Non-L state department

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Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:46 am

we've all heard that getting a gig in the legal advisor office of the state department is next to impossible, but what about other areas? Obviously the advice to most is to not go to law school, but what about for people who are already more than halfway done and interested in the foreign service. About the most I've been able to figure out is that there is a little pay bump for those with JD's but how competitive the JD makes you I have no idea. If anyone has any insight on going state department but not L after law school I would love to hear it.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:07 am

Anonymous User wrote:Obviously the advice to most is to not go to law school, but what about for people who are already more than halfway done and interested in the foreign service.


This is me. I intend to sign up for the exam this year (2L), but I know the odds of getting a position is low.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby notedgarfigaro » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:17 am

Anonymous User wrote:we've all heard that getting a gig in the legal advisor office of the state department is next to impossible, but what about other areas? Obviously the advice to most is to not go to law school, but what about for people who are already more than halfway done and interested in the foreign service. About the most I've been able to figure out is that there is a little pay bump for those with JD's but how competitive the JD makes you I have no idea. If anyone has any insight on going state department but not L after law school I would love to hear it.


My cousin (practicing lawyer at a pretty decent firm)and I both took the test at the same time, and made it to the 2nd round; she went on to get through the process and is an FSO, whereas I didn't proceed in large part b/c my lack of relevant work experience. So yes, having a JD and a couple of years of work under your belt will likely give you a slight edge, but slight is the key word. If you really want a boost, know a foreign language and have military service. You'll still need to pass the written examination first, then whether you get to the oral examination might rest on your resume. If you get to the oral examination, your score combined with any boost from foreign language/military and where you rank among the branch you chose determines whether you get in.

Basically...a JD's nice, but not really a game changer.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:10 am

From someone who made it through the whole process, turned down the job for a woman and went to law school instead, and has now been left by said woman and regrets the whole law school thing (and will probably retake the FS exam...), here are a few thoughts on making the most of your remaining law school time to maximize your odds in the crapshoot that is the Foreign Service exam:

1) focus on clinical work. The oral exam is, at least in part, about talking about *specific* experiences you have had that demonstrate your commitment to the type of work that the FS does (and your chosen cone in particular), and your attributes on those N dimensions (5? 13? I forget, it's been a while). Clinics are the best way to get those experiences while still in school. Try to tailor it to your cone-of-choice if possible, but anything will do, honest. Ethical quandaries that you have successfully navigated are gold, as far as the FS exam goes. Publications and Law Review will only help on the margins.

2) if you're serious about it, look up the yahoo groups for the FS exam. The pass rate on the oral exam is not very high (on my test day it seemed like maybe 1/4?), but 3/4 of my study group got through it. You'll hear how other people are thinking, and you'll get their feedback on how to sharpen your responses. Very valuable.

3) don't just focus on international law. More mundane areas of law, like employment law, for example, are good to know because issues related to the administrative side of things are tested on the written exam. And there's a history of employment discrimination there, and it's always good to know what you're getting into.

4) be patient. The exam is opaque and the grading of it feels like it can be somewhat arbitrary. If you pass the first time, great! If you don't, don't get discouraged. Figure out what you did wrong, follow step #2 if you didn't the first time, and sign up for another try.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 1:27 pm

I used to be an intern at a US embassy abroad in a location considered a reward post. My boss, an FSO, held a law degree and said it was very useful. He said that a lot of lawyers fail the oral examination though because they think like a lawyer and try to "win." That approach will make you fail the oral exam part.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:From someone who made it through the whole process, turned down the job for a woman and went to law school instead, and has now been left by said woman and regrets the whole law school thing (and will probably retake the FS exam...), here are a few thoughts on making the most of your remaining law school time to maximize your odds in the crapshoot that is the Foreign Service exam:

1) focus on clinical work. The oral exam is, at least in part, about talking about *specific* experiences you have had that demonstrate your commitment to the type of work that the FS does (and your chosen cone in particular), and your attributes on those N dimensions (5? 13? I forget, it's been a while). Clinics are the best way to get those experiences while still in school. Try to tailor it to your cone-of-choice if possible, but anything will do, honest. Ethical quandaries that you have successfully navigated are gold, as far as the FS exam goes. Publications and Law Review will only help on the margins.

2) if you're serious about it, look up the yahoo groups for the FS exam. The pass rate on the oral exam is not very high (on my test day it seemed like maybe 1/4?), but 3/4 of my study group got through it. You'll hear how other people are thinking, and you'll get their feedback on how to sharpen your responses. Very valuable.

3) don't just focus on international law. More mundane areas of law, like employment law, for example, are good to know because issues related to the administrative side of things are tested on the written exam. And there's a history of employment discrimination there, and it's always good to know what you're getting into.

4) be patient. The exam is opaque and the grading of it feels like it can be somewhat arbitrary. If you pass the first time, great! If you don't, don't get discouraged. Figure out what you did wrong, follow step #2 if you didn't the first time, and sign up for another try.


thanks for the insight. I really wanted to join the peace corps and go from there to the foreign service. Did neither and went to law school for a girl, haha. Should I make learning a new language pretty much my hobby for the next two years of law school? I have a good bit of international experience (did my entire undergrad abroad).

What about doing peace corps post law school and then doing FS?

Also since you already went through the process how are they about past drug use. I haven't done anything illegal in about 3 years but would also rather not have to lie about my past on an application.

Thanks again for all the insight

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:42 am

I am the DoS intern who posted above. They are generally okay with past drug use I think if you come clean in your security clearance and tell them everything. They are mainly concerned about foreigners being able to blackmail you.

I could also be wrong, but I don't think Peace Corps is necessary for getting in. None of the FSOs I worked with did Peace Corp. You need to pass the exam and knowledge and preparation will help you there. Also, I just remembered... A friend of mine from law school just withdrew after 1L year because he learned he passed the exam and was admitted. He didn't do Peace Corps. Starting law school doesn't mean you can't transition but it will take some time.

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:55 am

I didn't think PC was necessary to get in, but probably pretty helpful? Like I said in the above post its something I always wanted to do and my understanding is that its a pretty solid in into FS

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Re: Non-L state department

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 17, 2012 11:04 am

I'm the anon who posted that list. As for drug use, the guy who did my background check said that anything that could fall into the category of "youthful indiscretion" would be interpreted in that light. Honesty seems to be appreciated.

I also agree with the other poster who mentioned that the oral assessment is not about "winning." You do need to be assertive, but you also want to be working with the other people, encouraging those to speak who are more reticent, helping moderate those who keep talking, etc. The goal in the group portion is to get the best outcome for the group as a whole. But as I mentioned, you can find plenty of advice for the exam elsewhere.

Language points are close to being essential these days. I came out of the oral exam with a pretty decent score, in a cone that was intermediate in terms of applicant numbers, and I needed my language points to get an offer. (I think the order of desirability among the cones when I applied was P > PD > Economic > Con > Mgmt, but it fluctuates a bit)




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