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Legal Careers

Trial Attorney

Hiring Organization
Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
Hiring Office
Natural Resources Section
Job ID
150 M Street NE
Washington, DC 20002 - United States
Application Deadline:
About the Office

The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking experienced litigators for its Natural Resources Section in Washington, DC. The Section's cases are tried throughout the United States and its possessions and territories in both state and federal court, including the Court of Federal Claims. The Section represents virtually every major federal agency.

As the federal agency whose mission is to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans, the Department of Justice is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. To build and retain a workforce that reflects the diverse experiences and perspectives of the American people, we welcome applicants from the many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, religions, and cultures of the United States who share our commitment to public service.

Job Description

The Natural Resources Section represents virtually every major federal agency in federal district court, the Court of Federal Claims, and State courts in novel and complex litigation arising under more than 80 natural resource, environmental, and cultural resource statutes, various treaties and international agreements, interstate compacts, and congressional referrals. Among other statutes, our cases arise under the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the National Trails System Act. Large portions of our docket involve challenges under the Administrative Procedure Act or the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On any given day, the Section's attorneys handle a vast portfolio of cases involving:

  • The stewardship of our national parks, forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, and offshore resources.
  • Defense of renewable energy projects.
  • Vital federal programs ranging from nuclear materials management to military preparedness to national energy policy.
  • Original actions in the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve boundary and water allocation disputes in the western part of the country.
  • Real property claims arising under the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which involve issues such as military readiness, transportation infrastructure, and flood control.
  • The United States' trust relationship with Native Americans and Tribes.

The Natural Resources Section seeks to hire and cultivate talented trial attorneys and provides its lawyers with frequent and meaningful court experience in a variety of jurisdictions on a broad range of issues. Because of the diverse nature of our docket, the ideal candidate should be comfortable in "first-chair" and supporting roles in multiple complex cases, and have demonstrated and substantial experience in civil litigation, including pre-trial discovery, presentation of oral argument, and examination of fact and expert witnesses.

The cases handled by the Section require attorneys to achieve intellectual command of complicated facts, scientific principles, and legal issues, often rapidly. Successful candidates will be intellectually curious, driven, and will enjoy having primary responsibilities in sophisticated litigation, proficiency in working with a wide range of experts, and the ability to harness technology and litigation support in the preparation of cases. Creative thinking and talent in problem-solving -- whether in a litigation or settlement context -- are critical. Collegiality is fundamental to our Section. The ideal candidate will be comfortable working collaboratively with other attorneys and providing support and mentorship to less experienced attorneys.

On a day-to-day basis, our attorneys address case management issues, negotiate with opposing counsel, write motions and briefs, take and defend depositions, prepare for trial, present oral arguments, and conduct trials. Our attorneys work closely with both attorneys and program staff at our client agencies, as well as with expert witnesses retained to offer opinions in our litigation. Preparation of expert reports and witness opinions often requires site visits to breathtaking and interesting lands and natural resources.

In staffing our cases, we strive to create work opportunities for our attorneys that allow them to constantly learn and grow by providing new challenges and sometimes even a bit of adventure. We provide new attorneys with robust skills-based and substantive training. Within their first year with the Natural Resources Section, we strive to provide our attorneys the opportunity to author briefs in federal court, argue substantive motions, and take depositions. The opportunity to participate in a trial is typically available within the first two years on the job. Being able to gain this type of experience on cases of this complexity so soon after starting sets the Natural Resources Section apart.


Applicants must possess a J.D. degree, be an active member of the bar (any jurisdiction), and be a U.S. citizen or national. Applicants should have a strong interest in federal litigation and/or trial work and an exceptional academic background. Judicial clerkship experience and familiarity with defensive civil litigation is highly desirable and knowledge of Fifth Amendment takings, natural resource law, or Indian law is a plus. Applicants must demonstrate superior research, analytical, and writing abilities.

Specific grade level requirements:
GS-14: At least 4 years of post-J.D. litigation experience.
GS-15: At least 5 years of post-J.D. litigation experience.

Required Documents

  • Resume and cover letter highlighting relevant experience
  • Writing Sample
  • DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and other supporting documentation, if applicable

Your resume MUST include full employment information such as periods of employment with month/year started and ended, title of position(s), FT or PT hours worked, and description of duties. If you have Federal employment, you must include the grade of the positions(s).

Do not include the following types of information in your profile or resume:

  • Classified or government sensitive information
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Photos of yourself
  • Personal information, such as age, gender, religious affiliation, etc.
  • Encrypted and digitally signed documents
Application Process

Applicants must submit a current resume, cover letter highlighting relevant experience, writing sample, and DD-214 (if applicable) to:

James D. Gette
Chief, Natural Resources Section
U.S. Department of Justice

Email applications to: ATTYAPPLY-NRS.ENRD@USDOJ.GOV with the subject line: ENRD-24-009-EXC

No telephone calls, please.

How you will be evaluated

You will be evaluated based on your qualifications for this position as evidenced by the experience you report relative to this position. Paid and unpaid experience will be considered.

You must submit your application so that it will be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

Please note: The Selecting Official may select additional candidates if more positions become available within 90 days after the announcement closes.


The possible salary range is:

  • GS-14 ($139,395 - $181,216 annually)
  • GS-15 ($163,964 - $191,900 annually) 
Number of Positions
Periodic travel is required
Relocation Expenses
Relocation expenses will not be authorized

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Department Policies

Equal Employment Opportunity:  The U.S. Department of Justice is an Equal Opportunity/Reasonable Accommodation Employer.  Except where otherwise provided by law, there will be no discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex - including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy status - or because of age (over 40), physical or mental disability, protected genetic information, parental status, marital status, political affiliation, or any other non-merit based factor.  The Department of Justice welcomes and encourages applications from persons with physical and mental disabilities. The Department is firmly committed to satisfying its affirmative obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to ensure that persons with disabilities have every opportunity to be hired and advanced on the basis of merit within the Department of Justice. For more information, please review our full EEO Statement.

Reasonable Accommodations:  This agency provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the agency.  Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Outreach and Recruitment for Qualified Applicants with Disabilities:  The Department encourages qualified applicants with disabilities, including individuals with targeted/severe disabilities to apply in response to posted vacancy announcements.  Qualified applicants with targeted/severe disabilities may be eligible for direct hire, non-competitive appointment under Schedule A (5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(u)) hiring authority.  Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to contact one of the Department’s Disability Points of Contact (DPOC) to express an interest in being considered for a position. See list of DPOCs.   

Suitability and Citizenship:  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 which screens for illegal drug use prior to final appointment.  Employment is also contingent upon the completion and satisfactory adjudication of a background investigation. 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 (see, 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:  There is no formal rating system for applying veterans' preference to attorney appointments in the excepted service; however, the Department of Justice considers veterans' preference eligibility as a positive factor in attorney hiring. Applicants eligible for veterans' preference must include that information in their cover letter or resume and attach supporting documentation (e.g., the DD 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and other supporting documentation) to their submissions. Although the "point" system is not used, per se, applicants eligible to claim 10-point preference must submit Standard Form (SF) 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, and submit the supporting documentation required for the specific type of preference claimed (visit the OPM website, for a copy of SF 15, which lists the types of 10-point preferences and the required supporting document(s). Applicants should note that SF 15 requires supporting documentation associated with service- connected disabilities or receipt of nonservice-connected disability pensions to be dated 1991 or later except in the case of service members submitting official statements or retirement orders from a branch of the Armed Forces showing that their retirement was due to a permanent service-connected disability or that they were transferred to the permanent disability retired list (the statement or retirement orders must indicate that the disability is 10% or more).

USAO Residency Requirement:  Assistant United States Attorneys must reside in the district to which appointed or within 25 miles thereof.  See 28 U.S.C. 545 for district specific information.

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This and other vacancy announcements can be found under Attorney Vacancies and Volunteer Legal Internships. The Department of Justice cannot control further dissemination and/or posting of information contained in this vacancy announcement. Such posting and/or dissemination is not an endorsement by the Department of the organization or group disseminating and/or posting the information.

Updated February 21, 2024