Entry-level federal government

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Anonymous User
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Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:10 pm

Current 2L at a T6/T10/T14 or so at around median, and I'm interested in doing government work after graduation. I'm working for a well-known and respected big federal agency this summer. Where should I look for entry-level opportunities at regulatory agencies? And what do those careers look like, especially in terms of ability to transition to the private sector if I so desire at some point?

LawIdiot86
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby LawIdiot86 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Current 2L at a T6/T10/T14 or so at around median, and I'm interested in doing government work after graduation. I'm working for a well-known and respected big federal agency this summer. Where should I look for entry-level opportunities at regulatory agencies? And what do those careers look like, especially in terms of ability to transition to the private sector if I so desire at some point?


Good odds to transfer to the private sector. Very hard to get into as entry level. Even with your school, your grades are going to be an issue in some places. The odds are roughly 1/100 to 1/500, depending on the agency. They usually require a prior internship with the agency to even break to the second round of interviews.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:02 pm

They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?

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leobowski
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby leobowski » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?



Lining up a state govt. gig because fed gigs are basically impossible.

rad lulz
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby rad lulz » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:18 pm

leobowski wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?



Lining up a state govt. gig because fed gigs are basically impossible.

Credited response ITE

theaccidentalclerk
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby theaccidentalclerk » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:20 pm

Lining up a state govt. gig because fed gigs are basically impossible.


This. I don't think law students realize exactly how desirable -- and thus competitive -- federal government jobs are. The hours generally are manageable (while a few places like DOJ/USAO work more than 9-5, even those ones are much more sane than a biglaw job), the work is usually interesting, it's a prestigious line on your resume, and the pay is actually pretty decent, at least after a few years. No, you won't be making $200k -- but you'll be close to $100k depending on the jurisdiction. Plus the job security is much better.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby LawIdiot86 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:22 pm

leobowski wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?



Lining up a state govt. gig because fed gigs are basically impossible.


This and two other thoughts. One, schools have semester-in-DC options where you do a 10-14 credit externship at an agency in DC for a semester (I know Duke and Pitt have this). Two, lots of agencies have regional or local offices. See http://fdic.gov/about/contact/directory/index.html, 10 field offices and ~90 local offices. Or line up a state internship in the equivalent field. And you won't get federal permanent. It just doesn't happen anymore.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?


Even if you don't go to school in DC, you can still get intern for the feds - local USAO, local EPA, SEC field office, etc.

LawIdiot86
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby LawIdiot86 » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
They usually require a prior internship with the agency


Options are limited because I don't go to law school in DC. What kind of things should government-inclined 2Ls be doing before graduation?


Even if you don't go to school in DC, you can still get intern for the feds - local USAO, local EPA, SEC field office, etc.


I have a suspicion that "local USAO" won't cut it if you're trying to establish federal credentials. Their work is just too general and there are too many internships with them for it to act as a differentiator.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:58 pm

My advice: work as hard as you can starting yesterday to find something in the private sector. After two stints in the fed. govt. doing the best anyone could possibly do, there's still about a 5% chance of me getting a fed. job and I have done it all right.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:08 pm

Does anyone know if you can get a VRA appt to a GS-9 or 11 J.D.-required position?

linquest
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby linquest » Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone know if you can get a VRA appt to a GS-9 or 11 J.D.-required position?


No. VRA doesn't count in excepted service hiring.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:08 am

I'll post as someone who landed an entry-level permanent fed gov position (not DOJ, but cabinet-level). I'm a 3L now and start in August. Hopefully my anecdotal information will provide some insight. And for the record, hire/applicant ratio was about 1/250 in my case.

1. Stats: Top 10% at a T25, secondary journal, 2L summer at a big market USAO. From what I've been told, within Tier 1 schools, school is virtually meaningless for many agencies (obviously some exceptions for the super-prestige spots). Academic performance within your school is much much more important. All else being equal, top 10% at a T25 has an advantage over median even at a T6.

2. Work experience is key. Prior experience at an agency/USAO is extremely helpful, the bigger the name for either the better. At the same time, one stop as an intern at DOJ or SDNY USAO isn't necessarily enough. Again, if you're looking outside the super-prestigtious positions, but are more interested in general entry-level fed gov jobs, a proven track record of public interest is mandatory. In my case, that meant no hint of private sector on my resume. I had USAO, two judicial internships (state level), and civil litigation clinic, along with policy-oriented undergrad experience.

The important thing to keep in mind is that all government agencies, even DOJ, don't think like law firms. They're not hiring to be a stopover for 3-5 years and a way to improve exit options. Government agencies are the exit options. They're looking for people they can hire at the beginning and mold throughout their careers. And the massive increase in applications most places have received ITE only make them more committed to weeding out the people who aren't interested in government careers. Being able to project a lifelong commitment to public interest, both on paper and during interviews, is the most important feature of a successful applicant. Agencies aren't interested in being second choices to failed BigLaw aspirants. They want to hire people with the skills and resume to get BigLaw, but who purposefully choose government instead.

3. The last point is more from my own experience, but do as many campus-arranged interviews as you can during fall 3L. I went 4/4 in landing interviews with agencies during 3L OCI, one of which led to the offer I accepted. I probably emailed in applications to another 10 agencies, and received 0 interviews. The OCI process helps because you are being compared to a much smaller pool (usually just your own school or a group of schools) rather than the whole pile of 3,000 applications. It's much easier for your resume to get read that way. Also, many agencies let the first round interviewers make their own choices for callbacks, though some only have partial input. Either way, you're only being compared against 20 or so candidates, as opposed to approximately 1,000 after the first interview in a mass mail context. Then once you reach the callback stage the odds are slightly less draconian, though still long.

HTH and I'm glad to offer more thoughts if you have specific questions.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby anonymcoffee » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:50 am

@Anonymous Poster, I had a few other questions about your experience, please PM me or how could I ask you? Thanks.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:43 am

I will add thoughts on my own experience in case they are useful. I will be starting at a non-DOJ agency in the fall. My stats - top 10 school, top 10%, federal clerkship. I largely agree with everything the previous poster said.

Given the insane competition, you should get your grades up as high as possible. Grades do matter more than school, but if you combine your top school with great grades, you will have a very strong application.

If possible, I would suggest trying to do a federal clerkship. Clerking is almost a requirement for DOJ honors, and for other agencies it will give you a leg up over applicants coming straight through. It would also allow you to avoid applying during the 2012 election, during which many agencies may be cautious about hiring. You can plan on doing both application processes so that if one doesn't work out, you still have a chance at the other. Both are insanely competitive now. Keep in mind that clerking preserves your eligibility for entry-level government work, so if you strike out on that front, you can try to pick up a late clerkship and try again in a year.

I emphatically agree that demonstrated public service is crucial. Though I had never previously worked for a federal or state government, I had only done public interest work. The key thing is to show a genuine commitment to public interest.

I would also add another thought - once you get outside the DOJ, agencies usually have niche practices. They want to see a demonstrated interest in their field. The degree of experience you need varies. For something like the EPA, you will need significant classroom and work experience in environmental law (and probably a B.A. in a science). For something more esoteric like financial regulation or antitrust, you may not need to have worked in the field before, but you will have to convince them that you are genuinely interested. It is best if you can show them a transcript that has solid grades in relevant classes.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of connections. Talk to your school's public interest career office. See if you can reach out to alums who work for agencies in which you are interested. Ask those people what their work is like, what skills they use, etc. Use your application to emphasize your suitability for the job based on this information. Also talk to professors, whether or not you've taken classes with them. Ask the professors you know if there is anyone else you should talk to about various agencies. At worst, you will get good information, and at best someone will put in a word on your behalf.

I'm happy to answer other questions.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby anonymcoffee » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:22 am

what if i have bad grades at GW..approx 3.0, no journal? Is there a way to spin that or how can I overcome it...although I realize grades are everything, one can dream...

I only have fed govt experience on my resume and I'm doing paid summer at a fed agency OGC. I know you mentioned OCI, although I am not sure how many agencies come to recruit at GW for 3Ls. Should I be thinking of mass mailing or should I be using USAJobs? I underwent a background clearance for the summer and was cleared, would that have any importance? I'd love to work for fed. govt. although I am not sure on where to start research/reaching out. Plus, wasn't the fed. govt on a hiring freeze?

LawIdiot86
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby LawIdiot86 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:06 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:what if i have bad grades at GW..approx 3.0, no journal? Is there a way to spin that or how can I overcome it...although I realize grades are everything, one can dream...

I only have fed govt experience on my resume and I'm doing paid summer at a fed agency OGC. I know you mentioned OCI, although I am not sure how many agencies come to recruit at GW for 3Ls. Should I be thinking of mass mailing or should I be using USAJobs? I underwent a background clearance for the summer and was cleared, would that have any importance? I'd love to work for fed. govt. although I am not sure on where to start research/reaching out. Plus, wasn't the fed. govt on a hiring freeze?


Look at PMF and non-legal things on USAjobs like contract administrators (500?) and investigators at OIGs (1800). Also, look at program coordinator and project analyst type jobs (300 series) on USAjobs.

lpecan
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby lpecan » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:22 pm

linquest wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Does anyone know if you can get a VRA appt to a GS-9 or 11 J.D.-required position?


No. VRA doesn't count in excepted service hiring.



This is sort of true. VRA doesn't count in excepted service hiring because it is unnecessary. As I understand it, VRA/VEOA are special appointing authorities which allow a noncompetitive appointment to the federal competitive service. Since law jobs are in the excepted service, there is no need for an exception to the generally competitive process.

I have very little to support this conclusion other than anecdotal evidence, but non-law jobs are probably pretty difficult to get for a JD without experience in the field. I just can't imagine being hired as an 1102 contract specialist or 0343 Management and Program Analyst positions without relevant experience in contracting, etc.. I would say applying on USAJOBS is then a waste of your time.

PMF, however, is the exception. All those jobs which you'd think your JD might make you somewhat qualified for (like the two mentioned above) are pretty open to you there. Since PMF offers you a two-year noncompetitive appointment into a position which MUST convert into the competitive service, your target position cannot be excepted, like 0905 Attorney or 1811 Special Agent, though [rarely] some have succeeded in using the program as a stepping stone to those jobs.

anonymcoffee
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby anonymcoffee » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:48 pm

I am seeing that PMF process is highly competitive and has a difficult process. Is this not true? Plus, don't you have to be nominated by your school? I'd think just applying to USAJobs is easier than trying PMF?

Also, would the JD have a negative impact if applying to non-law positions in fed govt like the ones mentioned above?

LawIdiot86
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby LawIdiot86 » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:07 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:I am seeing that PMF process is highly competitive and has a difficult process. Is this not true? Plus, don't you have to be nominated by your school? I'd think just applying to USAJobs is easier than trying PMF?

Also, would the JD have a negative impact if applying to non-law positions in fed govt like the ones mentioned above?

Most schools will nominate anyone with a pulse. And because PMF is seen as a special program that culls out the 9,000 applicants to 600 finalists, it helps you jump the line versus USAjobs. I would take being a PMF at their fair anyday over being in the undifferentiated mass of USAjobs. Also, PMFs don't compete with existing federal employees or other preferential hiring plans that do exist on USAjobs.

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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:10 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:I am seeing that PMF process is highly competitive and has a difficult process. Is this not true? Plus, don't you have to be nominated by your school? I'd think just applying to USAJobs is easier than trying PMF?

Also, would the JD have a negative impact if applying to non-law positions in fed govt like the ones mentioned above?


As a graduating 3L and current PMF finalist, I can tell you that there is no downside to applying for the PMF program if you are interested in the federal government and strike out (or suspect you might strike out) with the honors programs. It is competitive, but as long as you get nominated by your school, your grades become 100% irrelevant to the selection process. I don't think my resume was ever considered by OPM during the process. However, once you become a finalist your resume obviously does matter because you have to get an agency to hire you.

I was concerned about agencies being weary of the glut of JD PMF Finalists (hundreds this year), but I'm top 5% at a T50 (albeit with an elite undergraduate degree and an excellent federal legal internship) and I've had MANY agencies interested in me and am currently deciding between two excellent offers. Neither are attorney positions, but they are both excellent jobs with awesome career potential in the government and the private sector, one at GS-11 and the other at the equivalent of a GS-11 Step 4 (plus PMFs get an automatic promotion after a year).

Certainly if you are already considering non-attorney jobs on USAJobs, you should do the PMF program.

anonymcoffee
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby anonymcoffee » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:39 pm

I really hope that the "anyone with a pulse" comment is true..I'm at GW and it appears that the dean has to approve you, I'll have to do more research on it.

I am especially interested in the fact that not all jobs are strictly law related, I'm becoming more disillusioned with being a lawyer, mostly because of my terrible grades...BUT ironically, I've loved all my fed. govt positions. I'll look into the PMF, this thread has been so helpful even in 3 or 4 posts. I'd love any other recommendations on how to prepare this summer or what I should be doing.

Anonymous User
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:04 pm

anonymcoffee wrote:I really hope that the "anyone with a pulse" comment is true..I'm at GW and it appears that the dean has to approve you, I'll have to do more research on it.


Re: the nomination process, OPM is working on a final rule revising the PMF regs. One of the big changes is that the new regs will remove the nomination process entirely, so by the time you apply, it might not be an issue. The rule is supposed to be published in the spring, but who knows when it will actually happen.

And just to give you hope, I am a current PMF, and got my current job without anyone asking for a transcript. As someone who was also median-ish, I understand the stress around that.

Anonymous User
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:09 pm

I don't know why a school would be selective with its nominations. As far as I can tell, there is no OPM limit on how many students a school can nominate. A school should want to claim to have as many PMFs as possible (and the PMF program is a good alternate career path for its students). They ought to nominate anyone who is interested and let OPM sort it out.

I will say that one odd thing about the PMF process is how so many agencies are excited about getting the best and the brightest when the process doesn't even come close to guaranteeing that those selected are the best and the brightest. I happen to have excellent grades, experience, references, and overall credentials; none of these mattered one way or another during the selection process. I happen to have been accurate and truthful in the in-person assessment; one could, however, easily lie their way through it and OPM would be none the wiser as they have to take what we say at face value.

Anonymous User
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Re: Entry-level federal government

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:43 pm

My friend from a TT with no journal and top 15-20% got a honors job with DOJ b/c she interned there during the year and i assume did a bomb job.




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