Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions Forum

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Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:24 pm

For those of you with experience or knowledge about federal pay bands: what’s the general practice for an agency when they hire a new attorney from a non-GS scale agency into a position on the GS scale? I’m at a non-GS agency and applied for a position that ranges in grades (GS11-GS15). Do agencies on the GS scale generally try to match your non-GS pay with something similar on the scale? For example, if I was making $110k on a non-GS scale, would they look for what the equivalent of that salary was in my current location (e.g. locality pay) and match that to where it would be on the GS scale?

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Re: Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions

Post by clarion » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For those of you with experience or knowledge about federal pay bands: what’s the general practice for an agency when they hire a new attorney from a non-GS scale agency into a position on the GS scale? I’m at a non-GS agency and applied for a position that ranges in grades (GS11-GS15). Do agencies on the GS scale generally try to match your non-GS pay with something similar on the scale? For example, if I was making $110k on a non-GS scale, would they look for what the equivalent of that salary was in my current location (e.g. locality pay) and match that to where it would be on the GS scale?

FWIW, I’m a mid-levelish attorney in terms of years of experience (5-6).
With that much experience (5-6 years) as an attorney, you'll likely come on at GS-14. Generally speaking, the GS pay scale is based solely on tenure. There are legal requirements about going from a GS job to another GS job (you can't go down a band, generally speaking), but nothing about taking into account your pre-GS salary. The job description should explain what it requires to get each different pay band. Usually it says something like "For the GS12, two years of post-law school legal employment or equivalent." Stuff like that. But no, your non-GS salary shouldn't matter.

So I'd check the job posting first, as that should answer your question. But otherwise, I'd just count on GS-14 if I were you. As an aside, GS-15 is usually reserved for supervisors, so the only way you should be able to get that is if you were already a GS-15 or the is was a supervisory role.

Maybe others know something I don't. But good luck!

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Re: Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:20 pm

Thanks, clarion! If the new agency were to offer a salary that actually ended up below what my current salary roughly equaled on the GS scale (say my current was closest to GS13 Step 8-9 but they offered GS 12 Step X), would that normally be a good negotiation tool? I’ve noticed this agency brought at least one attorney in at a GS13 with enough experience to qualify them at a GS14 based on years of experience.

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Re: Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:29 pm

That seems weird bc as clarion said, pay scales are normally determined by years of experience. So I wonder if some of that person’s experience didn’t count? Or they didn’t have the budget to bring in someone at GS-14 and were only authorized to bring them in at GS-13 and the person was willing? Some jobs do top out at GS-13.

Because frankly I also haven’t really seen negotiation as an option - everyone in the same office with the same length of experience gets paid the same.

But it may depend on the agency.

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Re: Federal attorneys: moving from non-GS to GS scale positions

Post by clarion » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:53 pm

Yeah, I wouldn't count on being able to negotiate a higher pay grade. I think I've heard of people negotiating a higher step, since step increases (such as with QSIs) can have a bit more of a discretionary component to them. Even then I wouldn't expect too much. But honestly, considering the current state of the federal government/budgets, I would go in assuming you'll take what they offer.

That's just me thinking aloud, though. I was hired as a legal honor, so while I know people who have lateraled of course, I don't have firsthand experience with whether there's an opportunity to negotiate: though it'd vary from agency-to-agency anyway.

As for the person who got hired as a 13, I agree with the anon above that it seems unusual. Unless the agency discounted their years of experience (like discounting the attorney for doing a year of transactional when applying for a litigation position for example), or only offers GS-14 on a discretionary basis, etc.

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