Entry-Level Attorneys


Justice accepts applications for entry-level attorney positions during an annual recruitment cycle (July 31 through early September). Applicants must apply approximately a year in advance. Honors Program candidates are current law students seeking employment following graduation and recent law school graduates serving in judicial clerkships, legal fellowships, and LL.M. programs.

Who Is Eligible to Apply in 2019?

  • Law students (full or part time) who will graduate from law school between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020.
  • Joint degree students simultaneously pursuing a J.D. and another graduate degree (legal or non-legal, e.g., J.D./MBA or J.D./LL.M.)
    • All academic requirements must be completed and both degrees must be conferred by September 30, 2020.
    • There cannot be a significant break in time between completion of one degree and the continuation of the second degree (e.g., no more than a normal interim between semesters/quarters or a regular summer break)
  • Recent law school graduates participating in or formally committed to an eligibility preserving activity
    • Participation in the eligibility preserving activity must be active through at least December 1 of the application year (may run later)
  • Citizenship and residency requirements apply

What Are Eligibility Preserving Activities?

Eligibility preserving activities are full-time activities starting after law school graduation that can preserve a law school graduate’s eligibility for the Honors Program and are defined as:

  • Judicial Clerkships (any U.S. jurisdiction)
    • Local, state, or federal courts; executive branch administrative law judges (please note the restrictions on 14-month law clerk/trainee appointments, as discussed in the next bullet)
    • Time-limited court Staff Attorney positions
  • Federal agency Honors Programs
    • Individuals who enter on duty with an executive branch agency via a 14-month appointment as a law clerk trainee must be admitted to a bar, in any U.S. jurisdiction, within 14 months of their initial appointment.  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. Individuals are only entitled to one such appointment per 5 C.F.R. §§ 213.101, 213.3102
  • Legal Fellowships (see requirements below)
  • LL.M. programs
    • Most recognized LL.M. programs can be completed within an academic year of full-time study; programs extending beyond this period will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis

What Are the Rules Governing Eligibility Preserving Activities?

  • The first eligibility preserving activity must begin within nine months of law school graduation
  • Eligibility preserving activities must be full time
  • As a general rule, eligibility preserving activities must be at least 12 months in duration (for LL.M. programs, an academic year)
    • Activities of shorter duration are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but exceptions are rare
  • Applicants can have more than one eligibility preserving activity
    • Applicants with multiple eligibility preserving activities can preserve their Honors Program eligibility up to three recruitment cycles after law school graduation
      • The annual Honors Program recruitment cycle opens July 31 and closes in early September.
      • The 2019 application deadline is Sunday, September 8, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.
    • Breaks between consecutive eligibility preserving activities cannot exceed 120 days
    • All eligibility preserving activities combined, including time before and between activities, must total no more than four years in duration (from law school graduation to December of the year following application)
  • The final eligibility preserving activity must run through at least December 1 of the year of the Honors Program application and applicants must be able to enter on duty at DOJ in the calendar year after applying (e.g., if applied in 2019, must enter on duty in 2020)

When and How to Apply to the Honors Program

  • The application period opens July 31 and closes Sunday, September 8, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST
  • Applicants must apply approximately one year ahead of anticipated start date
  • Applicants must be able to enter on duty at DOJ in the calendar year after applying (e.g., if applied in 2019, must enter on duty in 2020)
  • Apply via the DOJ online application

Ineligibility:  Common Activities and Conditions that Terminate Eligibility

  • Received J.D. prior to October 1, 2016
    • Law school graduates who received their J.D. prior to October 1, 2016, are not eligible.
  • Not engaged in or committed to an eligibility preserving activity by the application deadline
    • Recent Graduates (October 1, 2018 - September 30, 2019) who are not engaged in or committed to an eligibility preserving activity starting within 9 months of law school graduation by the date they submit their application are not eligible this year
  • Part-time post-law school graduation activities
    • Part-time, post-law school graduation judicial clerkships, legal fellowships, or graduate law programs do not preserve Honors Program eligibility
  • Inability to enter on duty the year following application
    • Applicants must be available to enter on duty with the Department in the calendar year after applying (e.g., if applied in 2019, must be available to enter on duty in 2020) 
  • Permanent employment following law school graduation



Legal Fellowship Requirements:  

A number of legal fellowships may preserve Honors Program eligibility.  Candidates with legal fellowships may apply on a conditional basis.  Eligibility determinations will be based solely on the information provided on the application.  To qualify, fellowships must meet the rules applicable to all eligibility preserving activities and:  

  • Be publicly advertised as a fellowship at the time the candidate applied to the fellowship.  (Applicants are required to include in their application the website where the fellowship is advertised or a copy of the vacancy announcement for the fellowship.)
  • Have published eligibility criteria, application process, and application deadline applicable to all similarly qualified candidates
  • Have a formal sponsor (e.g., a public service organization, a foundation, a bar association, a law school, etc.) and an established legal mission (e.g., purpose, type of work)
  • Be of fixed duration
  • "Bridge the gap" fellowships that require fellows to continue to seek other employment and that terminate when the incumbent secures permanent legal employment do not qualify



Updated April 2, 2019

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