Fed Not that Great

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Anonymous User
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:46 am

I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.

lessperfect
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby lessperfect » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:04 am

Nebby wrote:
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


I agree; I never said they were the rule. Just trying to make the point that problems in one agency are not necessarily indicative of problems in another.

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Hand
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Hand » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.

What agency is this and are you defending it against suits by the agency's employees or doing something more worthwhile than that?

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Martin Brody
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Martin Brody » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:00 am

Man if you think fed gov work is meaningless and greasing the wheels of the great Machine don't ever work in biglaw.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:04 am

Depends on how you define interesting, I guess. As a litigator I've already done multiple trials and many court hearings, where I stand up and do everything. So while there's a lot of routine stuff, I feel like the experience you get in the government is definitely a plus, at least for a litigator.

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FSK
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby FSK » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:18 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Depends on how you define interesting, I guess. As a litigator I've already done multiple trials and many court hearings, where I stand up and do everything. So while there's a lot of routine stuff, I feel like the experience you get in the government is definitely a plus, at least for a litigator.


Yeah, being in a litigating component of the fed means you have a much higher % of your time being atticus finch, which is basically my goal at this point.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:29 am

Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.


This is my career goal. Did you start out with the feds? How did you end up in that position?

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cron1834
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby cron1834 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:06 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
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.

This is a compelling way to put things. I can't say from experience yet, but it sounds pretty reasonable.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:32 pm

Hand wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.

What agency is this and are you defending it against suits by the agency's employees or doing something more worthwhile than that?

:lol: if you think most individual employees' suits against their employers are worthwhile...well.

(Don't get me wrong, the valid employee suits are really valid and important. But the percentage of people suing their employers who were simply bad at their job and litigious shocked me once I actually saw real cases and wasn't taking employment law.)

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Hand
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Hand » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:41 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Hand wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.

What agency is this and are you defending it against suits by the agency's employees or doing something more worthwhile than that?

:lol: if you think most individual employees' suits against their employers are worthwhile...well.

(Don't get me wrong, the valid employee suits are really valid and important. But the percentage of people suing their employers who were simply bad at their job and litigious shocked me once I actually saw real cases and wasn't taking employment law.)

Nah I know a good portion of claims are bullshit, but still the prospect of defending employers does not particularly appeal to me. Anyway, curious to hear what OP does and where

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radio1nowhere
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby radio1nowhere » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:33 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote: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.


More like the hardest thing to find in any profession, unless a lot of smart people are systematically overlooking the professions with plenty of jobs where you get to do fascinating work with reasonable hours and good/decent money.

Of course, on another tack, none of these are totally objective factors. What counts as "interesting" work or "reasonable" hours or "good/decent" money is — to some extent — in the eye of the beholder.

lnh819
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby lnh819 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 5:50 pm

I've got friends trying to get into the SSA. Are they going to end up pigeonholed with no skills and/or areas of expertise that private employers want, should they ever choose to jump ship?

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Aug 09, 2017 6:32 pm

radio1nowhere wrote:
dixiecupdrinking wrote: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.


More like the hardest thing to find in any profession, unless a lot of smart people are systematically overlooking the professions with plenty of jobs where you get to do fascinating work with reasonable hours and good/decent money.

Of course, on another tack, none of these are totally objective factors. What counts as "interesting" work or "reasonable" hours or "good/decent" money is — to some extent — in the eye of the beholder.

All correct.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:06 am

Is there anyone in a litigating component of DOJ or another agency that can talk about how telework and flextime works there? Do you get flex time? Is there flexibility in deciding to work from home one or two days per week? Or do you have to be at your desk from 9-5 every day?

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:30 pm

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.


You make a ton of generalizations but I think it really is a lot more agency specific that you believe. My experience has been vastly different than yours. Pay kind of sucks relative to private practice, but I don't live in a high COL area, so it's not terrible (I max out my TSP, Roth IRA, invest in mutual funds, and still have enough money leftover for vacations... Although, I live pretty frugally). I agree that pay would be a lot worse in a high COL area, and am glad to not be in one. We actually do rewarded based on performance at my organization. Moving into supervisory roles takes a while, but pay increases are at least somewhat performance based... I suppose the trade-off is that we don't automatically get pay grade increase each year like some organizations though. I thought the annual leave is actually pretty good. I mean 20 days off a year for vacations (after 3 years, of course), 13 sick days, AND 10 fed holidays is pretty good I think. If you couple your annual leave with fed holiday, it's roughly 5 weeks a year off excluding sick leave. I find it hard to believe that many people in biglaw are taking 5+ weeks a year off. I also think the health care options are great. There's a ton of options and blue cross and blue shield is excellent, in my opinion. I'm not sure what else you can really expect in terms of health care options (it feels like fed gov has everything under the moon as an option). I think larger offices probably have more beauracracy; it's not too bad where I'm at. No relocations sucks, but I feel like it's not that big of a deal... I mean it's an issue if you move for your job and possibly if you move to a different office, but realistically this winds up being an issue like once or twice in most peoples' careers with the fed gov. The job security thing is true, but I feel like job security isn't particularly great at biglaw either. And yeah, people hate you, but whatever, that's just expected.

Damage Over Time
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Damage Over Time » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:You make a ton of generalizations but I think it really is a lot more agency specific that you believe. My experience has been vastly different than yours. Pay kind of sucks relative to private practice, but I don't live in a high COL area, so it's not terrible (I max out my TSP, Roth IRA, invest in mutual funds, and still have enough money leftover for vacations... Although, I live pretty frugally). I agree that pay would be a lot worse in a high COL area, and am glad to not be in one. We actually do rewarded based on performance at my organization. Moving into supervisory roles takes a while, but pay increases are at least somewhat performance based... I suppose the trade-off is that we don't automatically get pay grade increase each year like some organizations though. I thought the annual leave is actually pretty good. I mean 20 days off a year for vacations (after 3 years, of course), 13 sick days, AND 10 fed holidays is pretty good I think. If you couple your annual leave with fed holiday, it's roughly 5 weeks a year off excluding sick leave. I find it hard to believe that many people in biglaw are taking 5+ weeks a year off. I also think the health care options are great. There's a ton of options and blue cross and blue shield is excellent, in my opinion. I'm not sure what else you can really expect in terms of health care options (it feels like fed gov has everything under the moon as an option). I think larger offices probably have more beauracracy; it's not too bad where I'm at. No relocations sucks, but I feel like it's not that big of a deal... I mean it's an issue if you move for your job and possibly if you move to a different office, but realistically this winds up being an issue like once or twice in most peoples' careers with the fed gov. The job security thing is true, but I feel like job security isn't particularly great at biglaw either. And yeah, people hate you, but whatever, that's just expected.


If you have 5 weeks of vacation available to you, can you easily take all 5? I know the private sector often "allows" vacations but people feel pressured not to take very much vacation time. Is this agency specific as well? Any general trends?

At my office people are "allowed" 25 vacation days a year, but people rarely take that many, and when they do, they often work remotely, which sounds like it sucks. Curious to know how prevalent agencies where you can go completely off the map for 5 weeks a year are, if they exist at all.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby FascinatedWanderer » Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:02 pm

I think in general a litigating component that's worth anything is not going to give you great flextime. I know people in the cool places (PIN, NatSec etc.) and they have to come in every day, if for no other reason than they have to work in a scif.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:07 pm

So, the USAO where I work allows flex time. Work 8 long days over 2 weeks, 1 normal day, and 1 day off. Whether you can/will take it depends a lot on you and your case load. I know people who love it and take their flex days religiously, I know people technically on flex time who never take their flex days. You have to be able to find coverage for any court hearings on your flex day, or come in and cover them, and of course if you're in trial you're not going to take it (although you can just switch back to a regular schedule for the pay period of trial). I personally think it's very personality (and maybe practice group) specific. Some people are great at protecting their time and some aren't (and the latter can sometimes resent the former, although the former are probably healthier).

I actually didn't like it much because my preferred kind of work-life balance is having enough time every day to exercise, do my hobbies, etc., so having one extra free day every two weeks (though very nice) didn't really make up for the long days making it hard to do those other things on a regular basis. But friends of mine love it. To be fair, there are plenty of days now when I work that long (or longer) just because the work still has to get done, so lol at me giving up the day off.

However, my office is completely great about people taking vacation and really being gone during that time. One plus of being a cog in a great big machine is that all the other cogs can take your place as needed. :D Also since I run my cases I can schedule everything around my vacation. I did learn that you have to just pick a time to take off (and ideally book travel) because if a case ends up going to trial, and you're setting a firm date, you can negotiate around vacation (especially if you have paid for things in advance); the court isn't going to make you cancel your vacation. (You can't waltz in and say "I don't want to go to trial then because I was planning to take that week off" without clear plans you'd have to break, though.) However you have to actively plan because if you say "I have trial in June, maybe I'll go away in July after it's done," next thing you know your June trial has been pushed back to July and you don't go away either month, lather rinse and repeat for a few months.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby lapolicia » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:47 pm

Damage Over Time wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:You make a ton of generalizations but I think it really is a lot more agency specific that you believe. My experience has been vastly different than yours. Pay kind of sucks relative to private practice, but I don't live in a high COL area, so it's not terrible (I max out my TSP, Roth IRA, invest in mutual funds, and still have enough money leftover for vacations... Although, I live pretty frugally). I agree that pay would be a lot worse in a high COL area, and am glad to not be in one. We actually do rewarded based on performance at my organization. Moving into supervisory roles takes a while, but pay increases are at least somewhat performance based... I suppose the trade-off is that we don't automatically get pay grade increase each year like some organizations though. I thought the annual leave is actually pretty good. I mean 20 days off a year for vacations (after 3 years, of course), 13 sick days, AND 10 fed holidays is pretty good I think. If you couple your annual leave with fed holiday, it's roughly 5 weeks a year off excluding sick leave. I find it hard to believe that many people in biglaw are taking 5+ weeks a year off. I also think the health care options are great. There's a ton of options and blue cross and blue shield is excellent, in my opinion. I'm not sure what else you can really expect in terms of health care options (it feels like fed gov has everything under the moon as an option). I think larger offices probably have more beauracracy; it's not too bad where I'm at. No relocations sucks, but I feel like it's not that big of a deal... I mean it's an issue if you move for your job and possibly if you move to a different office, but realistically this winds up being an issue like once or twice in most peoples' careers with the fed gov. The job security thing is true, but I feel like job security isn't particularly great at biglaw either. And yeah, people hate you, but whatever, that's just expected.


If you have 5 weeks of vacation available to you, can you easily take all 5? I know the private sector often "allows" vacations but people feel pressured not to take very much vacation time. Is this agency specific as well? Any general trends?

At my office people are "allowed" 25 vacation days a year, but people rarely take that many, and when they do, they often work remotely, which sounds like it sucks. Curious to know how prevalent agencies where you can go completely off the map for 5 weeks a year are, if they exist at all.


I wouldn't say easily, but you can take all 5. In my office we have two or three attorneys who take around that much every year. They have all been around for more than 10 years and are known to be very high performers. They also know their supervisors well and work with them to structure their vacation times around downtime in the office.

For most people, 3 weeks (not in a row) is very doable.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:53 pm

Damage Over Time wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:You make a ton of generalizations but I think it really is a lot more agency specific that you believe. My experience has been vastly different than yours. Pay kind of sucks relative to private practice, but I don't live in a high COL area, so it's not terrible (I max out my TSP, Roth IRA, invest in mutual funds, and still have enough money leftover for vacations... Although, I live pretty frugally). I agree that pay would be a lot worse in a high COL area, and am glad to not be in one. We actually do rewarded based on performance at my organization. Moving into supervisory roles takes a while, but pay increases are at least somewhat performance based... I suppose the trade-off is that we don't automatically get pay grade increase each year like some organizations though. I thought the annual leave is actually pretty good. I mean 20 days off a year for vacations (after 3 years, of course), 13 sick days, AND 10 fed holidays is pretty good I think. If you couple your annual leave with fed holiday, it's roughly 5 weeks a year off excluding sick leave. I find it hard to believe that many people in biglaw are taking 5+ weeks a year off. I also think the health care options are great. There's a ton of options and blue cross and blue shield is excellent, in my opinion. I'm not sure what else you can really expect in terms of health care options (it feels like fed gov has everything under the moon as an option). I think larger offices probably have more beauracracy; it's not too bad where I'm at. No relocations sucks, but I feel like it's not that big of a deal... I mean it's an issue if you move for your job and possibly if you move to a different office, but realistically this winds up being an issue like once or twice in most peoples' careers with the fed gov. The job security thing is true, but I feel like job security isn't particularly great at biglaw either. And yeah, people hate you, but whatever, that's just expected.


If you have 5 weeks of vacation available to you, can you easily take all 5? I know the private sector often "allows" vacations but people feel pressured not to take very much vacation time. Is this agency specific as well? Any general trends?

At my office people are "allowed" 25 vacation days a year, but people rarely take that many, and when they do, they often work remotely, which sounds like it sucks. Curious to know how prevalent agencies where you can go completely off the map for 5 weeks a year are, if they exist at all.


I'm sure it's pretty agency specific and depends on the needs of the agency, but at my office, we can pretty freely schedule leave for whenever. I mean I'm not sure that it'd be a great idea to schedule taking an entire month off each year (i.e. using all 20 days at once), but we do have someone in the office who took 25 days off all at once because he had to (use it or lose it leave). At the end of the day, after a certain point, you lose the annual leave if you don't take it, so I imagine most people in fed gov do wind up taking their time off at some time or another.

sparty99
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby sparty99 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:22 pm

What type of background do you need for the DOJ, civil division? Been trying to lateral, but never see openings in my city unless its crim.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:30 pm

sparty99 wrote:What type of background do you need for the DOJ, civil division? Been trying to lateral, but never see openings in my city unless its crim.

Do you mean civil v. criminal AUSAs? Pretty sure the actual civil and criminal divisions of DOJ are based in DC, so won't have openings in your city.

If you mean AUSAs, there are just far far fewer civil openings than criminal because there are far fewer civil AUSAs (because far fewer civil matters). I think the background required is going to vary a lot by office.

sparty99
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby sparty99 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:01 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
sparty99 wrote:What type of background do you need for the DOJ, civil division? Been trying to lateral, but never see openings in my city unless its crim.

Do you mean civil v. criminal AUSAs? Pretty sure the actual civil and criminal divisions of DOJ are based in DC, so won't have openings in your city.

If you mean AUSAs, there are just far far fewer civil openings than criminal because there are far fewer civil AUSAs (because far fewer civil matters). I think the background required is going to vary a lot by office.


i lump AUSA and DOJ together altough they different.

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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:06 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.


This is my career goal. Did you start out with the feds? How did you end up in that position?


I'd gladly PM you with details, but you're anon.

adil91
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Re: Fed Not that Great

Postby adil91 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I do federal employment law at my agency and love it.


This is my career goal. Did you start out with the feds? How did you end up in that position?


I'd gladly PM you with details, but you're anon.


Oops didn't realize that haha. If you can PM me that would be fantastic. Thanks.




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