Attorneys in the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice represent the United States in civil, criminal, and appellate tax matters. Civil attorneys handle tax disputes in federal district courts, bankruptcy courts, the United States Court of Federal Claims, the United States Courts of Appeal, and, on occasion, state courts. Our criminal prosecutors participate in nearly all decisions to charge federal tax crimes throughout the United States and, together with attorneys in United States Attorneys' Offices, prosecute those charges. By litigating these cases, our lawyers play an essential role in developing federal tax law and in assuring the American public that everyone pays the tax they owe in accordance with the law.
The Tax Division represents the United States in a broad spectrum of litigation in federal and state courts across the country. Trial attorneys with the Tax Division have a unique opportunity to handle some of the most complex and important civil cases in the courts today. These include suits involving the legality of complex tax shelters, suits to enjoin promoters of tax scams and other fraudulent activity, and a wide variety of other affirmative and defensive litigation related to the collection of taxes and the uniform administration of the nation's tax laws. Tax Division attorneys at all levels are given significantly more responsibility for the conduct of these cases than they would normally receive in either the public or the private sector. The trial attorneys work in a collegial professional environment with the support of experienced litigators and a robust training program.
Trial attorneys in the Criminal Enforcement Sections handle or supervise criminal tax prosecutions in the federal district courts throughout the United States. Cases involve violations of criminal tax laws by taxpayers having legal sources of income, as well as cases involving financial fraud, health care fraud, organized crime activities, public corruption, and narcotics trafficking. For more information about the Criminal Enforcement Sections, visit the Department of Justice's Web site at: Tax Division website.
A Great Place to Start
The Tax Division hires new law school graduates solely through the Department of Justice Honors Program. In addition to allowing you an opportunity to serve your country, the Tax Division provides a new graduate an unrivalled opportunity to get superior litigation experience early in your legal career. For would-be prosecutors, the Tax Division is one of the few places where law school graduates can begin prosecuting federal white-collar cases immediately after passing the bar. Aspiring civil litigators are assigned their own cases from the first day, and may also participate on teams litigating some of the most sophisticated financial cases in the country. Our appellate lawyers, who handle appeals of district court and Tax Court cases, routinely brief and argue 8-10 cases a year in the courts of appeal around the country during their first year, an experience that is impossible to match in the private sector.
The sheer variety of issues in our cases makes every day a new challenge, even for the most experienced litigators. As the Sixth Circuit wrote in describing Blachy v. Butcher, 221 F.3d 896, 900 (6th Cir. 2000), a Tax Division case:
Even a diabolical bar examiner would be reluctant to impose this case's complex mixture of subject matter jurisdiction, fraud, real estate, marital property, bankruptcy, tax liens, contributory negligence, equitable remedies, and civil procedure upon hapless law school graduates. Because reality often marches in where creators of hypotheticals fear to tread, however, we are the "hapless" appellate court judges obliged to struggle with this twisted tale of true-life conflict.
A Great Place to Develop Your Skills
New lawyers are able to take on responsibility quickly because the Division offers them excellent training and the support and advice of experienced colleagues and supervisors.
The Division provides formal training in both substantive legal matters and litigation skills through its own Office of Training and Professional Development. Additionally, lawyers from the Division participate in courses offered by the Department's Office of Legal Education, including two-week trial practice courses where students have the opportunity to conduct mock jury trials before sitting federal judges. New prosecutors are often detailed to a local United States Attorney's Office for a four- to six-month intensive prosecution training program, where they will be assigned their own caseload. They can expect to litigate dozens of motions and spend substantial time in court, and they will have an opportunity to prosecute bench trials before district judges. Attorneys also have access to the extensive resources of the Justice Library System and a cadre of highly experienced law librarians who can help them find even the most obscure treatise.
Most important, our attorneys have access to experienced colleagues and managers who provide invaluable advice, guidance, and expertise. Each new attorney with less than five years of experience is assigned a mentor. Beyond this starting point, attorneys are encouraged to consult colleagues and section managers when they are faced with new legal challenges.
A Great Place to Start as a Lateral
The Division also welcomes lateral attorneys who have had a few (or more than a few) years' experience as litigators elsewhere and would like to give government service a try. We prefer lateral attorneys who have had experience with complex civil litigation or with criminal prosecutions. In large part, and depending on their level of experience, lateral attorneys are given the same training and mentoring opportunities that newly minted lawyers hired under the Honors Program receive.
Lateral Attorney Hiring Process
Tax Division attorney vacancy announcements are generally posted on the Department of Justice website and on USAJOBS for a minimum of 14 calendar days and up to 60 days. Vacancies are posted by functional area (civil, criminal, appellate), and applications for each functional area are handled by the respective Deputy Assistant Attorney General. The Counsel to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General (a career attorney) performs the initial assessment of the applicants' qualifications, forwards selected applicants to the section chiefs for consideration, and forwards non-selected applicants to Human Resources to issue notification letters. If a section chief chooses to interview a candidate, the candidate receives an interview with one or more attorney managers (chiefs or assistant chiefs), or sometimes with a senior trial attorney. Candidates frequently also interview with a line attorney. Potential hires are forwarded to the Counsel to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for further consideration (and for an additional interview if warranted) prior to hiring. Some candidates may also be interviewed by the Deputy Assistant Attorney General or by the Assistant Attorney General (depending on availability). The interviewers prepare written recommendations on each candidate interviewed. Hiring decisions are generally made on a rolling basis. The Assistant Attorney General makes the final decision on each applicant. Counsel to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General notifies the successful candidates, and Human Resources then initiates the pre-employment security process. Human Resources also notifies those applicants who are not selected.
A First-Class Work Environment
A major appeal of the Division is the collegial, non-competitive work environment. The Division provides the opportunity to engage in the pure practice of law, as close as it can be achieved - a practice not burdened by the pressure of billable hours or client development, and where legal positions only believed to be correct are advanced. In addition the Division encourages attorneys to maintain a reasonable work-life balance." The Division is rated as one of the Government's top places to work.
Each attorney is assigned to a section which has its own chief and assistant chiefs who provide first-line supervision and guidance. Most sections have approximately 25 attorneys. Because of the relatively small size of the sections, attorneys get the advantages of attention and assistance that one might find in a small firm, while also being able to draw on the resources of the larger organization of the Division, and the Department of Justice as a whole.
Division attorneys are well supported by sophisticated information technology systems that include: encrypted laptops (with docking stations) and flash drives, so attorneys can easily work while they travel; document management that assists in collaboration among attorneys and sharing resources; case management; and automated litigation support resources. Additionally, all attorneys have access to automated legal research from their desks.
Because the Division's cases are located all over the United States, Division attorneys can expect to travel in order to investigate their cases and to appear for trials and hearings. The extent of your travel will depend on the nature and location of your cases.
Each attorney receives an evaluation at least once a year. Those evaluations serve as an opportunity to receive formal feedback on your career progress, in addition to the daily feedback you receive relating to specific documents or cases. Cases are assigned and attorneys are promoted based on their experience and the quality of their performance, not longevity or other bases. Each year the Division recognizes the contributions of many of its employees with cash awards and recognition at an Awards Ceremony in the Great Hall of the RFK Main Justice Building. Attorneys are also eligible for time-off awards in recognition of their contributions to the mission.
The Tax Division requires all new attorney hires to agree to serve three continuous years with the Division.
- ABA Interview with Gil Rothenberg, Chief, Appellate Section (PDF)
- FBA Interview with Patrick Mullarkey, Chief, Civil Trial Section Northern Region (PDF)