Federal Attorney Taking Questions

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is there any benefit from having a security clearance when applying for some Federal jobs?


OP- Depends a lot on the level of clearance. I think DOJ and many agencies do a 7 year background check, but, recently, the US Attorney's Offices and certain groups in the DOJ require 10 years-it has something to do with handling of national security cases. If you change federal jobs and you have done the check within a certain amount of time, you probably won't have to do it again unless it is a higher clearance (again, don't rely on this because things change pretty quickly). If your check was not done by the FBI for a federal position, it won't count for anything. If you have only done a 3-year, which is what you do for the internships, then you'll probably have to do it again. As a practical matter, if you save your old forms and information from any past background check, it will make another check easier and you'll be more confident. You may want to start putting together a list of all your old addresses, trips to other countries, and addresses of old employers and superiors while they are still fresh in your mind if you plan on doing the big background check in the future.


I have a Secret already and the opportunity to gain a TS/SBI has popped up, however at the cost of less pay. Do you think it would be worth it for future employment to go for the TS?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Carlisle » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:41 pm

are many of your coworkers planning political careers?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:43 pm

jcl2 wrote:Do you think experience working for an agency prior to law school helps in any way in seeking employment as an attorney with that agency?


OP-Working for that agency absolutely helps when you apply for a counsel position there, but you'll probably still have to meet the minimum entry qualifications, if the agency has them (e.g., a certain gpa or rank of school, or at least that it is ABA approved). Also, you should have left the agency on good terms. Government service, generally, helps with other agencies as well.

It seems like every agency you can think of has in-house type counsel. I don't know if they all to honors programs, but the big ones would. I think a google search for "honors attorney" and the name of the agency would yield some helpful results. They don't necessarily do OCI, though, so you have to seek them out and probably mail or fax your application, or apply through USAjobs.com .
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Is there any benefit from having a security clearance when applying for some Federal jobs?


OP- Depends a lot on the level of clearance. I think DOJ and many agencies do a 7 year background check, but, recently, the US Attorney's Offices and certain groups in the DOJ require 10 years-it has something to do with handling of national security cases. If you change federal jobs and you have done the check within a certain amount of time, you probably won't have to do it again unless it is a higher clearance (again, don't rely on this because things change pretty quickly). If your check was not done by the FBI for a federal position, it won't count for anything. If you have only done a 3-year, which is what you do for the internships, then you'll probably have to do it again. As a practical matter, if you save your old forms and information from any past background check, it will make another check easier and you'll be more confident. You may want to start putting together a list of all your old addresses, trips to other countries, and addresses of old employers and superiors while they are still fresh in your mind if you plan on doing the big background check in the future.


I have a Secret already and the opportunity to gain a TS/SBI has popped up, however at the cost of less pay. Do you think it would be worth it for future employment to go for the TS?


OP-Don't worry about clearances. They aren't a big deal. Do not make career decisions based upon that alone. It does not go into hiring decisions I know of, although I could imagine a situation where finding someone who already has certain clearances may make things easier, hiring decisions will most likely be made on other factors.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:50 pm

Carlisle wrote:are many of your coworkers planning political careers?


OP-

More so than the average attorney population, but not "many." A few, yes, which is relatively a lot. More often than that, they go on to be judges or get appointed to other cool local government positions of authority. The problem with politics and the Fed Govt is the Hatch Act. It places a fairly high restriction on political activity, so you'd really have to leave here to be able to run for office. I don't know how to navigate the political/fed-employee thing, so I don't do politics.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:52 pm

OP, what is it that you do exactly without giving away too much information.

Also, no insult intended, but don't forget to sign it "OP" in the end!

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby MrOrange » Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:57 pm

Thanks for your response to my earlier question.

I am somewhat concerned by the background check thoroughness you mentioned, as my own is rather scattershot. Limited trouble with the law (traffic infractions), but a lot of randomness.

What kinds of things (non-academic factors), in your estimation, would preclude someone who's otherwise qualified from being being hired by the DOJ (or any other agency for that matter) through an honors program or otherwise? Does having connections inside the DOJ help to mitigate...anything?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP, what is it that you do exactly without giving away too much information.

Also, no insult intended, but don't forget to sign it "OP" in the end!


I've been putting OP- in the beginning, but I'll put it on the end. That makes more sense.

I'm not sure what you are asking in terms of what I do. It is actually quite hard to describe what I do even in fairly general terms without giving away things. Both of my jobs included litigation. The DOJ one had some overlap with the Agency one. Essentially, a lot of civil and criminal cases originate in an Agency, and then get referred to the DOJ, or get appealed to district court by a citizen unhappy with an action or determination of the Agency.

In the DOJ/US Attorney's Offices, if you do civil work, you can either handle a variety of work from various agencies or, if you are in certain sections/divisions, the vast majority of work may come from a certain agency, the EPA for example. Criminal cases can be reactive to certain crimes discovered by the FBI, or can come from criminal investigative agents for certain agencies that are similar to FBI agents in their directives. I can't say which type of work I do, but work closely with people who do both, so I can give you some insight if you wish. As to some specific sections/divisions/groups, like civil rights, I don't really know that much. Things change so fast anyway, even things I think I know may be wrong at this point.

As to the agency I worked at, it is a large well-known one that, like many others, has become fairly selective, has field offices, and paid on the GS-Scale up to a GS-14 or 15. I worked to resolve internal legal questions in the branch offices nearby, litigated in an administrative court, and advised in the development of certain cases and investigations resulting in determinations. I also worked on regulations and outreach. This was a much more brainy, policy, legal-thought, and often bureaucratic type job, whereas the DOJ job was pure litigation. There are legitimate reasons to prefer each one, and people definitely go from the DOJ to the agencies and from the Agencies to the DOJ, although the latter seems more difficult.
-OP

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:19 pm

MrOrange wrote:Thanks for your response to my earlier question.

I am somewhat concerned by the background check thoroughness you mentioned, as my own is rather scattershot. Limited trouble with the law (traffic infractions), but a lot of randomness.

What kinds of things (non-academic factors), in your estimation, would preclude someone who's otherwise qualified from being being hired by the DOJ (or any other agency for that matter) through an honors program or otherwise? Does having connections inside the DOJ help to mitigate...anything?


As to your last question, no.

The point of my earlier post is just disclosure. I've heard more often of people being disqualified for something false in the check rather than someone not passing because of something disclosed. However, do think some of the questions are asked because they may flag something troublesome. Certainly, having done something that is a violation of federal law would be of concern to an agency enforcing that law. If that is the case, though, you'll make it triply bad if they find out about it after you lie. At the end of the day, there are a thousand jobs you could have after you don't pass a background check for honesty, but you could very well rulle most of those out if it turns out you've lied under penalty of perjury (and you may have to deal with this again with your bar fitness as well).

As to other things that may disqualify a candidate, I think most of them are actually asked as part of the check. There are a lot of things that may make one question your suitability for a position of public trust, like bankruptcies or horrible credit, alcoholism, connections to ant-government groups, or being under the influence of a foreign government. I don't know the mechanics of all these things, and how they weigh, but common sense says that the government has to be careful.

-OP

articulably suspect
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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
MrOrange wrote:Thanks for your response to my earlier question.

I am somewhat concerned by the background check thoroughness you mentioned, as my own is rather scattershot. Limited trouble with the law (traffic infractions), but a lot of randomness.

What kinds of things (non-academic factors), in your estimation, would preclude someone who's otherwise qualified from being being hired by the DOJ (or any other agency for that matter) through an honors program or otherwise? Does having connections inside the DOJ help to mitigate...anything?


As to your last question, no.

The point of my earlier post is just disclosure. I've heard more often of people being disqualified for something false in the check rather than someone not passing because of something disclosed. However, do think some of the questions are asked because they may flag something troublesome. Certainly, having done something that is a violation of federal law would be of concern to an agency enforcing that law. If that is the case, though, you'll make it triply bad if they find out about it after you lie. At the end of the day, there are a thousand jobs you could have after you don't pass a background check for honesty, but you could very well rulle most of those out if it turns out you've lied under penalty of perjury (and you may have to deal with this again with your bar fitness as well).

As to other things that may disqualify a candidate, I think most of them are actually asked as part of the check. There are a lot of things that may make one question your suitability for a position of public trust, like bankruptcies or horrible credit, alcoholism, connections to ant-government groups, or being under the influence of a foreign government. I don't know the mechanics of all these things, and how they weigh, but common sense says that the government has to be careful.

-OP


Thanks for taking questions. Are the background checks the same for all the agencies and do agents go through the same background checks as the attorneys? Something like alcoholism(assuming past issues) can keep someone from getting hired. I guess it makes sense, but I'm a little surprised.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:32 pm

It's fair to say that a large population of law students have committed copyright infringement within the last ten years (think: napster). Do you think that all of these applicants will be summarily disqualified when disclosing this on the application?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:45 pm

OP - Thank you for taking questions. You mentioned the background checks. I work in law enforcement and have had the joy of such an investigation, do these background checks also include the polygraph that police go through?

Thanks again.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 9:46 pm

Any advice for responding to the "why DOJ" and "tell us more about yourself" questions on the application?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:28 pm

No polygraph as far as I know.

I don't recall any questions about copyright on the background check, but it would probably be a problem if you planned on enforcing those laws.

I presume background checks would be about the same for agents, but I don't know.

Also, I don't know how they weigh current or past alcoholism, but it is a question on the check and they did ask my family, friends, and employers about it.

You'll need to have your own reasons for wanting to work in the DOJ, but it helps to have an idea of the type of litigation you want to do and why you think the DOJ fits in with your practice area. In general, you should have demonstrated interests in litigation and whatever type of work the particular section you are interviewing with does. To do that, do whatever you can to get an idea of what that section does and cases it has recently handled. Don't be afraid to call up alumni who have worked there to get the inside scoop. The more informed you are, the better you will be able to sell your interest.

-OP

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:05 am

OP-

How are occasional marijuana use and minor offenses like MIP-alcohol (both years in the past) viewed during the investigation process? Are these types of things automatic disqualifiers or is it more of a totality-of-the-circumstances approach?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby hbb » Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:14 am

Thanks for taking questions, this is a very helpful thread.

Anonymous User wrote:Nice blooper.

OP, thanks for taking questions. As far as employment with the DOJ goes, how do they look upon applicants who wish to apply right after law school? Do they take such applicants or do they prefer some sort of work experience?


Anonymous User wrote:Any advice for responding to the "why DOJ" and "tell us more about yourself" questions on the application?


Anonymous User wrote:OP, what is it that you do exactly without giving away too much information.

Also, no insult intended, but don't forget to sign it "OP" in the end!


That being said, it would be a hell of a lot easier to keep track of the original poster's responses if there weren't a dozen other anonymous posters in this thread. I can understand why posters asking specific questions about drug testing or file-sharing would wish to remain anonymous, but the posts I've singled out above are indefensible. If you folks would use your regular user names to post general questions about government work and the application process, this thread would be far more useful.


Back on topic: how important would you say previous government experience is in the hiring process? Specifically, is a previous DOJ volunteer legal intern or SLIP position a significant advantage, or more like a prerequisite?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:42 am

To be honest, while I completely understand the anxiety surrounding the background check, I'm getting a bit tired of them. I don't really know how all these things are viewed because I have not made those calls. I also don't know what others who have passed put on theirs. I'm a pretty straight-edged person, I don't really drink and didn't do drugs, nor anything else that would cause me problems. I've heard different things about it through the years, too, in terms of how much certain things matter. Really, the government doesn't seem to have a hard time filling its rolls with people who pass the checks, so it probably isn't that bad. Although there are certainly some who get dinged, the vast majority of people who get hired seem to make the cut. It could be, though, that I am not in the minority of candidates and not everyone, as those who do so seem to insist, has experimented with drugs or used napster or whatever. It could be self-selection, only squares apply. I don't know. However, just to provide a bit of insight, here is the primary form you'd likely have to fill out. http://www.opm.gov/Forms/pdf_fill/sf86.pdf Sometimes, just one look at it is enough to deter unserious applicants, so, enjoy!

As to hbb's question: I was actually thinking more like a position prior to law school in government. I don't know what the SLIP hire rate is, I think that information is somewhere on the internet and I've read it, but I can't venture a guess. It is hard to say how valuable the unpaid internships are. It will depend a lot on the office and who you worked with. There are tons of unpaid interns that work at US Attorney's Offices during the year, they are typically less selective than SLIP, and, of course, no offer at the end. SLIP has the possibility of an offer, so that would be invaluable.

I actually did the internship at a US Att Office, and it helped me immensely, but not just as a notch. The Attorney's I worked with went the extra mile and provided great recommendations when I applied for both of my permanent positions. If all your other credentials are in line, and the government office is comparing you to someone else with similar credentials, I can almost guarantee that they will choose you if someone they trust gives a recommendation. I consider the fact that you have a demonstrated interest in government third, though, to the additional benefit of just knowing what the heck it is federal attorneys do. The internship will allow you to come in and, as I discussed above, speak intelligently about why you think you'd be a good fit. There are probably a dozen other reasons to do an internship, but those are the first that come to mind.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 1:14 am

What is the income ceiling for attorneys in the organizations you worked at? What kind of lifestyle did attorneys who'd been working at the gov't for years lead?

(I don't want recruiters to realize I'm thinking about this stuff, which is why I've posted anonymously.)

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby articulably suspect » Wed Sep 02, 2009 1:34 am

What do you know about Federal Public Defender jobs?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Reinhardt » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:18 am

My impression is the overwhelming majority of federal attorney jobs are in or around DC. Conventional wisdom says you should consider going to law school where you want to practice. If one wants to be a federal attorney, do you think someone from Georgetown has an advantage over someone from a higher ranked school?

The DOJ website makes it seem like attorneys get to GS-15 very quickly (4 years?). How fast would you say people get there on average?

How is the job security? How long do people stay at their agency? If they leave, what do they often do afterwards?

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 12:24 pm

Income: http://opm.gov/oca/09tables/indexgs.asp For DC: http://opm.gov/oca/09tables/pdf/DCB.pdf

You max out at just above 150k, but it would take you several years to get there because you start at step 1, then go up a step each year. At year 4, it seems fairly routine to get your 15. I do know someone who has been denied a merit scale increase for several years, but that was someone who was clearly shooting himself in the foot time after time. However, you can get small bonuses, although I am not sure whether they count towards the max (I've heard that they do not).

My impression was that about half of honors hires end up staying in DOJ. For my agency job it seemed about the same, except people tend to leave more often before their tenure is up. You definitely feel a bit more security, but there is immense pressure to perform at the DOJ and very high standards, so it doesn't really make any difference in how you go about life. Screwing up is a big deal, and there is more on the line than just your job- prosecutorial misconduct is your worst nightmare. For the agency job, since it is an administrative court, it seems like less of a nightmare. Also, people do tend to rest easy after a couple years and get closer to working only the 40 hours a week. My agency job was unionized-now that was job security.

People do a lot of things after the DOJ. To me, it seems to give the most options of anything. State and Federal judges; other local, state, or federal positions, sometimes politically oriented; private practice is wide open; and there are some very specific things you can do depending on what your litigation was in. Obviously, you can go to general litigation, but white collar criminal defense is said to be hiring big right now because Obama, it has been said in some law periodicals I've read, to be expected to increase prosecutions. There really isn't much out of the question from DOJ, except some transactional work I suppose.

From the agencies, where you can go will depend on what you do. They definitely go to other government agencies, including DOJ. They also end up being a lot more specialized, in employment law or environmental law or tax for example, so they can end up doing more transactional or in-house work. When people leave those jobs it tends to be because they have this huge brain in some special area that most people don't understand. Sometimes, you are the person who actually wrote the regulations on a statute. I've seen people from my agency go into transactional work as well as litigation in private practice, although I will admit that not everyone has the creds to do it. It really depends a lot on what you do and what kind of special projects you can get on in these agencies to obtain the specialized knowledge and stand out a bit. There is definitely a sense that people who work in the agencies can be little more than government employees with no potential for much else, but the stars definitely have opportunities.

I don't know much about federal defender jobs. There is definitely respect for many who work in it from the government side, but I am unsure of what their lifestyle or pay is like, or what kind of mobility they have professionally.

-OP (edited to add this)
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:59 pm

Not the OP, but a fresh Honors hire (I can sign as "FHH" in future posts). I thought I'd add some info since I just went through this process.

Security Clearances: Preliminary background check is done after the decision is made to hire you, and then the rest of the investigation plus security interview is supposed to be completed during your first few months of working. Most background checks are with Form SF 85 or 86 (virtually identical, you can find them online) plus addenda forms. No polygraph for most agencies/positions. Minor traffic problems not usually a problem (I had a few). I know at least one of my fellow Honors hires admitted to experimenting with MJ and it didn't prevent her from the job. There were no "copyright" questions on my check. Yes, agents at our agency go through pretty much the same process. Security clearance is a lot like C&F for your state Bar (if possible, I'd recommend that you do the forms at the same time)--disclosure is more important than minor transgressions.

Qualifications: at my agency, the HQ (DC) positions tend to be more competitive and more likely to be filled by students from "prestigious" schools with BigLaw type credentials. However, different "field" offices may look for very different characteristics amongst their applicants. Meeting my agency's Honors field hires this year was a huge eye-opener for me in that regard. Our schools ranged from Tier 1-3, some hires had tons of specialty experience while others had none, some had interned for the agency before and others hadn't, most did not go to school in DC (and oddly enough...none of us went to school in the region where we were hired to work). What that means to me is that you can't easily predict what different hiring managers look for. So if someone tells you "you *need* to go school in DC/be on law review/have worked for the agency or federal gov't before/etc", take it with a grain of salt.

Promotion: also depends on the agency. At mine, promotion is pretty much automatic between GS-11 through 14. GS-14 is where most attorneys stay for years and years as there are very limited spots for GS-15 employees (after that, you move into mgt). That's also the stage where attorneys are most likely to go on to private practice, usually BigLaw or boutique firms.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 02, 2009 4:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Not the OP, but a fresh Honors hire (I can sign as "FHH" in future posts). I thought I'd add some info since I just went through this process.

Security Clearances: Preliminary background check is done after the decision is made to hire you, and then the rest of the investigation plus security interview is supposed to be completed during your first few months of working. Most background checks are with Form SF 85 or 86 (virtually identical, you can find them online) plus addenda forms. No polygraph for most agencies/positions. Minor traffic problems not usually a problem (I had a few). I know at least one of my fellow Honors hires admitted to experimenting with MJ and it didn't prevent her from the job. There were no "copyright" questions on my check. Yes, agents at our agency go through pretty much the same process. Security clearance is a lot like C&F for your state Bar (if possible, I'd recommend that you do the forms at the same time)--disclosure is more important than minor transgressions.

Qualifications: at my agency, the HQ (DC) positions tend to be more competitive and more likely to be filled by students from "prestigious" schools with BigLaw type credentials. However, different "field" offices may look for very different characteristics amongst their applicants. Meeting my agency's Honors field hires this year was a huge eye-opener for me in that regard. Our schools ranged from Tier 1-3, some hires had tons of specialty experience while others had none, some had interned for the agency before and others hadn't, most did not go to school in DC (and oddly enough...none of us went to school in the region where we were hired to work). What that means to me is that you can't easily predict what different hiring managers look for. So if someone tells you "you *need* to go school in DC/be on law review/have worked for the agency or federal gov't before/etc", take it with a grain of salt.

Promotion: also depends on the agency. At mine, promotion is pretty much automatic between GS-11 through 14. GS-14 is where most attorneys stay for years and years as there are very limited spots for GS-15 employees (after that, you move into mgt). That's also the stage where attorneys are most likely to go on to private practice, usually BigLaw or boutique firms.


This is OP. I'm presuming the above poster is non-DOJ agency honors. If your agency was like mine, the 14 was the last big promotion you expected to get, although it was possible to be denied it if you got a less than satisfactory review. 15s were reserved for senior attorneys, and were still only competitive raises rarely given, or for things I would consider promotions to management or certain specialty groups. The difference in quality of life definitely accounted for the difference in pay between DOJ and the agency.

Also, I think I forgot to respond to the GULC question. I think I indicated I went to a T10 school. While there is certainly a lot of people from GULC, or GW for that matter, I don't think the local contacts outweigh most other factors in hiring. Having not gone to school in DC, I was still able to make those contacts my first summer and with adjunct profs in govt field offices. I know several people who interned in US Atty offices and agency field offices during the school year. These may be even easier to get in field offices, actually. You can get these experiences and connections at any school in a major market like NY, Chicago, LA, or SF.

I've also spoken with a couple people who did the GULC thing, have like three great internships in govt, but still couldn't get an honors job. Push come to shove, you may beat out someone who has a similar school, similar grades or other acheivements, if that person does not have any government internships or background, but the reality is that a lot of people have internships in government, so it doesn't make you very special. You still have to have the grades or background or interview skills, etc. I know this may sound like it contradicts what I said above, but I don't think I implied that internships would guarantee you a job, just that they are very valuable. Really, it seems like anything you do to stand out at this high level of competition just seems to keep you in the game rather than make you undeniable.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby CE2JD » Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:00 pm

Alfonso Soriano wrote:I don't believe the OP in what their saying. If you take a look at this thread

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=82732&start=50

The same user, with the same amount of posts and join time are asking questions like their some UG student who doesn't know a lot. Unless someone joined at the same moment and made the same amount of posts I simply don't believe OP is who he says he is. Perhaps I'm off base, but I believe I'm correct.


Dear God... tell me you weren't being serious.

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Re: Federal Attorney Taking Questions

Postby ArmyVet07 » Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:15 pm

Does the veterans' preference apply for all federal agencies/departments, including honors programs?




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