Fed Not that Great

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Nosso
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Nosso » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:00 am

I'm starting a govt gig first coming off a clerkship, and I do appreciate getting a different perspective. I have an s/o in biglaw, and even with all the info you've given, fedgov still seems much better. I think you're missing a two things. First, although some firms have "unlimited" vacation policies, there's always a decent chance that you'll need to remain available in case something comes up i.e. you're never truly disconnected. Second, many biglaw attorneys don't use vacation because they're pressured to make hours for that year. Billing is a huge source of stress for the attorneys I know, and not having to bill a certain amount of hours a year gives fedgov a huge advantage over biglaw.

But like other posters have said, fedgov is not the end all be all of legal jobs. Every job has its downsides.

One questions for current fedgov attorneys, do you feel like you got a lot more experience early on compared to your biglaw counterparts or is that exaggerated as well?

gaddockteeg
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby gaddockteeg » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:I've been working as an atty for the feds for a bit now. Quite frankly, when compared to the [non-shit law] private sector, it kind of sucks. This is coming from someone who lives in a major metropolitan area. So, the situation may be different for employees in the heartland and such. My thoughts:

Pay sucks. You'll likely struggle for the first couple of years, especially if you have family and dependents. If you started with the feds as an entry level atty, it takes a few years to reach a six figure salary. Your salary will probably plateau to the 120s mid-career, which is not bad, but in a metropolitan area where your private counterparts by that time are making quite a bit more, it's just OK.

No rewards for performance. You can work your ass off and produce high quality work, but you'll still get the same pay, benefits, and probably the same promotion potential as everyone else. Seniority counts most, and it really brings down the morale of the young and ambitious who go do really good work.

The vaunted pension sucks for newer employees. I've heard the argument that federal employees deserve a generous pension for the lower pay they received. Welp, newer employees will receive lower pay and a pension roughly equivalent to social security, if not less. Yikes. Plus, new federal employees pay 4.4% of each pay check for the pension, and this is likely to continue to increase without reciprocal benefits (other than, I guess, keeping the fund afloat).

Annual leave sucks. Almost all my private counterparts have more generous vacation benefits, which I found very surprising considering all the horror stories I've heard about private work.

Health benefits are just OK. Most of my private counterparts pay more, but not by much. Considering the substantial pay difference, I don't see what the big fuss is about it. I imagine that in parts of the country where the health insurance market is in especially bad shape, federal health benefits are better in relative terms.

Horrible bureaucracy. I cannot not stress how abysmal the situation is. The federal government should just contract their support shit out. Much of my stress is worrying about whether important documents will actually be processed and not remain buried in an unread email for weeks.

No relocation. I know, this isn't universal in the private sector, but it's not uncommon to receive either a lump sum or reimbursement for moving expenses. Generally, that's not the case with feds. Accepted a federal job clear across the country? Break your lease; job starts next week. Good luck!

Your livelihood is subject to the whims of Congress. One of the greatest perks of the federal government is job security. This is still generally the norm. However, job security is quickly eroding. This is justified, in part, but it makes the lucrative private sector relatively more alluring. But most concerning is the political nature this trend is taking. I feel for anyone working in the EPA and Energy. Additionally, PSLF is hanging by a thread, leaving long-term public servants in a difficult situation. Finally, more broadly speaking, politicians attack federal employees ("bureaucrats in Washington") to garner political points, which leads to the continued deterioration of benefits, which brings me to my final point.

To top it all off, a lot of people hate you. The country buys into the notion that federal employees are lazy fat cats living the life. But that can't be further from the truth. Federal employees work really hard (though not all!) for a salary and benefits that continue to deteriorate, at least in relative terms.

I'll just note that experiences vary between agencies, but I believe that most of these points apply across the feds.


Have you worked in big law before?

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Teoeo
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Teoeo » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:48 am

Damage Over Time wrote:I would also like to know which agencies allow for 2+ days of telecommuting a week


I work for Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and most people telework at least 2 days a week.

Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:51 pm

I'd agree with OP on this. I worked in a Not-to-Exceed position (basically, a temporary job) for a couple years, and haven't been able to find a new position since. The skills just don't translate over to anything a firm or even another agency actually does, and the federal government encourages you to develop poor work habits. There was an enormous amount of busywork (my favorite example being the time they took a document I'd just cite-checked and bluebooked, added 25 more errors per page, and then had me do it again for additional practice). Junior staff were rarely kept in the loop on their own projects (as in, meetings about the reports we were writing were usually restricted to more senior-level attorneys, and I often learned we'd finished the project when it was released to the public). And attorneys who wanted to take on more responsibility or even just attorney-level work were ignored. At least in my agency, seniority was the number one deciding factor in assigning responsibilities. Older attorneys who'd demonstrated they couldn't handle basic tasks were given plum assignments in spite of this, and junior levels attorneys had no opportunity to demonstrate that they could contribute.

I think DOJ/FTC/etc. would probably be fine, but stay away from some of the real backwater agencies unless you're offered a permanent position and you've basically decided you no longer have any ambition to do anything in your professional life.

FamilyLawEsq
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby FamilyLawEsq » Mon Aug 07, 2017 3:14 pm

[quote="Teoeo"][quote="Damage Over Time"]I would also like to know which agencies allow for 2+ days of telecommuting a week[/
Last edited by FamilyLawEsq on Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

globetrotter659
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby globetrotter659 » Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:00 pm

Nosso wrote:I'm starting a govt gig first coming off a clerkship, and I do appreciate getting a different perspective. I have an s/o in biglaw, and even with all the info you've given, fedgov still seems much better. I think you're missing a two things. First, although some firms have "unlimited" vacation policies, there's always a decent chance that you'll need to remain available in case something comes up i.e. you're never truly disconnected. Second, many biglaw attorneys don't use vacation because they're pressured to make hours for that year. Billing is a huge source of stress for the attorneys I know, and not having to bill a certain amount of hours a year gives fedgov a huge advantage over biglaw.

But like other posters have said, fedgov is not the end all be all of legal jobs. Every job has its downsides.

One questions for current fedgov attorneys, do you feel like you got a lot more experience early on compared to your biglaw counterparts or is that exaggerated as well?


It's sort of hard to compare because the work of my office doesn't really compare well with big law. I do consumer protection enforcement. I run my own cases but we don't do things like depositions. I think the biggest difference is that I don't have to report through a mid level attorney (i.e. a senior associate).

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Rowinguy2009
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Rowinguy2009 » Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:14 pm

Damage Over Time wrote:I would also like to know which agencies allow for 2+ days of telecommuting a week


I'm at a small independent agency (that I would rather not further name). We get 2 days of telework per week plus have a very flexibile "flex schedule" policy (ie, you can work extra time on your "on-days," and then get extra days off). I get every other Friday off, in addition to the telework days.

Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 07, 2017 5:03 pm

I'm an AUSA. Some offices let you do flex time (1 day off every 2 weeks with longer days when you're there). No telework as a regular thing though.

Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:06 pm

I'm pretty sure that most agencies technically allow for 2 days of telework. The real question is whether you can actually do it, and this will depend on things like your department and your supervisor. At my office of a relatively small agency (where two days are permitted), we have only one attorney who teleworks 2 days a week (she has been there forever and is known as a very strong attorney), a bunch who do 1 day, and the majority who only do so sporadically. We have a very strong "in-person" culture that means realistically you are expected to be in the office most days, though hours are great (usually 9-5:30 or 6, minimal weekends and if you do you get credit hours).

Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:12 pm

I don't know what agency OP works for, but my experiences in the federal government have been mostly positive. I came into the federal government through the DOJ Honors Program and have since moved to another role in BigFed (DOJ, SEC, FTC, etc.). I can't speak to how the work compares to BigLaw life, as I was never an associate. But based on my interactions with friends and classmates who went into BigLaw (and my colleagues who moved over from BigLaw), my work life seems pretty great in comparison.

Pay: I have not found the pay scenario to be as doom and gloom as OP. I didn't make a ton of money the first couple of years with the DOJ, but I was promoted to GS-15 within three years and making $135k before I was 30. At the DOJ this seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Almost all lateral attorneys came in as GS-14s (at varying step levels). And at my current office, laterals routinely come in at GS-15 (or its equivalent). So no, you won't make as much as you would in BigLaw. But most people don't plateau until they reach the salary caps (which today are approximately $160k for those on the GS scale and higher for those at the financial regulatory agencies). Again, I can't speak for all federal agencies (I'm aware that in order to make GS-15 in many agencies an attorney must be in a supervisory role), but OPs experiences are not indicative of the federal government as a whole.

Rewards for Performance: I agree with OP that there could be better rewards for performance. That being said, there are opportunities to be recognized for superior work. Each of the divisions at the DOJ participate in attorney award programs to recognize high achievers. These awards typically come with a small ($3-$5k) bonus. While not a ton of money, it is a way to recognize individual achievements. My division would also give attorneys time-off awards (i.e. bonus vacation days) for volunteering to work on administrative or special projects.

Pension: The pension is based on how many years you have in service. So its going to be more valuable for people who stay with the government longer. If I were to stay with the Feds for my entire career, and retire at 62, I'd be looking at annual payments of $60k+ (in today's dollars). This is not an insignificant chunk of change. Yes, newer attorneys are required to pay more into the system (and if the new administration gets its way, maybe all Feds will need to pay more), but this is a benefit that almost none of my private sector friends have. All agencies also provide some match for the TSP (most provide 5% match), which while not market-shattering, is still better than most of my friends in BigLaw.

Annual Leave: The first couple years of annual leave are rough. But after three years of service (previous federal clerkships and paid internships count toward your service calculation) you get 4 weeks of vacation (that you actually get to use). And at the DOJ, when you travel you get comp time if the travel occurs outside of work hours. I've had many colleagues who were able to bank significant amounts of leave through travel comp time.

Health Benefits: I've been pretty pleased with my healthcare options. The costs seem to be comparable to what my friends pay in the private sector. Plus, if you retire with the Feds, you get to keep your health benefits for life.

Work Life/ Bureaucracy: The federal government is huge, so there will always be complaints about the bureaucracy. However, in my opinion the cries about red tape are overblown. At the DOJ, I ran all of my own cases. And my current office is no different. Yes, I have reviewers and supervisors, but they take a fairly hands-off approach to the cases. Most substantive decisions are made by me with the approval of one supervisor. I run my cases from start to finish - I determine the case strategy, write all the motions and briefs, and argue in court. Most of the motions and briefs that I submit for review are turned around within a day. Certain things (high-dollar settlements, appeals, etc.) require extra layers of review, but even this is not overly onerous. Are there areas for improvement? Sure. But the bureaucracy is not something that really impedes my work flow. Most of the red tape that I encounter is when I deal with other agencies (attempting to get documents, etc.). So the bureaucracy may be worse in other parts of the government.

In terms of hours, I work approximately 45-50 hours a week. It isn't a clock out at 5:30 type position, but the hours are certainly not brutal. I can count the number of times I've worked on the weekends on one hand.

Yes, to an extent your job is subject to the whims of Congress. Government shutdowns are annoying (even if they've turned into unscheduled paid vacations in the past). And the budget talk and pay freezes can put a damper on morale. But job security in the federal government is still significantly better than the private sector.

At my current position, we're allowed to telework one day a week. At my old DOJ job, telework was more situational. My supervisor was pretty flexible, so if you needed to be home to let a repairman in she'd let you telework. But other supervisors were not as lenient. It really depends on whose running the office.

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bearsfan23
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby bearsfan23 » Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:I don't know what agency OP works for, but my experiences in the federal government have been mostly positive. I came into the federal government through the DOJ Honors Program and have since moved to another role in BigFed (DOJ, SEC, FTC, etc.). I can't speak to how the work compares to BigLaw life, as I was never an associate. But based on my interactions with friends and classmates who went into BigLaw (and my colleagues who moved over from BigLaw), my work life seems pretty great in comparison.

Pay: I have not found the pay scenario to be as doom and gloom as OP. I didn't make a ton of money the first couple of years with the DOJ, but I was promoted to GS-15 within three years and making $135k before I was 30. At the DOJ this seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Almost all lateral attorneys came in as GS-14s (at varying step levels). And at my current office, laterals routinely come in at GS-15 (or its equivalent). So no, you won't make as much as you would in BigLaw. But most people don't plateau until they reach the salary caps (which today are approximately $160k for those on the GS scale and higher for those at the financial regulatory agencies). Again, I can't speak for all federal agencies (I'm aware that in order to make GS-15 in many agencies an attorney must be in a supervisory role), but OPs experiences are not indicative of the federal government as a whole.

Rewards for Performance: I agree with OP that there could be better rewards for performance. That being said, there are opportunities to be recognized for superior work. Each of the divisions at the DOJ participate in attorney award programs to recognize high achievers. These awards typically come with a small ($3-$5k) bonus. While not a ton of money, it is a way to recognize individual achievements. My division would also give attorneys time-off awards (i.e. bonus vacation days) for volunteering to work on administrative or special projects.

Pension: The pension is based on how many years you have in service. So its going to be more valuable for people who stay with the government longer. If I were to stay with the Feds for my entire career, and retire at 62, I'd be looking at annual payments of $60k+ (in today's dollars). This is not an insignificant chunk of change. Yes, newer attorneys are required to pay more into the system (and if the new administration gets its way, maybe all Feds will need to pay more), but this is a benefit that almost none of my private sector friends have. All agencies also provide some match for the TSP (most provide 5% match), which while not market-shattering, is still better than most of my friends in BigLaw.

Annual Leave: The first couple years of annual leave are rough. But after three years of service (previous federal clerkships and paid internships count toward your service calculation) you get 4 weeks of vacation (that you actually get to use). And at the DOJ, when you travel you get comp time if the travel occurs outside of work hours. I've had many colleagues who were able to bank significant amounts of leave through travel comp time.

Health Benefits: I've been pretty pleased with my healthcare options. The costs seem to be comparable to what my friends pay in the private sector. Plus, if you retire with the Feds, you get to keep your health benefits for life.

Work Life/ Bureaucracy: The federal government is huge, so there will always be complaints about the bureaucracy. However, in my opinion the cries about red tape are overblown. At the DOJ, I ran all of my own cases. And my current office is no different. Yes, I have reviewers and supervisors, but they take a fairly hands-off approach to the cases. Most substantive decisions are made by me with the approval of one supervisor. I run my cases from start to finish - I determine the case strategy, write all the motions and briefs, and argue in court. Most of the motions and briefs that I submit for review are turned around within a day. Certain things (high-dollar settlements, appeals, etc.) require extra layers of review, but even this is not overly onerous. Are there areas for improvement? Sure. But the bureaucracy is not something that really impedes my work flow. Most of the red tape that I encounter is when I deal with other agencies (attempting to get documents, etc.). So the bureaucracy may be worse in other parts of the government.

In terms of hours, I work approximately 45-50 hours a week. It isn't a clock out at 5:30 type position, but the hours are certainly not brutal. I can count the number of times I've worked on the weekends on one hand.

Yes, to an extent your job is subject to the whims of Congress. Government shutdowns are annoying (even if they've turned into unscheduled paid vacations in the past). And the budget talk and pay freezes can put a damper on morale. But job security in the federal government is still significantly better than the private sector.

At my current position, we're allowed to telework one day a week. At my old DOJ job, telework was more situational. My supervisor was pretty flexible, so if you needed to be home to let a repairman in she'd let you telework. But other supervisors were not as lenient. It really depends on whose running the office.


It honestly baffles me how some Fed Gov employees don't realize how at risk all the benefits you have are. Read up a little bit on what the Republicans have planned for federal employees with the next budget. It would scare the shit out of me if I worked for the DOJ. Your pension, health benefits, and pay in particular are going to look far different than what you've listed here.

Underplaying it as just "subject to the whims of Congress" and insisting you'll have great job security moving forward must just be a coping mechanism.

I hope things work out for you, but there's a huge change coming to the federal workforce in the next 2 years

lapolicia
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby lapolicia » Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:25 am

bearsfan23 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I don't know what agency OP works for, but my experiences in the federal government have been mostly positive. I came into the federal government through the DOJ Honors Program and have since moved to another role in BigFed (DOJ, SEC, FTC, etc.). I can't speak to how the work compares to BigLaw life, as I was never an associate. But based on my interactions with friends and classmates who went into BigLaw (and my colleagues who moved over from BigLaw), my work life seems pretty great in comparison.

Pay: I have not found the pay scenario to be as doom and gloom as OP. I didn't make a ton of money the first couple of years with the DOJ, but I was promoted to GS-15 within three years and making $135k before I was 30. At the DOJ this seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Almost all lateral attorneys came in as GS-14s (at varying step levels). And at my current office, laterals routinely come in at GS-15 (or its equivalent). So no, you won't make as much as you would in BigLaw. But most people don't plateau until they reach the salary caps (which today are approximately $160k for those on the GS scale and higher for those at the financial regulatory agencies). Again, I can't speak for all federal agencies (I'm aware that in order to make GS-15 in many agencies an attorney must be in a supervisory role), but OPs experiences are not indicative of the federal government as a whole.

Rewards for Performance: I agree with OP that there could be better rewards for performance. That being said, there are opportunities to be recognized for superior work. Each of the divisions at the DOJ participate in attorney award programs to recognize high achievers. These awards typically come with a small ($3-$5k) bonus. While not a ton of money, it is a way to recognize individual achievements. My division would also give attorneys time-off awards (i.e. bonus vacation days) for volunteering to work on administrative or special projects.

Pension: The pension is based on how many years you have in service. So its going to be more valuable for people who stay with the government longer. If I were to stay with the Feds for my entire career, and retire at 62, I'd be looking at annual payments of $60k+ (in today's dollars). This is not an insignificant chunk of change. Yes, newer attorneys are required to pay more into the system (and if the new administration gets its way, maybe all Feds will need to pay more), but this is a benefit that almost none of my private sector friends have. All agencies also provide some match for the TSP (most provide 5% match), which while not market-shattering, is still better than most of my friends in BigLaw.

Annual Leave: The first couple years of annual leave are rough. But after three years of service (previous federal clerkships and paid internships count toward your service calculation) you get 4 weeks of vacation (that you actually get to use). And at the DOJ, when you travel you get comp time if the travel occurs outside of work hours. I've had many colleagues who were able to bank significant amounts of leave through travel comp time.

Health Benefits: I've been pretty pleased with my healthcare options. The costs seem to be comparable to what my friends pay in the private sector. Plus, if you retire with the Feds, you get to keep your health benefits for life.

Work Life/ Bureaucracy: The federal government is huge, so there will always be complaints about the bureaucracy. However, in my opinion the cries about red tape are overblown. At the DOJ, I ran all of my own cases. And my current office is no different. Yes, I have reviewers and supervisors, but they take a fairly hands-off approach to the cases. Most substantive decisions are made by me with the approval of one supervisor. I run my cases from start to finish - I determine the case strategy, write all the motions and briefs, and argue in court. Most of the motions and briefs that I submit for review are turned around within a day. Certain things (high-dollar settlements, appeals, etc.) require extra layers of review, but even this is not overly onerous. Are there areas for improvement? Sure. But the bureaucracy is not something that really impedes my work flow. Most of the red tape that I encounter is when I deal with other agencies (attempting to get documents, etc.). So the bureaucracy may be worse in other parts of the government.

In terms of hours, I work approximately 45-50 hours a week. It isn't a clock out at 5:30 type position, but the hours are certainly not brutal. I can count the number of times I've worked on the weekends on one hand.

Yes, to an extent your job is subject to the whims of Congress. Government shutdowns are annoying (even if they've turned into unscheduled paid vacations in the past). And the budget talk and pay freezes can put a damper on morale. But job security in the federal government is still significantly better than the private sector.

At my current position, we're allowed to telework one day a week. At my old DOJ job, telework was more situational. My supervisor was pretty flexible, so if you needed to be home to let a repairman in she'd let you telework. But other supervisors were not as lenient. It really depends on whose running the office.


It honestly baffles me how some Fed Gov employees don't realize how at risk all the benefits you have are. Read up a little bit on what the Republicans have planned for federal employees with the next budget. It would scare the shit out of me if I worked for the DOJ. Your pension, health benefits, and pay in particular are going to look far different than what you've listed here.

Underplaying it as just "subject to the whims of Congress" and insisting you'll have great job security moving forward must just be a coping mechanism.

I hope things work out for you, but there's a huge change coming to the federal workforce in the next 2 years


You do realize that for those changes to become law, they need to reach the 60 threshold in the Senate, right? Also, the only major change in Trump's budget is the increase to pension contributions from 0.8% (for 2012 and earlier employees) and 4.4% (for 2013 and later employees) by 6% over 6 years. This effectively amounts to a paycut of 1% per year, but even this year Trump is proposing a 1.9% pay raise. So effectively it will just mean smaller pay raises for 6 years--and if a democrat gets elected or they take Congress, the process will likely end. The changes to federal employee health benefits proposed by the most conservative republican conference are not even included in Trump's 2018 budget are minimal to begin with.

The changes to civil service rules at the VA aren't that dramatic either. They still allow firing only for cause and allow for an appeal to the MSPB and federal court. In fact, not permitting an appeal to the full MSPB would be unconstitutional according to a recent decision related to senior executives at the VA. In addition, federal employees' property interests in their jobs are protected by court decisions, not legislation. This will effectively still provide federal employees with outstanding job security compared to the private sector.

So there are certainly risks, but they aren't the end of the world and with the 60 senator threshold requirement are unlikely to be implemented to begin with.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:05 am

I think bearsfan (weirdly aggressively) overestimates the Republicans' ability to make drastic changes. I mean, Trump has been SO successful at accomplishing things so far...

And as for job security, I'm not going to get pushed out when I don't make partner, so I feel pretty comfortable.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:23 am

I just think a lot of these complaints are in the nature of having a job, full stop. Which goes to show, yeah, if you expect fed government to be some utopia you'll be disappointed, because it's still a job.

lessperfect
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby lessperfect » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:37 am

dixiecupdrinking wrote:I just think a lot of these complaints are in the nature of having a job, full stop. Which goes to show, yeah, if you expect fed government to be some utopia you'll be disappointed, because it's still a job.


Yeah, I agree with this. I thought my federal government position would be perfect, but it wasn't. I am still very happy though. Also, just want to note that with respect to pay, many of the federal regulatory agencies (FDIC, SEC, CFPB, etc.) offer higher pay and in some circumstances, more generous benefits.

Also, with respect to telework, SSA and Board of Veteran Appeals offer 4 days + of telework after working there for some period of time (I know for BVA, it is one year, but I'm not sure about SSA). Although I know people who work for both agencies, and they both certainly have their problems.

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FSK
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby FSK » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:41 am

My strategy to solve the $$ problems is to marry a doctor. A+ so far.

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Nebby
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Nebby » Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:25 am

bearsfan23 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I'm starting at DOJ honors in a month here. Finishing a clerkship. Even if all of that is true, not having to work for biglaw patherns certainly has to even the playing field. Plus, at least for what I'm going into, I can jump to a firm/in-house fairly easily. Your post just sounds like you want to make a fuckton of money and you're frustrating you're not.


Because your supervisors at the DOJ will be any better than Biglaw partners? lol.

Hell most of the partners in my group are ex-DOJ. So you're literally dealing with the same type of people

With so much confidence, one would think you're a DOJ line attorney!

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Nebby
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Nebby » Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:28 am

ITT, people learn that "fedgov" isn't a useful moniker because the experiences are vastly different. A line attorney in ENRD has a vastly different experience than a FOIA attorney in DOT.

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radio1nowhere
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby radio1nowhere » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:48 pm

acr wrote:I entered this topic thinking that OP was complaining about his/her summer big law firm not feeding him that great :roll:


Fed not that great food by so-called lawyers at failing firm. Sad!

Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:27 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:OP have you ever worked in biglaw?


No, I have not. But it is not as if it's either BigLaw or bust (or Fed). A few of the colleagues who I referred to in my first post work in-house and compliance, and while they certainly work more hours than I do, it is a far cry from BigLaw conditions.

That being said, I am grateful for the job I have, really. It's just not what I expected, as a special snow-flake Millennial. I'm trying to change Fed agencies. Hopefully, a different area of law will make my Fed experience more worthwhile. If not, I definitely see myself seeking something in the private sector in two years time. One thing that has been mentioned is that a lot of federal legal work is routine and, frankly, mind-numbing. You aren't doing anything ground-breaking; you're greasing the wheels of the Machine. What has not been mentioned, though, is that, depending on your agency, you may find yourself specializing in a specific area of law within the Federal government - so specialized, that you'll have a hard time finding something in the private sector (or even with the Feds) in the future unless it is very specifically sought for. But once you're a senior attorney with only experience in A, B, and C in your resume, you're effectively locked in till you retire (again, not all agencies, but definitely attorneys in administrative law). But for some people, that's actually pretty sweet; you can just cruise on to retirement with the same job, decent salary and hours, without much worry about losing it. But that's just not me. I'm still looking for that elusive balance.

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Raiden
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Raiden » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:07 am

bearsfan23 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I don't know what agency OP works for, but my experiences in the federal government have been mostly positive. I came into the federal government through the DOJ Honors Program and have since moved to another role in BigFed (DOJ, SEC, FTC, etc.). I can't speak to how the work compares to BigLaw life, as I was never an associate. But based on my interactions with friends and classmates who went into BigLaw (and my colleagues who moved over from BigLaw), my work life seems pretty great in comparison.

Pay: I have not found the pay scenario to be as doom and gloom as OP. I didn't make a ton of money the first couple of years with the DOJ, but I was promoted to GS-15 within three years and making $135k before I was 30. At the DOJ this seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Almost all lateral attorneys came in as GS-14s (at varying step levels). And at my current office, laterals routinely come in at GS-15 (or its equivalent). So no, you won't make as much as you would in BigLaw. But most people don't plateau until they reach the salary caps (which today are approximately $160k for those on the GS scale and higher for those at the financial regulatory agencies). Again, I can't speak for all federal agencies (I'm aware that in order to make GS-15 in many agencies an attorney must be in a supervisory role), but OPs experiences are not indicative of the federal government as a whole.

Rewards for Performance: I agree with OP that there could be better rewards for performance. That being said, there are opportunities to be recognized for superior work. Each of the divisions at the DOJ participate in attorney award programs to recognize high achievers. These awards typically come with a small ($3-$5k) bonus. While not a ton of money, it is a way to recognize individual achievements. My division would also give attorneys time-off awards (i.e. bonus vacation days) for volunteering to work on administrative or special projects.

Pension: The pension is based on how many years you have in service. So its going to be more valuable for people who stay with the government longer. If I were to stay with the Feds for my entire career, and retire at 62, I'd be looking at annual payments of $60k+ (in today's dollars). This is not an insignificant chunk of change. Yes, newer attorneys are required to pay more into the system (and if the new administration gets its way, maybe all Feds will need to pay more), but this is a benefit that almost none of my private sector friends have. All agencies also provide some match for the TSP (most provide 5% match), which while not market-shattering, is still better than most of my friends in BigLaw.

Annual Leave: The first couple years of annual leave are rough. But after three years of service (previous federal clerkships and paid internships count toward your service calculation) you get 4 weeks of vacation (that you actually get to use). And at the DOJ, when you travel you get comp time if the travel occurs outside of work hours. I've had many colleagues who were able to bank significant amounts of leave through travel comp time.

Health Benefits: I've been pretty pleased with my healthcare options. The costs seem to be comparable to what my friends pay in the private sector. Plus, if you retire with the Feds, you get to keep your health benefits for life.

Work Life/ Bureaucracy: The federal government is huge, so there will always be complaints about the bureaucracy. However, in my opinion the cries about red tape are overblown. At the DOJ, I ran all of my own cases. And my current office is no different. Yes, I have reviewers and supervisors, but they take a fairly hands-off approach to the cases. Most substantive decisions are made by me with the approval of one supervisor. I run my cases from start to finish - I determine the case strategy, write all the motions and briefs, and argue in court. Most of the motions and briefs that I submit for review are turned around within a day. Certain things (high-dollar settlements, appeals, etc.) require extra layers of review, but even this is not overly onerous. Are there areas for improvement? Sure. But the bureaucracy is not something that really impedes my work flow. Most of the red tape that I encounter is when I deal with other agencies (attempting to get documents, etc.). So the bureaucracy may be worse in other parts of the government.

In terms of hours, I work approximately 45-50 hours a week. It isn't a clock out at 5:30 type position, but the hours are certainly not brutal. I can count the number of times I've worked on the weekends on one hand.

Yes, to an extent your job is subject to the whims of Congress. Government shutdowns are annoying (even if they've turned into unscheduled paid vacations in the past). And the budget talk and pay freezes can put a damper on morale. But job security in the federal government is still significantly better than the private sector.

At my current position, we're allowed to telework one day a week. At my old DOJ job, telework was more situational. My supervisor was pretty flexible, so if you needed to be home to let a repairman in she'd let you telework. But other supervisors were not as lenient. It really depends on whose running the office.


It honestly baffles me how some Fed Gov employees don't realize how at risk all the benefits you have are. Read up a little bit on what the Republicans have planned for federal employees with the next budget. It would scare the shit out of me if I worked for the DOJ. Your pension, health benefits, and pay in particular are going to look far different than what you've listed here.

Underplaying it as just "subject to the whims of Congress" and insisting you'll have great job security moving forward must just be a coping mechanism.

I hope things work out for you, but there's a huge change coming to the federal workforce in the next 2 years


When your boss is an elected official, you do not have job security. As safe as it sounds to have a constitutional property right to your job, the reality is more tenuous. Why would you want to work in a place in a place where you are not wanted, where you won't get assignments? We all are at-will employees.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:37 am

My boss isn't really an elected official though, and my job isn't dependent on his. I'm not a political appointee.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:23 am

lessperfect wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:I just think a lot of these complaints are in the nature of having a job, full stop. Which goes to show, yeah, if you expect fed government to be some utopia you'll be disappointed, because it's still a job.


Yeah, I agree with this. I thought my federal government position would be perfect, but it wasn't. I am still very happy though. Also, just want to note that with respect to pay, many of the federal regulatory agencies (FDIC, SEC, CFPB, etc.) offer higher pay and in some circumstances, more generous benefits.

Also, with respect to telework, SSA and Board of Veteran Appeals offer 4 days + of telework after working there for some period of time (I know for BVA, it is one year, but I'm not sure about SSA). Although I know people who work for both agencies, and they both certainly have their problems.


They offer so many telework days to retain attorneys. Buyer beware.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Nebby » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
lessperfect wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:I just think a lot of these complaints are in the nature of having a job, full stop. Which goes to show, yeah, if you expect fed government to be some utopia you'll be disappointed, because it's still a job.


Yeah, I agree with this. I thought my federal government position would be perfect, but it wasn't. I am still very happy though. Also, just want to note that with respect to pay, many of the federal regulatory agencies (FDIC, SEC, CFPB, etc.) offer higher pay and in some circumstances, more generous benefits.

Also, with respect to telework, SSA and Board of Veteran Appeals offer 4 days + of telework after working there for some period of time (I know for BVA, it is one year, but I'm not sure about SSA). Although I know people who work for both agencies, and they both certainly have their problems.


They offer so many telework days to retain attorneys. Buyer beware.

Also, financial regulatory agencies are paid on a different scale (SEC, FDIC, CFPB). Most of the others are on the same GS scale as OP. The SEC-scale is the exception, not the rule

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote:OP have you ever worked in biglaw?


No, I have not. But it is not as if it's either BigLaw or bust (or Fed). A few of the colleagues who I referred to in my first post work in-house and compliance, and while they certainly work more hours than I do, it is a far cry from BigLaw conditions.

That being said, I am grateful for the job I have, really. It's just not what I expected, as a special snow-flake Millennial. I'm trying to change Fed agencies. Hopefully, a different area of law will make my Fed experience more worthwhile. If not, I definitely see myself seeking something in the private sector in two years time. One thing that has been mentioned is that a lot of federal legal work is routine and, frankly, mind-numbing. You aren't doing anything ground-breaking; you're greasing the wheels of the Machine. What has not been mentioned, though, is that, depending on your agency, you may find yourself specializing in a specific area of law within the Federal government - so specialized, that you'll have a hard time finding something in the private sector (or even with the Feds) in the future unless it is very specifically sought for. But once you're a senior attorney with only experience in A, B, and C in your resume, you're effectively locked in till you retire (again, not all agencies, but definitely attorneys in administrative law). But for some people, that's actually pretty sweet; you can just cruise on to retirement with the same job, decent salary and hours, without much worry about losing it. But that's just not me. I'm still looking for that elusive balance.

I've come to believe the hardest thing in this profession is to find interesting, challenging, and meaningful work, while having a reasonable lifestyle and making decent money. Most legal jobs seem to offer (at most) two of those three things. Biglaw offers one, maybe two on a good day when you're working on something interesting. Seems like the feds generally offer at least one, the lifestyle, while pay and quality of work vary a lot but probably fall somewhere in the middle.




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