at AskOARM@usdoj.gov

I have a disability and would like to be considered through the “Schedule A” hiring process (5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(u)).


For attorney opportunities at DOJ, please review the Department’s Legal Careers website to search the listed vacancies. Potential candidates are encouraged to apply directly to advertised vacancies. To be considered under the Schedule A, 5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(u) hiring process, interested attorney candidates, i.e., law school graduates who are an active member of the bar of any U.S. jurisdiction, are advised to contact a Disability Point of Contact (DPOC) for information about an office’s hiring process, including the requirements and qualifications for attorney positions. For additional information, see the Disability Hiring webpage.

The Attorney General’s Honors Program (HP) and the Schedule A, 5 C.F.R. §213.3102(u), authority for persons with disabilities are two separate hiring processes with separate eligibility requirements. To be considered for an entry-level position through the HP, you must apply via the online application between July 31 and the annual application deadline. HP applicants who self-identify as having a disability or a targeted disability, and provide consent, may be considered by all components participating in the HP, not just those components the candidate selected on their application. Applicants are normally limited to selecting up to three (3) formally participating components.

Where can experienced attorneys find out how to apply for an attorney vacancy?

Experienced attorneys should follow the instructions listed in the vacancy announcement for each position for which they apply.

Are all of the Honors Program positions for permanent employment?

Unless otherwise indicated, Honors Program positions are permanent if the attorney successfully passes the suitability and security review and meets bar membership requirements.  Typically, positions as judicial law clerks and with fellowships are 1 to 3 years in duration.  Some components also offer other time-limited positions.  For example, the Executive Office for Immigration Review hires for two-year positions in the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Office of General Counsel, and other headquarters elements located in Falls Church, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), but also offers two-year judicial clerkships in Immigration Courts around the country.  The Drug Enforcement Administration offers 1-year judicial clerkships for its Administrative Law Judges. The Criminal Division Asset Forfeiture Fellowship and the Gaye Tenoso Indian Law Fellowship are three-year programs.  Some U.S. Attorneys’ Offices hire Honors Program attorneys for two-year term appointments that can lead to permanent employment. Time-limited appointments may, at the component's discretion, be extended or converted to permanent positions without further competition.

Which Justice components participate in the Honors Program, where are they located, and how many attorneys will they hire this year?

Component participation in the Honors Program may have some variation from year to year.  View a list of participating components for the current Honors Program cycle and the estimated number of attorney positions they will fill.

Most of the Honors Program attorney positions are based in Washington D.C.  Components that may hire for positions outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area include the Antitrust Division, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the U.S. Trustees’ Offices, the Gaye Tenoso Indian Law Fellowship, and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs).

  • The Antitrust Division often hires Honors Program attorneys for its three regional field offices (Chicago, San Francisco, New York) and Washington, D.C. Applicants may indicate their geographic preferences on the application if Antitrust is hiring for locations other than Washington, D.C.
  • EOIR hires Honors Program attorneys for the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, Office of General Counsel, Office of Policy, and the Board of Immigration Appeals, and other headquarters elements, all located in Falls Church, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.) and for positions in the Immigration Courts located nationwide.  
  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons typically hires Honors Program attorneys for the central office in Washington, D.C., consolidated legal centers located nationwide, or one of 99 penal institutions throughout the country.
  • The U.S. Trustees’ Offices often hires Honors Program attorneys for positions in 95 regional/field offices located throughout the country, and, occasionally, for the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees in Washington, D.C., but does not identify specific vacancies.  Candidates should discuss specific geographic assignment at the time of interview.
  • The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices that participate in the Honors Program hire for their respective districts, which may have branch offices in more than one city.


How many Justice components will consider my Honors Program application?

You will only be considered by the components you identify on your application.  Upon completion of the initial review, all eligible applications are automatically referred to the components they select. Specifically, the application requires candidates to rank, in order of employment preference, up to three formally participating components you wish to consider your application.  Some components are hiring for more than one location, or ask applicants to specify practice areas, or sections.  If you designate one of these components as an employment preference, you have only used one of your three choices, even if you designate multiple locations, practice areas or sections. In addition, some hiring offices participate informally in the Honors Program.  Informal participation indicates that the listed component may or may not be able to move forward to hiring, depending on budget and other circumstances, or may be interested in hiring outside the regular recruitment timeline, but wishes to identify a pool interested candidates.  Applicants may opt to be considered by an informal participant by checking a box on the application. This does not count as one of the applicant's three employment preferences.

How long does it take to complete the online Honors Program application?

We estimate that it will take most applicants at least an hour to complete and review their application.  It may take another hour to gather the information necessary to complete the application.  This estimate does not include the time it will likely take to respond to the two essay questions in the application.  Applicants are encouraged to submit thoughtful essays that demonstrate strong writing ability, and a readiness and desire to work for Justice.  Care in drafting the responses to the essay questions will take time. Prior to beginning the application, we recommend that you review the application tips and checklist to ensure that you have the information you will need to complete the application.

May I partially complete the Honors Program application and return to it at a later time?

Yes. When you log onto the application, you create a user profile accessed by a unique password of your choice.  Please be sure to create only one account and make a note of your password, as you will need it to access the application in the future. If you create multiple accounts, you may receive both accurate and erroneous "status updates," linked to the multiple applications.  Prior to submitting your application, you may enter and exit from the application an unlimited number of times, and update or change your application provided you save your changes on the application program. You may print a blank application, a partially completed application, or your completed application. But once you certify your application and submit it, the program will not permit you to make further substantive changes. 

We strongly recommend that you print a copy of your application and review it carefully prior to submission. The Department does not accept duplicate applications or later corrections to your application, other than updates to your contact information (e.g., address, telephone number, email address). To amend a submitted application, you must withdraw that application and, prior to the application deadline, submit a new one.  We do not accept late applications.  We regret that we cannot make any exceptions.

How do I submit my resume and my transcript through the online Honors Program application?

We do not accept resumes as part of the online Honors Program application.   We do require applicants to attach their law school transcript.  The transcript must be legible, may be official or unofficial but must be generated by the law school or downloaded and attached as a pdf from a law school system.  We do not accept applicant-created "grade reports" or similar documents.  Transcripts may not be password protected.

How will I know the Department received my Honors Program application?

Once your application is submitted electronically, you will receive an e-mail message confirming the Department’s receipt of your application using the e-mail address you designated in your submitted application.

  • If you do not receive a confirmation email, please check your status online. If your status does not indicate that your application was submitted, check your online application to confirm you properly submitted it. If you still experience problems, or your online status does not reflect submission, contact Avue Digital Services using the “Live Chat” or “Help” links on the top and right of the application screen for assistance.

 It is extremely important that you maintain the e-mail address you designate in the application throughout the hiring process, as the Department will use that address in future correspondence, including notification of selection or non-selection for interviews.  Also, when you receive your email confirmation, we strongly recommend that you add the sending address to your personal address book. This reduces the chance that future messages issued by the Department are not screened out by a spam or junk mail filter used by your school, internet provider, or security system.

Can I modify, update, or correct my Honors Program application once it is submitted?

To protect the integrity of the information you submit on your application, the system does not permit substantive changes once an application has been certified and submitted.  Prior to the application deadline, you may withdraw a submitted application, make the changes you desire, and resubmit.  However, after the application closes, this is no longer an option. Only contact information (e.g., e-mail address, telephone number, address) can be updated after the application deadline. There is a limited ability to update the application to add judicial clerkship or graduate law program information for Honors Program applicants who wish to transfer to the Summer Law Intern Program; however, this function is only available for a few weeks post-deadline. 

Should I submit my resume, letters of recommendation, writing samples, or a cover letter with my application?

The Department does not accept these documents as part of the Honors Program application.  We process and review Honors Program applications electronically. If a component selects you for an Honors Program interview, you will be advised of the component's requirements regarding writing samples and other documents. If you are selected for an interview, you should comply with the component interview requirements

Experienced attorneys should follow the application instructions for the position for which they apply, and submit letters of recommendation, writing samples or cover letters as directed by each vacancy announcement.

How can I get information about the status of my Honors Program application?

Individual applicants may check on the status of their Honors Program applications by logging on to their application online at www.avuedigitalservices.com/dojoarm/applicant.html. Individual Honors Program applicants will be able to see the following status updates: notification of receipt of the application; notification of selection for an interview; notification of selection or non-selection as a component finalist; and upon acceptance of an offer.

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Interview, Selection, and Offers of Employment

How does Justice select candidates for Honors Program interviews?

Following an eligibility review, applications are referred to all Justice components identified by the applicant. Each component selects its interview candidates independently based on its mission and hiring needs. Final interview lists are based on the number of vacancies to be filled, and the amount of funding for interview travel.

What qualifications does Justice look for in an Honors Program hire?

Individuals are selected for the Honors Program on the basis of multiple factors, including academic achievement, writing skills and experience (e.g., law review), the ability to reason independently and creatively (e.g., moot court competition), clinical/volunteer and work experiences that relate to the specific work of the Department, and extracurricular activities that indicate a candidate's legal acumen and commitment to public service. Successful applicants are those with well-rounded backgrounds illustrating academic achievement, intellectual and analytical thinking ability, and commitment to the work of Justice.

Does Justice hire applicants from my law school?

There are graduates from virtually all of the ABA-accredited law schools working at Justice. Graduates from non-accredited law schools are eligible for employment provided they are admitted to practice before the bar of any State or federal jurisdiction.  View a list of law schools whose graduates were recently hired by Justice through the Honors Program.

Does the Department apply veterans’ preference eligibility to Honors Program hiring?

The Department’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 Justice are wholly exempted from the appointment procedures of 5 C.F.R. Part 302; however, Justice follows the principle of veterans’ preference in its attorney hiring procedures as far as administratively feasible and treats veterans’ preference eligibility as a positive factor at all stages in the hiring process.  If you are a veteran and wish to contact someone in the Department’s Veterans Employment Program Office, call (202) 514-0349.

How and when will I be notified if I am selected for an through the Honors Program interview?

Applicants who are selected for an interview will see a status change online (on their Avue application) that lists the selecting component(s).  Candidates also will receive an electronic message to the e-mail address listed in their application providing guidance on interview scheduling and requirements.  

  • Interview Scheduling: All interviews, except those with certain U.S. Attorneys' Offices, are centrally scheduled, including those for candidates who reside in the local commuting area. The notification e-mail will provide instructions on how to schedule interviews. Interview candidates must complete a Travel Survey and email it to the Department's schedulers. The Travel Survey requests candidates to list their week and day of preference. To the extent possible, the Department will attempt to honor that request; however, scheduling limitations do not always allow us to honor each request. The interview lists are reconciled within the Department several times to ensure that all candidates have responded. Please do not contact the Department OARM to inquire if your survey was received.  Click here for additional details on the interview process.  NOTE:  Fall 20211 Honors Program interviews will be conducted virtually.  

Will I be notified if I am not selected for an Honors Program interview?

The online status for individuals who are not selected for an interview will continue to show that the application was received until such time as all hiring components confirm they have completed their selections.  At that time, the Department will send an email message to applicants who are not selected for interview and change their online status. Please note that this notification pertains only to those components that formally participate in the Honors Program. Some components, generally smaller offices, participate informally in the Honors Program. Due to late determination of vacancies or available funding, these components may offer interviews to individuals who previously were notified that they were not selected for an interview.

What should I bring to the Honors Program interview?

You should comply with the requirements specified by the interviewing component. These requirements, which may include electronic submission of specific types of writing samples prior to the interview, will be part of the initial notification issued by the Department. Preview the component interview requirements for more information.

When and where will the Department conduct Honors Program interviews?

Interviews will take place on work days in late October and early November (see Key Dates on the main page for each Program). The Department does not interview on weekends or federal holidays or after normal business hours. Most of the participating Justice components will conduct Honors Program interviews in Washington D.C., however, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and those components with field offices, such as the Antitrust Division and Executive Office for Immigration Review, may offer interviews in other cities.

Do I have a choice of Honors Program interview location, date, or time?

There is some flexibility in scheduling the interview time and date; however, the Department may not be able to accommodate a request for a specific date. You will be able to list your preferred interview week and day on the travel survey you submit to schedule your interview. The Department tries to honor the dates you indicate as your preferences on the travel survey, but travel factors and the component's availability are the most critical considerations in scheduling. There are no interviews on weekends or federal holidays. Candidates scheduled for more than one interview should expect to travel to Washington, D.C. for a series of interviews by the components that selected them. Candidates selected by both a D.C.-based component and a U.S. Attorney’s Office or component’s field office may be asked to travel to two different locations for interviews. The Department will schedule interview travel through Government-contracted airlines, but seats are limited on individual flights. We recommend you list any absolute scheduling conflicts on the travel survey and, if necessary, contact the scheduler whose name will be provided to you to discuss available options if your final travel reservations are problematic.

Can I find out who my Honors Program interviewer will be?

Components independently determine who will conduct interviews and that information is not centrally maintained. Due to a large volume of interviews, and other mission requirements, scheduled interviewers are subject to change. We recommend you request a business card from your interviewer(s) at the time of the interview if ou wish to follow up afterward.

Does Justice pay for Honors Program interview travel?

Justice has authorized payment of certain costs associated with pre-employment interview travel to Washington, D.C. for Honors Program interviews. Depending on a candidate's interview schedule, authorized reimbursements may include common carrier transportation fares (e.g., airfare or train fare) or reimbursable mileage, and a partial per diem allowance to defray the cost of lodging, meals, and incidental expenses if an overnight stay is authorized or travel extends beyond a certain number of hours.

The Department's policy is to schedule interviews so that an overnight stay is not required. But if an overnight stay is necessary, the Department will later reimburse you your lodging expense at a hotel up to the government rate ceiling for the applicable geographic area. Detailed information on the current per diem rates is located at www.gsa.gov under the “Travel Resources” “Per Diem” link. If traveling to Washington, D.C., we recommend that you stay at a hotel accessible by the Metro rail system. Entitlements to lodging and other expenses will be approved in advance on a case-by-case basis. Not all candidates will qualify for all authorized costs. Many candidates will not qualify for the partial per diem rate. The Department will provide specific information to individual candidates prior to interview travel.

Where can I find information about reimbursable Honors Program interview travel expenses?

Justice will reimburse applicants selected for interview some costs associated with their travel.  View detailed information about reimbursable travel expenses to learn more.

When are Honors Program offers made?

Although there is no set time, we anticipate that most components will make first-round offers about two to three weeks after the end of formal interviews. The majority of the offers will be made from late November through December, but the process often extends into January and beyond.

Will I be notified if, after interviewing, I will not receive an offer for the Honors Program?

The Department will notify all candidates who interviewed but were not selected to receive an offer by email, but the timing of this notice varies. Candidates may want to add mail@avuedigitalservices.com to their contact lists to ensure our notification messages are not misrouted to “spam” or “junk” folders. Components make decentralized hiring decisions and frequently issue offers sequentially based on their internal ranking of candidates and the number of positions available. The component may issue a certain number of offers, then, depending on acceptances, may issue a second round, and occasionally a third round of offers. OARM issues final notice of non-selection only after a component reports that it has met its hiring requirements. All notifications are issued electronically.

If I receive an Honors Program offer, how much time do I have to respond?

DOJ policy is as follows:

  • Honors Program/Summer Law Intern Program offers to current law students will remain open for at least 14 days after the date issued.  Current law students receiving an offer on or before December 1 may extend their response deadline up to an additional 7 days by contacting the issuing office via email to reaffirm their interest in the position and specify the date by which they will respond.  Components have the discretion to extend response deadlines.  Components may withdraw any offer that is not accepted or reaffirmed within 14 days from the date of the offer.  Components may deem an offer declined if the candidate fails to respond by the established deadline (original deadline or extended deadline, as appropriate).
  • Honors Program offers to law school graduates will remain open for at least 14 days after the date the offer was issued.  Components have the discretion to extend response deadlines. Components may deem an offer declined if the candidate fails to respond by the established deadline (original deadline or extended deadline, as appropriate).

May I still interview with Justice if I accept an offer of employment, a legal fellowship, or a judicial clerkship prior to my Honors Program interview?

No. It is inappropriate to interview with the Department for an entry-level attorney position after accepting an offer of employment or a judicial clerkship. The Department hires for the upcoming year and does not defer hiring pending completion of a clerkship. Most law school graduates in their first eligibility preserving activity, however, remain eligible for the Honors Program and may reapply the following year. If it is your first clerkship or fellowship, you may request a transfer to be considered for the Summer Law Intern Program by re-entering your application and adding specific clerkship/fellowship information.  It is possible for a law school graduate to preserve eligibility for the Honors Program for up to three years.  Please visit HP Eligibility Requirements for details.  Applicants who are admitted to a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) and who graduated from law school at least one year earlier  may apply to the Department as experienced attorneys at a later date.

Will the Department defer my entry on duty if I accept a clerkship or legal fellowship after accepting an Honors Program offer?

The Department, like any other employer, relies on the hiring commitments it receives. We hope that candidates who accept an offer of employment will honor that commitment; however, if you find yourself in this situation, we recommend that you immediately notify the hiring component.

As a general rule, Justice will only defer entry on duty for exceptional circumstances, such as military service or unanticipated family or medical issues. All deferrals require prior written approval, in advance, from the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management and must be requested by the individual through the hiring component.  Most Honors Program candidates who accept judicial clerkships remain eligible for the Honors Program the following year and should reapply at that time. For a more detailed explanation of the eligibility requirements for individuals in judicial clerkships, view the Honors Program Eligibility Requirements.

Why do some hiring components require incoming attorney hires to sign a commitment letter?

Because Department of Justice cases are often factually complex and involve difficult legal issues, it is critical to our mission that cases are handled with congruence and that historical knowledge and understanding of cases is maintained.  Incoming attorneys, particularly entry-level attorneys, receive significant training to develop the skills and acquire the experience and knowledge required for proficient handling of investigations and litigation.  Thus, some components require incoming attorneys to commit to a period of service.  For the Honors Program, they are identified on the list of “Participating Components” – and the terms and conditions vary by component. 

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Security and Suitability (Background Investigation)

What is the difference between a Suitability Review and a Security Clearance?

All Department of Justice attorneys and legal interns will be subject to a suitability review by the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management and, for those candidates whose position requires access to classified materials, the Department's Security Staff will also determine their eligibility for a security clearance. It is important to note that determining a candidate's suitability for employment is different from a decision to grant them a security clearance and, at the Department of Justice, the two decisions are separate. However, both decisions are based on a review of the information provided to the Department by the candidate on their completed security forms, and for those candidates who work at the Department of six months or more, a Background Investigation conducted by the FBI . Usually, this only applies to attorneys, not law student interns.

What kind of background investigation is required? How long does it take?

Both entry level and experienced attorney candidates who accept an offer of employment must undergo a "full field" background investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A background investigation takes approximately 3-4 months to complete, depending on the complexity of the information provided. The investigation is detailed and comprehensive and includes a name and fingerprint check, interviews with references, close personal associates, former spouses, former employers, co-workers, neighbors, landlords, and educational institutions, and a thorough check of credit, military, tax, and police records. Depending on the level of clearance required by the employing organization, the background investigation covers a period of seven to ten years of the candidate's history. Most attorneys start work at the Department on an initial temporary appointment pending completion and favorable review and approval of their background investigation. This initial appointment is based upon a satisfactory review of the candidate's security forms.

What are the most common suitability issues or problems that arise during a background investigation?

The most common suitability issues that arise during the background investigation are:

  • Illegal drug use,
  • failure to fulfill tax obligations (including filing all tax returns even if you expect to receive a refund),
  • failure to comply with financial obligations,
  • failure to register for the selective service (male applicants only),
  • criminal record, and
  • misrepresentations or omissions on the security form.

After an applicant has received an offer of employment from the Department, the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management can offer advice regarding potential suitability problems. In a few unfortunate cases, the Department has withdrawn offers of employment when the investigation process revealed information that precluded a security or suitability clearance.

Does Justice require employees to take a drug test?

It is the policy of the Department 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/start of employment.

What happens if serious concerns are indentified during the background investigation?

A troublesome credit history, past experimental use of controlled substances, and other issues, may not necessarily disqualify a candidate, but resolution of the issues will likely require fuller explanations and additional time. The Department can withdraw an offer of employment if the investigation process reveals information that precludes a security and/or suitability clearance.

Where can I find employment related forms?

Justice attorneys and applicants may quickly access employment-related forms on-line at http://www.justice.gov/oarm/employment-forms.html. Some forms relate to DOJ hiring, pre-employment, and suitability while others relate to annual attorney training or certification requirements. Please follow the links below to find the applicable form. Please note that additional forms, including the standard security form, will be provided to the candidate by the hiring component.

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Salary and Benefits

What are the salaries for entry-level attorneys?

Entry-level attorney salaries may vary based on experience. View Attorney salary, promotion and benefits for more detailed information.

 Do non-legal advanced degrees (e.g., Masters, Doctorate) or prior federal service make a candidate eligible for a higher salary?

Generally, candidates with non-legal advanced degrees or prior federal service do not automatically qualify for a higher salary. If, however, a component determines that the advanced degree directly relates to your legal work, it might promote you more rapidly than it would have otherwise. On rare occasions, if the prior federal service has a direct and substantial relationship to the candidate's future legal duties, the hiring component may request an exception to policy to offer a higher salary.  

What benefits and services are available at Justice?

Justice offers a wide range of benefits to its employees including paid holidays, generous vacation and leave, health care coverage and retirement benefits.  View Attorney salary, promotion and benefits for more detailed information.

Is there a student loan repayment program?

Yes. Justice currently offers an Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP). The Department may repay up to $6,000 per year for qualifying attorneys up to a lifetime total of $60,000. The ASLRP selects new participants in the spring of each year subject to current budgetary limitations. Entering Honors Program attorneys who can meet a 3-year service obligation may request consideration for the program prior to their arrival and, if selected, a payment will be issued on their behalf after entry on duty. For more detailed information, review the ASLRP policy, eligibility information, and procedures for requesting consideration.

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Updated August 10, 2021

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