In cooperation with
The American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division
Table of Contents
Article: “The Rewards of Government Employment” by Katherine Mikkelson............................4
Tips for Landing a Federal Government Job ...................................................................................9
Table: Where the Government Jobs Are........................................................................................11
Spotlight on Six Attorneys in the Federal Government.................................................................12
Attorney Spotlight: Joseph Downey, Admin. Office of the U.S. Courts
Attorney Spotlight: Gwendolyn Hodge, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Attorney Spotlight: Joseph Manalili, Federal Aviation Administration
Attorney Spotlight: Rhonda L. Daniels, HUD
Attorney Spotlight: Cynthia Valenzuela, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Article: “Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness” by Sarah Hilton.....................................17
How to Apply for a Federal Government Job................................................................................21
Definitions and Terms in the Federal Application Process ..........................................................23
Additional Agency-Specific Application Forms ...........................................................................27
Alternative Points of Entry ............................................................................................................28
Special Hiring Initiatives in the Federal Government ...................................................................31
Federal Government Salary Information .......................................................................................34
Federal Government Benefits Information ....................................................................................36
Article: “Loan Repayment Update: Extra Assistance for Public Lawyers” by Sarah Hilton........38
Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) ...............................................................41
Additional Resources for Obtaining Federal Legal Employment..................................................43
Appendix: Federal Departments and Agencies.............................................................................44
The 2007-2008 NALP Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide is the product of a
collaborative effort among NALP, the American Bar Association’s Government and Public
Sector Lawyers Division (a division of the ABA that advocates for and enhances the professional
growth of public lawyers), and The Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit
organization dedicated to revitalizing the federal public service through public-private
partnerships and educational efforts. These organizations contributed a wealth of information
that offers job seekers an in-depth look at the government’s myriad functions and roles, as well
as a glossary of terms unique to the federal application process, and tips on landing a government
NALP extends its sincere thanks to the ABA and The Partnership for their contributions to this
resource. Please note that the materials contained herein represent the opinions of the authors and
editors and should not be construed to be those of the ABA or its Government and Public Sector
Lawyers Division unless adopted pursuant to the bylaws of the Association.
NALP also wishes to recognize specific individuals who contributed invaluable assistance in the
production of the 2007-2008 Guide. Sarah Hilton of the ABA and Brooke Bohnet of The
Partnership provided tremendous input and information. In addition, NALP’s summer Project
Assistants contributed to the creation of the new Guide. They are: Uchechi Anyanwu, Loyola
University New Orleans College of Law; Christina Hardjasa, University of Cincinnati College of
Law (transferring to Georgetown University Law Center); and Holly Swenson Rasmussen,
Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark School of Law. Finally, NALP’s 2007 summer
Publications Coordinator, J. Alex Chasick, made valuable contributions to editing the guide.
For information on the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division of the ABA, please see
http://www.governmentlawyer.org. To learn more about The Partnership for Public Service and
opportunities with the federal government, visit The Partnership’s website at
http://www.ourpublicservice.org and job-seeker website at http://makingthedifference.org.
NALP’s PSLawNet website also includes job descriptions for federal government jobs across the
We hope that you find the guide to be a useful resource, and we wish you the best of luck in
pursuing a career with the federal government.
- Steve Grumm
NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives
- Sarah Mansfield
2006-07 PSLawNet Fellow
In organizing the 2007-2008 NALP Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide, our goal
has been to help clarify the federal hiring process for law students and attorneys pursuing careers
in the public sector. At first glance, seeking and applying for federal jobs can seem incredibly
overwhelming. It can be difficult to understand just where to begin. As you read through the
Guide, you will find specific information about which federal agencies are expected to hire the
most lawyers in the near future, application requirements, salary and benefit information,
fellowship and honors programs, special federal hiring initiatives, as well as summaries of the
responsibilities of selected federal agencies. Our hope is that this Guide, although not exhaustive,
will serve as a helpful resource for navigating the federal hiring process.
We have also provided recently published articles that give a more detailed overview of the
federal government’s hiring processes as well as the federal loan repayment assistance programs.
Before digging into the Guide, take the time to read “The Rewards of Government Employment”
by Katherine Mikkelson, Associate Director of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers
Division. Through interviews with several government lawyers, Ms. Mikkelson provides insight
into the challenges and rewards of federal legal practice.
The next section of the Guide offers some helpful tips to attorneys and law students as they apply
for government jobs. Please note that there are additional resources listed that provide a wealth
of information about federal government employment, including the Office of Personnel
Management’s (OPM) website and The U.S. Government Manual.
The nuts and bolts of application procedures, definitions and terms used in the application
process (including links to many federal application forms), and salary and benefit information
can be found in subsequent sections of the Guide. There is also specific information for law
students and new graduates seeking federal employment opportunities.
The Appendix provides brief descriptions of selected federal agencies and offices in the
legislative and executive branches as well as information on independent government agencies.
Again, the information in the Appendix is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for further
exploration of legal career opportunities within the federal government.
The Rewards of Government Employment
Although salaries are generally lower than in the private sector, lawyers with public agencies
say they reap many benefits in their work.
By Katherine Mikkelson
Katherine Mikkelson is associate director of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers
Division. Previously, she was a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Office of
When Joan Sullivan graduated from law school, paying down her law school loans was a
priority, so she accepted a high-paying job right out of law school with a Washington, D.C.,
communications law firm. Within a few months of being there, Sullivan realized that the firm
wasn’t a good fit for her. “The work wasn’t interesting or challenging,” she recalls. “Also, it was
difficult to get litigation work,” which Sullivan was eager to try.
An eye-opening moment for Sullivan came when a more senior lawyer told her she
wouldn’t get to second-chair a deposition until she was at the firm for three or four years. “I
didn’t want to wait that long for the experience,” she says. Sullivan applied for and got a position
with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), where she interned during law school. It paid
$20,000 less than her job with the firm.
It’s true that government salaries generally are lower than what you’ll find in the private
sector, but government agencies tend to give their lawyers something many private firms,
especially the larger ones, cannot: lots of experience, immediately.
Anne Dewey-Balzhiser, who recently started her own consulting firm after a 28-year
career with five different federal agencies, recalls that she was with the Farm Credit
Administration only four months when she was called to testify in Congress as a staffer about
proposed legislation overhauling the Farm Credit Act.
“The federal government can’t afford a long training period, so they throw you in and see
how you do,” says Dewey-Balzhiser, a council member of the ABA Government and Public
Sector Lawyers Division. “There’s a significant opportunity to develop skills and substantive
Likewise, within two months at the NLRB, Sullivan was the lead attorney on several
cases and was conducting depositions with a limited amount of supervision. Within her first year
there, she was the lead attorney in two trials.
“You won’t get shunted off to do document review in the government,” Sullivan says.
But she also cautions that this particular attribute might not be for everyone: “If you don’t like
being pushed off with lots of responsibility from the start, [government work] might not be a
good fit for you.”
What drives lawyers who work for government agencies, many of whom leave private
practice to do so? Aside from their desire to take lead responsibility on cases and other matters
early in their careers, government lawyers also enjoy the public policy aspects of their work. And
while salaries may not be as high as in private practice, generous benefits (including loan
repayment programs) and work-life accommodations can help make up the difference.
The federal government often is a model for discussing government legal work in
general, but many opportunities exist in state and local government law as well. And think
outside the prosecution box, as literally hundreds of agencies offer every type of practice area in
every imaginable area of the law.
Most professional jobs in the federal government fall under the General Schedule (GS)
pay scale. Jobs range from GS-1 to GS-15 (with 10 steps between each grade) and are ranked
based on responsibility and difficulty of the work. Most entry-level lawyers start at either a GS-
11 or GS-12, which ranges from $46,974 to $73,194 for 2007. In addition, certain areas of the
country have locality pay adjustments to compensate for the higher cost of living in those areas.
For example, in Los Angeles, federal employees earn 24.03 percent over the base pay, while in
Washington, DC, federal employees earn 18.59 percent over the base pay. Recognizing that
some agencies have recruitment and retention problems, some agencies, such as the Securities
and Exchange Commission, have separate pay scales for their employees. Also, assistant U.S.
attorneys are not paid under the GS rate. They have an administratively determined pay plan
established by the attorney general.
Entry-level salaries for state and local government vary depending on the jurisdiction,
geographical area, and level of government. For example, in Prince William County, Va.,
assistant county attorneys begin at $52,000. Assistant attorneys general in Illinois begin at
$43,000. In Coral Springs, Fla., assistant city attorneys start at $62,000.
By comparison, private practice salaries generally are higher—though often not as much
as you might think. According to the National Association for Law Placement’s 2005 Associate
Salary Survey, the average salary of a first-year associate in private practice was about $100,000,
but that figure accounts for firms of all sizes. First-year associates working for firms of two to 25
lawyers made an average starting salary of $73,722, while those at firms of more than 500
lawyers made an average of $117,952.
Salary is one thing, but benefits also are important to take into account. Benefits with the
federal government and many state and local agencies are considered generous. They include
ample vacation time and sick leave, solid health and retirement benefits, and loan repayment
Federal employees earn vacation time based on the amount of time in federal service.
Employees employed between one and three years get 13 days of annual leave each year, while
those employed between three and fifteen years get 20 days. Federal employees with more than
15 years of service get 26 days a year. Up to 30 days of annual leave can be rolled over for future
use. Each year, employees get 10 paid holidays and can earn up to 13 days of sick leave, which
can be accumulated indefinitely.
Under regulations that became effective at the beginning of 2005, federal employees can
be granted compensatory time off (comp time) for time spent traveling away from the
employee’s official duty station in certain situations. In addition, federal employees can receive
life insurance and health coverage from a variety of plans, and the government pays a significant
part of the premiums. Government lawyers also are eligible for the Federal Employees
Retirement System (FERS), which includes Social Security as well as a separate retirement
savings and investment plan.
Finally, there’s the federal government’s loan repayment program. Under 5 U.S.C.
§5379, agencies may establish a program under which they may repay certain types of federally
made, insured, or guaranteed student loans. The employee must remain in federal service for
three years. In 2005, 30 agencies provided $28 million in loan repayment benefits to 4,409
employees. Compared to FY 2004, this represents a 50 percent increase in the number of
employees receiving benefits and a 70 percent financial investment increase. Recent amendments
to the law provide that a federal agency may repay up to $10,000 (up from $6,000) for any one
employee in a calendar year and an aggregate limit of $60,000 (up from $40,000).
Aside from these benefits, what else attracts lawyers to government work?
Matthew Bye, an attorney-adviser for a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission,
found that he enjoyed the speaking engagements that were part of his job when he was with the
Office of General Counsel, Policy Studies. Bye spoke at conferences and symposiums about the
commission’s policies, reports, and recommendations and found that his monthly trips were a
refreshing change of pace. “I got to talk with people in firms and industries who are on the
cutting edge of issues,” says Bye, the young lawyers’ representative for the ABA Section of
Antitrust Law. “It was great to talk to people in the field and not just be isolated in D.C.”
Government work also is noteworthy because lawyers can shape policy, something that
rarely occurs in private practice. Joseph Manalili, a lawyer in the Airports and Environmental
Law Division of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), conducts environmental reviews
before major airport construction projects begin. “The work I’m doing is important from a
policy perspective because it affects citizens,” says Manalili, chair of the law student outreach
committee of the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division.
Quality of Life
An oft-cited benefit of being a government employee is the opportunity to achieve a
reasonable work-life balance. Anne Dewey-Balzhiser had five periods of part-time employment
throughout her career at various agencies. Childcare was the impetus for all her part-time stints.
Dewey-Balzhiser says her employers were surprisingly accommodating. She even found that the
Farm Credit Administration was willing to create a part-time position for her when she wanted to
scale back her hours after her third child was born.
Government lawyers are not beholden to the billable hour, so their time is much more
likely to be their own. And while many jobs require long hours, especially for litigators, most
government lawyers can manage their schedules more readily than their firm colleagues.
Just peruse the message boards at greedyassociates.com to learn how little vacation time is taken
by associates, particularly those in large firms. Manalili notes that he took only one vacation day
in one year when he was with a firm. “My quality of life was not as good,” he says. “I worked
longer hours and couldn’t plan for vacations or time off.” In his current position, Manalili
appreciates the peace of mind that comes with going on vacation and not worrying about work.
The federal government also can be accommodating in terms of geographical and agency
movement. Part of this flexibility is due to most agencies requiring a J.D. and being a member of
the bar in good standing in any jurisdiction. Dewey-Balzhiser was with the Department of
Treasury’s Comptroller of the Currency, located in Washington, D.C., when her husband, a
lawyer in private practice, was offered a job in Dallas. She was able to negotiate a transfer to the
department’s Dallas office, where she worked for more than two years before the couple returned
to the Washington area.
Similarly, Manalili has found it easy to move from agency to agency. Besides his current
position with the FAA, he’s also worked for the Commission on Civil Rights, the Patent and
Trademark Office, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, in geographic locations from
Washington, D.C., to California. “I’ve been able to move around from different agencies
because of the easily transferable skills,” he says. Despite the wildly divergent types of law he’s
practiced, from discrimination law to patent and trademark examination to environmental law, he
notes that “the same skills keep coming up.”
Government practice comes in all shapes and sizes. Salaries range considerably and
application procedures differ from agency to agency and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so do
research beforehand to understand the agencies that are out there, what you are applying for, and
how to apply. Word of mouth can be a great way to find government positions, so keep your
professional networks strong. Contact alumni of your college and law school who work for
agencies you find interesting. Ask if they would be willing to sit down for an informational
interview with you or recommend others who could. To further expand your network of
practicing lawyers, join professional associations and get involved in committees that sound
interesting to you. You’ll be surprised how receptive many of these groups are to have an eager
law student willing to volunteer time.
Matthew Bye found his job through an ABA connection. While in law school at the
Australian National University, he e-mailed the chair of the computer industry and Internet
committee of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law for information about the application of antitrust
law to business-to-business e-commerce for his thesis. About the same time, the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) began studying the issue, holding hearings, and inviting public comment.
Bye submitted his paper as a comment, and the commission cited portions of it in its report.
After Bye graduated, he planned a trip to the United States, and his ABA contact put him in
touch with several staffers in the policy studies office. Bye met with the staffers in person during
a visit to Washington, D.C., and was offered a job soon thereafter.
Dewey-Balzhiser was creative in landing her first job with the FTC. During the summer
after her second year of law school, she went through her school’s alumni directory and wrote a
letter to about 20 alumni who worked for various federal agencies. Almost all of them wrote or
called her back. Several set up interviews for her in their agencies, including one with the FTC.
The commission that year hired only a handful of lawyers out of hundreds of applicants, but
Dewey-Balzhiser is sure her alumni contacts helped her stand out.
Some people see government practice as a steppingstone to more lucrative positions in
private practice. But even if you plan on staying with the government a short time, don’t
announce this during the interview process; it can be considered an insult to lawyers who have
devoted their careers to government service. And you never know, you might just wake up some
day after years of service surprised to find that you are nearing retirement age.
Dewey-Balzhiser never expected she would retire from federal service. “I thought I
would be there for two or three years,” she says. She cites the difficulties of raising children if
both she and her husband had been in private practice. “So by default I stayed in, and then I
moved up,” she says. “It was a very satisfying career.”
Originally Published: Volume 34: No. 2, October 2005, The American Bar Association, Student
Lawyer magazine, “The Rewards of Government Employment,” by Katherine Mikkelson.
Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not
be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or
retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
Tips for Landing a Federal Government Job
1) Take Advantage of an Unprecedented Opportunity. 550,000 federal employees are
expected to leave the government in the next five years, the majority through retirement.
That’s one-third of the full-time permanent federal workforce – this spells opportunity for
young professionals to move up quickly in leadership roles. The government will be
aggressively recruiting talented and committed candidates to replace these public
2) Know Where to Look. Many job seekers think of the federal government as a single
employer, but when it comes to hiring, each agency has its own process. Most federal job
opportunities are posted on USAJobs (http://www.usajobs.opm.gov), a website run by the
Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Law students seeking federal internship or
clerkship opportunities should visit http://www.studentjobs.gov; a comprehensive list of
federal agencies with employment opportunities for students is located at
http://www.studentjobs.gov/agencies.asp. In addition, job seekers can gather information
about federal agencies within each branch of government at http://www.usa.gov. Click
on “A-Z Agency Index” on the right side of the webpage for links to individual agency
3) Target Your Search. Although there are many career opportunities in the legislative
and judicial branches, the executive branch is by far the largest employer. Within the
executive branch, there are over 70 individual departments and agencies, including
numerous independent agencies such as the SEC, EPA, and USAID. These agencies
range in size from fewer than 100 employees to over 300,000. The U.S. Government
Manual (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/index.html) can help you narrow your job
search. The manual provides a brief description of every agency and its organization,
mission, and locations. Another helpful tool is the USAJobs Resume Builder
pm%2Egov%2Fresume%2Easp), which allows you to create and upload an uniform
resume that provides all the information required by government agencies.
4) Be Prepared. Federal employment applications may seem daunting, but the more
organized you are in advance, the easier they will be. Update your resume, locate your
transcript, and verify contact information for your references. Incomplete applications
may not be considered; therefore, read the application carefully and provide all requested
information. Many applications require a statement about Knowledge, Skills, and
Abilities (KSAs) relevant to the position. The Department of Labor provides detailed
information about completing this portion of your application at
OPM offers tips on KSAs at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/infocenter/resumetips.asp#tips.
5) Consider a Short-Term Service Opportunity. Within the federal government, there
are a number of ways to take advantage of short-term career opportunities. For
commitments of limited time duration, consider Americorps (http://www.americorps.gov)
or the Peace Corps (http://www.peacecorps.gov). Americorps also funds a program for
lawyers, called the Pro Bono Legal Corps, which is administered through Equal Justice
Works (http://www.equaljusticeworks.org/find/faopblc.php). In addition, some federal
legal jobs start on a time-limited basis – typically one or two years – but offer the
possibility of transitioning into a career position at the end of that time. Examples of such
programs include the Attorney Honors Program and the Federal Career Intern Program
(http://www.opm.gov/careerintern). Note that the Federal Career Intern Program requires
students to contact specific agencies directly, as OPM is not the main source for career
intern opportunities. Individuals in the Federal Career Intern Program are usually
appointed to a two year internship. Upon successful completion of the internship, the
interns may be eligible for a permanent position within the agency.
6) Be Patient. Applying for and obtaining a government job can take a long time. The
federal hiring process does not move as quickly as hiring in the private sector, so don’t be
alarmed if you submit an application and don’t get an immediate response.
7) Take Advantage of an Unprecedented Opportunity. 550,000 federal employees are
expected to leave the government in the next five years, the majority through retirement.
That’s one-third of the full-time permanent federal workforce – this spells opportunity for
young professionals to move up quickly in leadership roles. The government will be
aggressively recruiting talented and committed candidates to replace these public
Where the Government Jobs Are
The chart below represents federal departments and agencies with the most full-time, permanent
general schedule legal positions as of March 2007. (“Legal positions” includes not only attorney
positions, but also those for administrative law judges (ALJ’s), various types of administrative
and managerial positions, as well as paralegals). The data was taken from Fedscope (online
database at http://www.fedscope.opm.gov), courtesy of the Office of Personnel Management
(OPM). For complete information on projected hiring for the legal field, see “Where the Jobs
Are” at http://ourpublicservice.org/OPS/publications/viewcontentdetails.php?id=118.
Agencies with the Most Legal Jobs:
Agency New Legal Hires through 2009
Social Security Administration 22,671 Dependent on appropriations
Department of Treasury 18,502 Attorneys 427
Department of Justice 15,141 Legal Assistance 645
Department of Veterans Affairs 10,211 Claims Examination 850+
Department of Defense 5,274 Unknown
Department of Transportation 2,739
Contact Representative 3,725
Department of Homeland Security 2,691 Attorneys 505
Department of Labor 2,158
Claims Examination 387
Department of Commerce 1,585 Attorneys 172
Securities and Exchange Commission 1,526 Attorneys 258
Department of Interior 1,243 Unknown
Department of State 1,256 Unknown
Small Business Administration 1,220 Unknown
Environmental Protection Agency 1,127 Attorneys 60
Equal Employment Commission 598 Attorneys 39
Federal Communications Commission 533 Attorneys 75
Department of Housing and Urban Attorneys 21
Development Paralegals 18
Department of Education 336 Attorneys 67
TOTAL 93,893 9,691
FULL-TIME AND PERMANENT POSITIONS, FEDSCOPE, AS OF MAR. 2007 AND PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC SERVICE, “WHERE THE JOBS
ARE REPORT 2007”
Spotlight on Six Attorneys in the Federal Government
We all know the best way to really investigate a potential legal employer is to speak with the
attorneys currently working there. Six attorneys with fulfilling government careers have offered
candid thoughts about their jobs, and given advice for lawyers and law students who aspire to
work in similar positions.
The views expressed herein are each attorney’s own personal views and should not be
attributed to any of their affiliated agencies and employers.
Public Service as a Career: Transitioning to the Federal Government
Chief of Program Assessments and Operations Branch,
Office of Defender Services, Administrative Office of the U.S.
Joe Downey has been the Chief of the Program Assessments and
Operations Branch for the Office of Defender Services in the
Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts for almost five years.
Besides a stint in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, this is
Joe’s first federal government job, although the rest of his career
was spent in state government and non-profit legal aid programs. He
found the position from the listings in http://www.opm.gov and was
attracted to it because of his interest in working to support federal
defender organizations and because of the generous federal benefits.
Some of his responsibilities include making sure each organization obeys all federal rules and
trying to prioritize important actions to take within current budget restraints. He likes that he
works with and for other federal defenders and with people who are extraordinarily competent
and dedicated. Joe advises those contemplating a career in the federal government to do their
best in school and to pay attention to the exact requirements of job announcements.
Cattle, Veterans’ Healthcare and Bankruptcy: All in a Day’s Work
Assistant United States Attorney
Eastern District of Arkansas
Gwendolyn Hodge is an Assistant United States Attorney in the
Eastern District of Arkansas. She has held this position for 12 years.
She first applied for a job with the federal government in January
1995 at the suggestion of a mentor. Before working for the federal
government, Gwendolyn worked as a state court law clerk, then in the
private sector for one and a half years. Gwendolyn took a job with the
U.S. Attorney’s Office because she wanted to get trial experience
early in her career and knew that this would be difficult working in the
private sector, especially for a large firm.
Gwendolyn enjoys standing in front of a jury and stating that she represents the United States.
She finds the variety of clients and cases that comes with her job to be the most interesting
challenge she faces. In one day she can represent an agency and talk about cattle, farm
equipment and rice production; represent the Veteran’s Administration and talk about various
medical procedures; defend agencies in Title VII employment discrimination cases; and deal
with persons in bankruptcy with tax issues.
Gwendolyn sees many advantages to working in the public sector. She has a “ready made”
client base, and because she works with the same agencies on a regular basis, she develops a
professional relationship with staff attorneys, agents and other agency employees. This often
facilitates the representation of that person or agency because those involved are not strangers,
and generally speaking, each knows what to expect, and what is expected, of the other.
Gwendolyn also enjoys her interaction with various agencies, such as the FAA, the EPA, and the
Army Corps of Engineers. In representing the agency or its employees, she learns about the
agency and its role, not to mention the applicable law.
Another great advantage to working in the public sector is the benefits package, which includes
vacation time, sick leave, a choice of health plans, and retirement options. She also enjoys
freedom from billable hours and from marketing her services to clients. This allows her to focus
on her cases, not marketing efforts.
Gwendolyn finds few disadvantages to working in the public sector. She works each day
knowing that she will never have that “big” case that might make a private sector attorney a
millionaire. As a public sector attorney, she also realizes that she cannot “fire” a client.
However, because of this she has developed exceptional communication skills.
Gwendolyn believes that the best kept secrets of working for the federal government are the
retirement options. If she could offer advice to students or attorneys contemplating a career with
the federal government, she would tell them to consider internships or law clerk positions, and to
be creative in thinking about where they might fit in within all of the many government entities
that employ attorneys.
Protecting Local Communities, Residents and the Environment
During Regular Business Hours
Airports and Environmental Law Division, Federal Aviation
Joseph Manalili has worked as an Attorney-Advisor in the Airports &
Environmental Law Division of the Federal Aviation Administration
for just over three years, but has been employed with the federal
government for a number of years. He began work with the
government to improve his quality of life. He wanted to work regular
hours so that he could get involved in the community and go on
regular vacations. He found out about his first government job with
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in November of 1998 from a
friend who used to work there. This job suited him as he had worked on civil rights issues in
college and law school. He found his other federal jobs through the OPM website,
What Joseph likes best about his current position is that his public service helps people. He
conducts environmental reviews to make sure the federal government complies with all
environmental laws before beginning any major airport projects. This protects the local com-
munity, its residents, and the environment. He faces an interesting challenge of balancing the
sometimes-competing interests of the federal government and the public at large.
Joseph began his career in the private sector, but despite the higher salary he disliked the long
days, billable hours, and dealing with clients. His experience in the private sector has made him
more appreciative of the advantages of the public sector including the regular schedule, the focus
on work rather than the extraneous issues such as billing and client development, and working
with people who care about public service and who enjoy coming to work. He also thinks
working for the federal government is less stressful than the private sector.
To law students or attorneys contemplating a career with the federal government, Joseph
recommends pursuing an internship with a government agency as most agencies have internship
programs in several different departments, not just the legal department. Some agencies even
have honors programs that hire graduates right out of law school. Most agencies, though, require
attorneys to have some legal experience, so those contemplating a career change possibly have
an advantage. In all cases, it helps to talk to an attorney currently in the agency to learn about the
hiring process and how to best tailor your application.
Impacting the Private Sector from the Public Sector
Rhonda L. Daniels
Office of General Counsel, U.S. Department of Housing and
Rhonda L. Daniels has been a senior attorney for the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development for five years. She took the
position, which she found on http://www.usajobs.gov, because she
wanted to work in the public sector after 10 years in trade
associations. She likes the public sector because of the responsibility
for shaping public policy and providing guidance to the private sector.
For instance, Rhonda is involved in developing regulations that will
ultimately affect everyone who buys a home in this country. She faces the interesting challenge
of maintaining focus on a long-term goal and remaining open to rule changes beyond her control
that may occur during development of regulations.
She cites the ability to telecommute and the ability to work part-time if circumstances dictate as
some of the best kept secrets of working for the federal government. Rhonda advises that while it
is difficult to move to the federal government mid-career, it is not impossible. Those interested
should consistently monitor federal government jobs websites and do what they can to
distinguish themselves from other applicants, such as by assuming leadership roles in
professional associations and continuing with educational advancements in relevant practice
Honored to Serve the Public and Give Back to her Community
Assistant United States Attorney
Central District of California
Cynthia Valenzuela has been an Assistant United States Attorney for
seven years. Her father, a firefighter, and mother, a public
schoolteacher, influenced her career choice. They taught her that
contributing to the community through public service is both an
obligation and an honor. Cynthia has a history of government jobs
including working at the Arizona Supreme Court and at the
California Legislative Counsel Bureau. Upon graduation from law
school, she found an ideal government job, and has since elected to
forego private practice. Her former ethics professor at UCLA Law
School, Cruz Reynoso, served as the Vice-Chairperson on the United States Commission on
Civil Rights. Because of their positive working relationship and Cynthia’s fine classroom
performance, he invited her to serve as his Special Assistant.
Cynthia believes that being a federal prosecutor is the ultimate experience in legal practice. The
U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes a variety of interesting cases including: public corruption and
government fraud, terrorism and organized crime, cyber crimes, narcotics, major frauds,
environmental and civil rights violations. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she especially enjoys
handling cases from the very start through to their conclusion: beginning the process with the
initial investigation which includes strategizing with highly talented federal agents, to conducting
jury trials, and culminating in writing and arguing appeals. Because federal prosecutors wield
enormous power, Cynthia finds that exercising discretion in charging and disposition decisions is
one of the most interesting challenges of her job. Cynthia finds that working for the federal
government affords a high quality of life. Her job allows her to balance a challenging, satisfying
and meaningful work life with a well-rounded social life. She also enjoys the fact that she is
surrounded by brilliant people who are hard-working and dedicated to the pursuit of justice.
Cynthia advises students contemplating a career in the federal government to, first and foremost,
concentrate on achieving an excellent academic record. However, participation in extra-
curricular activities like law review and moot court can be very important too. Taking clinical
courses and volunteering with public interest organizations or government agencies are also great
opportunities for hands-on experience. She recommends that students seek volunteer positions
after graduation to “get a foot in the door.” Similarly, she suggests preparing to live on a modest
salary for the first few years out of law school since government salaries are generally
significantly lower than the private sector. Cynthia advises law students to be conservative in the
amount of student loans they obtain and/or consider an initial position in private practice.
Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness
Federal agencies overhaul their hiring procedures.
By Sarah Hilton
Sarah Hilton is the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division’s project coordinator.
It seems every home, car and wardrobe in America is getting a makeover these days.
Even the federal government’s hiring process is getting an overhaul.
With more than half of all federal employees becoming eligible for retirement within the
next five years, the federal government is facing a hiring crunch. In response to this hiring crisis,
a team of recruitment experts, led by the Partnership for Public Service, launched an “Extreme
Hiring Makeover” (EHM) designed to improve the way the federal government recruits and hires
talented workers. Starting with three pilot agencies, the team helped diagnose problems with
each agency’s recruitment and hiring processes, and helped determine and implement solutions
over a 10-month period. The EHM team selected these agencies because they were facing
critical, short-term hiring challenges, were willing to confront their inefficiencies, and were
ready for change. The three agencies to receive hiring makeovers were the Department of Health
and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of
Education (ED), and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
The EHM team included the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), Monster Government
Solutions, ePredix, CPS Human Resource Services, AIRS, Brainbench, the Human Capital
Institute and Korn/Ferry International. According to their expertise, each team member
organization donated products, services, and tools to assist the pilot agencies with their specific
needs. PPS acted as project manager and facilitated project communications; it oversaw the
project plan and recruited the pilot agencies.
The federal hiring process itself is one of the greatest impediments to attracting new hires
according to the EHM team. Federal job application instructions can be 35 pages long.
Applicants can wait six months to a year for a job offer with little or no feedback during the
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
CMS is the largest health care insurer of Americans. The agency administers health care
service to one in four Americans and handles one billion claims per year. CMS manages
Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To meet the requirements of the Medicare
Modernization Act (MMA), with its 2004 drug discount card and 2006 prescription drug benefit
plan, the agency needed to increase its workforce by 10 percent and double its normal annual
hiring within two years.
CMS managers were most concerned with ensuring that the agency would have top talent
to meet future requirements. CMS received large numbers of applications for many positions,
but had an automated staffing system that few within the agency understood. Effective applicant
screening and assessment was a major challenge. The Extreme Hiring Makeover team reviewed
CMS’s hiring process from “end to end” and analyzed a demonstration hiring process for a
health insurance specialist, a position for which managers had an immediate hiring need.
The EHM team began with a strategic conversation with the hiring manager to clearly
identify the needs of the position. The information gathered during this discussion was used to
help the team market the position using an eye-catching, plain-English vacancy announcement;
to target qualified candidates via web-based résumé databases; and to enhance screening and
assessment tools. CMS considered the team’s hiring analysis and employed the makeover
The results of the CMS extreme hiring makeover were impressive. By using enhanced
marketing and by targeting announcements, the agency received applications from a greater
number of qualified applicants: 227 qualified applicants, up from the average 53. Automated
pre-screening and web-based skills assessments worked to select the best applicants more
efficiently. Fifteen percent of applicants were screened out in pre-screening, up from six
percent. One hundred and sixty-nine applicants took the online skills assessment. Category
ranking helped managers judge 24 applicants to be “well qualified.” After interviews, the hiring
manager was able to hire seven new employees – the first within 22 business days of the vacancy
announcement closing date. The EHM team helped CMS reduce the number of steps in its
hiring process by 20 percent. Since its hiring makeover, CMS has taken additional steps to
change its screening and assessment process and has also shifted its view of hiring from an
administrative function, to a strategic function, with managers and human resources (HR)
professionals working as partners.
Department of Education (ED)
ED is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and administering student loans
and grants. The department also works with communities, schools and state and local
governments to ensure educational excellence. With much of its workforce retiring, ED needed
to hire hundreds of employees – in various occupations and at various levels – in one year’s time.
ED sought to hire talented individuals with an understanding of its business and with skills that
could be developed over time. Like much of the federal government, EHM determined that
ED’s established hiring process took too long, was overly complex, and often failed to deliver
qualified candidates. Hiring managers needed a new approach to meet their hiring goals. The
EHM team decided to focus on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) program office because it is the
department’s largest and because it is the government’s first Performance-Based Organization
(PBO). Performance Based Organizations (PBO) were designed to help the government operate
more efficiently. These government programs, offices or units establish clear measures of
performance and hold the head of the organization accountable for achieving results. A PBO has
the authority to deviate from government-wide rules, thereby allowing for more flexibility,
innovation and efficiency. PBOs are led by a chief operating officer, hired under a performance-
based contract, who reports directly to the agency’s Secretary.
The EHM team conducted focus groups with hiring managers, senior leaders, new hires
and HR. The discussions revealed that the hiring process consisted of 114 discrete steps, and
over 45 hand-offs between managers, HR and others. They also revealed that job postings were
generic and loaded with jargon, and assessment questions were ineffective in screening out
unqualified applicants. When managers made no selection among applicants, vacancy
announcements were simply re-posted, adding more time to the hiring process.
FSA’s Chief Operating Officer and the team streamlined the process by eliminating
redundant and ineffective steps. The dozens of steps it took to get vacancy and candidate
assessment information from managers to HR were replaced by one strategic conversation at the
start of the hiring process. Back-and-forth emails were replaced by meetings, and senior
managers were asked to prepare and follow annual staffing plans.
To introduce the new process and collect feedback, ED held a three-day boot camp for
HR and hiring managers. Hiring managers received EHM interview guides, and HR personnel
received vacancy announcement templates and tips on marketing ED jobs. HR worked with the
EHM team to develop better screening questions for better skills assessments, and created a
department-wide hiring tracking system.
With the help of the Extreme Hiring Makeover team, ED reduced its hiring process steps
from 114 to 53. ED has reduced the time it takes to fill a vacancy while attracting a greater
number of qualified applicants.
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Established in 2000, NNSA maintains the safety and security of the nation’s nuclear
weapons stockpiles. The agency carries out the national security responsibilities of the
Department of Energy by designing, producing and maintaining safe and reliable nuclear
weapons for the military; providing nuclear propulsion for the navy; and promoting international
nuclear safety and nonproliferation. To carry out these responsibilities, NNSA needs highly
skilled personnel to fill entry-level and mid-level positions in the fields of nuclear engineering,
physics, radiological, safety and health engineering, and business management.
NNSA’s principal hiring challenge was to attract and hire qualified applicants to work in
somewhat unusual locations, such as rural areas of Texas, South Carolina and New Mexico.
Agency leaders determined that the traditional hiring process was hampering NNSA’s ability to
attract highly talented applicants and compete effectively with private sector employers. With 33
percent of its workforce eligible for retirement in 2006, NNSA leaders knew they needed to
address the limitations of their hiring process.
The EHM team’s first finding was that NNSA was not effectively marketing its unique
employment opportunities. Vacancy announcements were packed with technical terms that
obscured the most attractive aspects of the job. The team helped NNSA create a new look and
language for vacancy announcements that conveyed the importance and excitement of the
position. The team also helped NNSA implement a web-based targeted recruiting strategy.
Inspired by the EHM team’s efforts, NNSA leaders developed their own marketing tools.
They designed an advertisement featuring the “new face of NNSA” and launched an emerging
leaders program, on-campus recruitment efforts, and an intern training program. They also
worked to improve benefits and other perks such as student loan repayment, signing bonuses,
and relocation assistance. The makeover also encouraged NNSA hiring managers and human
resources staff to change their hiring relationship; they started working as partners from the
The first candidate search NNSA conducted using its overhauled hiring process yielded
eight times as many applicants as the traditional process. Encouraged by the results, NNSA
committed itself to improvement and incorporated the EHM team’s recommendations into its
standard hiring process.
EHM as a Model
If the Extreme Hiring Makeover is any indication, traditional federal hiring processes can
be changed as long as agency managers and HR personnel are committed to the project. By
taking a close look at an agency’s hiring process, the EHM team – with the support and
assistance of agency leaders – found ways to streamline the process and attract, assess and hire
qualified candidates more quickly. With more than half of federal workers poised for retirement,
this approach could go a long way toward helping federal agencies meet their future hiring
In April 2006, Partnership for Public Service, CPS Human Resource Services and
Brainbench presented a half-day workshop on redesigning the hiring process and candidate
assessments. Eighty federal employees attended and learned lessons they could take back to
their agencies. PPS has found that the EHM lessons are also useful to HR professionals at the
state and local level and has made presentations on applying the Extreme Hiring Makeover
lessons to a number of state governments.
In summer 2006, PPS and the Office of Personnel Management released a toolkit for HR
professionals and presented another hiring workshop. Visit http://www.ourpublicsservice.org for
more information. For more information on the Extreme Hiring Makeover project and partners,
visit http://www.extremehiringmakeover.org. You may also want to visit
http://www.excelgov.org, the Council for Excellence in Government’s website devoted to
communicating the importance of working in government to young people.
Originally Published: Volume 15, No. 4, Summer 2006, The American Bar Association’s Government and Public
Sector Lawyers Division Pass It On Newsletter, “Federal Agencies Catch Makeover Madness,” by Sarah Hilton.
All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by
any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the
American Bar Association.
How to Apply for a Federal Government Job
When applying for most jobs with the federal government, you may submit an existing resume
which includes the information below, create a resume online at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov
under ‘Create a Resume,’ or complete the Optional Application for Federal Employment OF 612
available at http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/of612.pdf. Applicants should check individual
job announcements for resume requirements and specific instructions regarding application
Federal Government Employment – Required Information:
Incomplete applications may not be considered.
Announcement number and position title and grade(s) for which you are applying
Full name, mailing address, day and evening phone numbers
Social Security Number
Country of citizenship (must be U.S. citizen to be eligible)
Veterans Preference, if applicable (failure to submit timely proof may adversely affect
your preference). Attach latest report of Separation from Active Duty (DD 214) to
establish honorable discharge from military service. Attach SF15 –
http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF15.pdf – and required proof (i.e., DVA letter dated
in last year) if you are claiming a 10-point veterans preference.
Special appointment eligibility (e.g., 30% compensable disability, handicap, Peace Corps,
etc.). Attach supporting documentation.
If you are or were a federal government employee, please attach your latest SF50 (Notice
of Personnel Action), indicate highest federal civilian grade held and dates, and attach a
copy of your latest performance appraisal.
Last High School attended: name, city, state, zip code, and year diploma or GED received
Colleges and Universities: name, city, state, major(s), type of degree, and year received
(or total semester/quarter hours earned). Do not attach transcript unless specifically
Other educational programs, if relevant. Show dates and total hours of program.
Job-Related Work Experience – Paid and Unpaid
Job title (include series and grade if federal job)
Name of employer, supervisor’s name, and supervisor’s telephone number (please
indicate if your current supervisor should not be contacted)
Starting and ending dates (month and year)
Hours worked per week
Duties and accomplishments
Other Job-Related Qualifications
Relevant skills (e.g., foreign languages, computer software/hardware)
Relevant training courses
Relevant current certificates and licenses
Relevant honors, awards, special accomplishment, etc. (e.g., memberships in professional
and honor societies, publications, leadership activities, public speaking, performance
awards). Give dates, but do not send documents.
Narrative Statement describing possession of advertised evaluation criteria (Knowledge,
Skills and Abilities or KSAs). See job announcement for topics to cover in narrative
Definitions and Terms in the Federal Application Process
Exploring employment opportunities and applying for jobs in the federal government requires a
basic familiarity with the unique definitions, terms, and forms that are important to the process.
Career-Conditional Employee – A career-conditional employee must complete three years
service before becoming a full career or “status” employee. This three-year period is more or less
probationary. After those three years, if you pass, you become an official “career” employee –
which means you have a better shot of staying on board if there’s downsizing. This status is
supposed to confer upon the employee the stamp of approval for advancement and growth and
gives you an edge when applying for other federal jobs down the road.
Competitive Service – Most civil service jobs fall under this category. Competitive jobs are
those that must be filled through a fair, open and merit-based process.
Declaration for Federal Employment - Form OF 306 – Used to determine your acceptability
for federal and federal contract employment. The hiring agency may ask you to complete OF
306 at any time during the hiring process: http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/of0306.pdf.
Delegated Examining Authority – An authority OPM grants agencies to fill competitive civil
service jobs with applicants from outside the federal workforce, federal employees who do not
have competitive service status, or federal employees with competitive service status.
Dual Employment – Federal employees, civilian and military, are generally prohibited from
receiving pay from more than one federal government source. The laws on dual employment
apply to agencies in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; corporations owned or
controlled by the government; and non-appropriated fund organizations under the jurisdiction of
the armed forces.
Excepted Service Agencies – Some agencies are excluded from the competitive civil service
procedures. This means that they have their own hiring system and establish the evaluation
criteria they use in filling their internal vacancies. These agencies are called excepted service
Federal Resume – There actually is no prescribed form, though some vacancy postings will
refer to it. In reality, the term simply refers to a resume that contains all the information required
to apply for a federal job. (See page 12 – Applying for a Federal Government Job.)
Form C (OPM form 1203) – See Occupational Questionnaire.
General Schedule (GS) Pay – The general pay scale system for white collar jobs in the federal
government. Positions are identified by GS level from GS-1 to GS-15. GS pay is adjusted
geographically and the majority of jobs pay more than the base salary for each GS level (listed in
the chart below). Certain hard-to-fill jobs, usually in the scientific, technical, and medical fields,
may have higher starting salaries. See page 34 for the 2007 GS basic pay schedule.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – The necessary characteristics belonging to an
applicant qualified for a particular job. Most job postings ask applicants to write a supplemental
statement about specific KSAs listed on the announcement. There is no set format for this
supplemental information. For suggestions in drafting KSA statements, see
Occupational Questionnaire – A form designed to collect applicant information and
qualifications. OPM uses this form during open competitive examining for admission to the
competitive service (formerly known as Form C, OPM 1203, OPM 1203AW or Qualifications
and Availability form). Renamed in 2002, the form is now called Occupational Questionnaire -
OPM 1203FX. See http://www.opm.gov/Forms/pdfimage/opm1203fx.pdf. The vacancy
announcement will specify if you must use this form.
OF 510 – An OPM booklet, also known as “Applying for a Federal Job,” that lists all of the
information that must be on a federal resume. http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdfimage/of510.pdf.
Optional Application for Federal Employment (OF 612) – The closest thing that actually
exists to the federal resume form. This can be used as the resume portion of your application for
virtually all federal jobs. See http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/of612.pdf.
OPM 1203EZ – A three-page version of the Occupational Questionnaire – OPM1203FX. The
vacancy announcement will specify if you must use this form.
Outstanding Scholar Program – Established by the Luevano Consent Decree (see
http://www.opm.gov/employ/luevano.htm), the Outstanding Scholar Program is a special hiring
authority used as a supplement to the competitive service hiring process for some entry-level
positions. The Outstanding Scholar Program can only be used for the specific series and job titles
listed at http://www.opm.gov/employ/luevano-archive.asp#Fields. Positions in some
occupational fields are not covered by the Outstanding Scholar Program: accounting and
auditing; engineering; physical sciences; biological sciences; and mathematics.
Applicants must be college graduates and have maintained a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or
better on a 4.0 scale for all undergraduate coursework, or have graduated in the upper 10% of
their graduating class or major university subdivision.
Public Trust Designation – Positions that require applicants to undergo a background check.
Qualifications and Availability Form – See Occupational Questionnaire.
Qualifications Standards Operating Manual – The Office of Personnel Management’s guide
to qualifications required for a particular job at a particular grade level. This is primarily for the
use of the people who are doing the hiring but some job postings may refer applicants to it for
more information about qualifications.
SF 86 – Questionnaire required for national security positions. The form asks questions
regarding education, past and current employers, police records, financial situation, drug and
alcohol use, etc., and is used to initiate required background investigations (SF86A is a
continuation sheet for Questionnaire SF86 for continuing answers to residence, education and
employment questions). http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF86.pdf.
Status Candidates – Job applicants currently working for the federal government or certain
former federal employees.
Superior Academic Achievement – A provision of the Office of Personnel Management’s
qualification standards allows students who have completed all the requirements for a bachelor’s
degree, but have no specialized experience or graduate-level education, to qualify at the GS-7
level based on superior academic achievement. (Normally, someone with a four-year degree and
no additional education or experience can only qualify at the GS-5 level.) It can be achieved
three different ways:
1) Class standing – Applicants must be in the upper third of the graduating class in the
college, university, or major subdivision
2) Grade-point average (GPA) – Applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or
higher based on four years of education and recorded on applicants transcript, or 3.5
or higher based on the average required courses completed in the major field during
the final two years of the curriculum
3) Honor society membership – membership in one of the national scholastic honor
Temporary Appointment – A temporary appointment is an appointment lasting one year or
less, with a specific expiration date. It is appropriate when an agency expects there will be no
permanent need for the employee. A temporary employee does not serve a probationary period
and is not eligible for promotion, reassignment, or transfer to other jobs. There are several
reasons an agency may make a temporary appointment:
Fill a short-term position that is not expected to last more than one year
Meet an employment need that is scheduled to be terminated within one or two
years for reasons such as reorganization, abolishment, or the completion of a
specific project or peak workload
Fill positions that involve intermittent (irregular) or seasonal (recurring annually)
Term Position – Under term employment, the employing agency hires the term appointee for
work on a project of a non-permanent nature and for a limited period of time, lasting for more
than one year but not to exceed four years. A term appointment may be made for several reasons:
Scheduled abolishment of a position
Uncertainty of future funding
Contracting out of the function
Upward Mobility Program – A program agencies can use to groom talent by creating or
restructuring positions so they can be filled by promising entry-level applicants who will then be
offered structured training and other career-development opportunities.
Veterans’ Preference – By law, veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the
Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to
preference in hiring over other eligible applicants, and in retention during reductions in force.
The preference is meant to provide a uniform method by which special consideration is given to
qualified veterans seeking federal employment and applies to permanent and temporary positions
in the competitive and excepted services of the executive branch. See Special Hiring Initiatives
within the Federal Government, page 31.
Additional Agency-Specific Application Forms
Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Comprehensive Database of Forms
The OPM, through its USAJobs – http://www.usajobs.opm.gov – website, provides electronic
versions of forms often requested by agencies when applying for certain job vacancies.
Department of Homeland Security I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form
The Immigration Reform and Control Act made all U.S. employers responsible for verifying the
employment eligibility and identity of all employees hired to work in the U.S. after November 6,
1986. To implement the law, employers are required to complete Employment Eligibility
Verification forms (Form I-9) for all employees, including U.S. citizens.
Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency’s Automated
Staffing Program (ASP)
An automated process for filling vacant positions. ASP interfaces with a commercial off-the-
shelf package called Resumix that is deployed throughout the Department of Defense (DOD).
Human Resources Service Center – Civilian Job Kit
Servicing OSD, Defense Agencies, and DOD Field Activities, this job kit contains all the
information needed to successfully complete a resume and apply for employment with the DOD.
Citizen and Immigration Services – Applicant Survey – G-942
This special form (G-942) is required when applying for jobs at the Department of Homeland
Department of the Interior – Applicant Background Survey Form – DI-1935 B
This form is required when applying for jobs at DOI, including National Park Service, Bureau of
Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, etc.
The Department of the Army, West Civilian Personnel Operations Center (WCPOC) uses
Resumix, an automated referral system to fill vacancies. Applicants must submit a three-page
resume and a one-page supplemental data sheet to apply for positions.
Alternative Points of Entry
Student Opportunities in the Federal Government
Outstanding Scholar Program
A special hiring authority that supplements the competitive service hiring process for some
entry-level positions. Students with GPAs of 3.5+ may apply for specific jobs (restricted to
grade levels GS-5 and GS-7) in 100+ career fields. Opportunities are advertised on USAJobs.
Federal Student Educational Employment Program
Open to students at all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate and vocational/technical
students. This program offers students at all levels the opportunity to combine academic study
with on-the-job experience. Flexible schedule of work assignments.
Note that this program has two components: Student Temporary Employment and
Student Career Experience. The Student Temporary Employment component offers all
students temporary job opportunities. Employment ranges from summer jobs to positions
that may last until a student graduates. These employment opportunities need not
necessarily be related to your academic field of study. The Student Career Experience
component offers valuable work experience directly related to a student’s academic field of
study. Students may be eligible for permanent employment under this component after
successfully completing their education and meeting work requirements.
Most agencies offer summer job opportunities. Job seekers can find vacancies online at
http://www.usajobs.opm.gov or by phone at 703-724-1850 or TDD 978-461-8404. Deadlines
vary by agency.
A website for locating educational opportunities available to students (high school to doctorate)
and career professionals (teaching faculty to lead scientist). There are many e-Scholar programs
from which to choose: Apprenticeships, Cooperatives, Fellowships, Grants, Internships and
Scholarships. They are open to students at all levels.
Scholarship For Service (SFS)
Scholarship for Service (SFS) is a unique program designed to increase and strengthen the cadre
of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government's critical information
infrastructure. Scholarships fully fund the typical costs that students pay for books, tuition, and
room and board while attending an approved institution of higher learning. Participants also
receive stipends of up to $8,000 for undergraduates and $12,000 for graduate students. Students
agree to work for the federal government for a period equivalent to the length of the scholarship.
Law Student and Attorney Opportunities
DOJ Attorney General’s Honors Program
Full-time, entry-level attorney positions and 1-2 year clerkships and fellowships for graduating
law students, judicial clerks, and full-time graduate law students with well-rounded backgrounds,
illustrating academic achievement and intellectual and analytical thinking.
DOJ Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP)
Compensated summer positions primarily for second year law students and graduating law
students entering judicial clerkships or full-time graduate law programs after graduation.
DOJ Legal Intern Program
Volunteer, work-study and part-time positions for law students for summer and/or during the
DOJ Experienced Attorneys
Opportunities for attorneys who are active members of the bar (any jurisdiction) and have at least
one-year post-J.D. experience.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Legal Honors Programs
National security law positions for entry-level attorneys that last three-years. Attorneys are
usually assigned to two divisions within the Office of the General Counsel.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The Legal Honors Intern program is the only recruitment method HUD uses for hiring
graduating law students. Successful candidates are given a one-year legal internship. Following
the completion of the internship, the attorney may be granted an offer of permanent employment.
Additional information regarding the program can be found at www.hud.gov/jobs/index.cfm
Department of the Interior
The Solicitor's Honors Program is primary manner by which the Department of the Interior hires
entry-level lawyers. Similar to HUD’s program, new attorneys are hired for a one-year internship
program, after which they may be offered permanent employment based on their performance.
To find more information on the program, check out this link:
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor, an employer of 500 attorneys, enforces
occupational safety and health laws, various civil rights laws, minimum wage and overtime laws
as well as a number of other labor laws. Attorneys hired for the honors program spend two years
in the Special Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Division, and are then assigned to another
division in Washington, DC. Information on the program is available at
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
E-mail at HRMOEmployment@ftc.gov
Seeks entry-level attorneys for open positions on an annual basis. This type of attorney is hired
at the GS-11 or GS-12 level. Recent graduates are placed in fourteen-month rotations as law
clerks, pending admission to a bar.
Presidential Management Fellows Program
(formerly known as the Presidential Management Intern (PMI) Program)
Open to masters, law and doctoral-level graduate students from a wide variety of academic
disciplines interested and dedicated to public policy. Schools nominate applicants with
achievements of breadth and quality, capacity for leadership and demonstrated commitment to a
career in the analysis and management of public policies programs. Accepted Presidential
Management Fellows receive initial two-year excepted service appointments, and are later
eligible for various promotions.
Special Hiring Initiatives in the Federal Government
Diversity and Minority Recruiting
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an independent agency of the government that
manages the civil service of the federal government, is committed to diversity in the federal
government. In addition to providing training to managers about practical ways to make a
diverse workforce a strength for the entire organization, the OPM also submits annual reports of
statistical data to Congress on employment in the federal workforce, including representation of
women and minorities under the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program (FEORP). The
FEORP report also highlights practices and initiatives federal agencies are using to recruit and
develop a diverse workforce. The most recent report (2006) can be accessed via the FEORP
website at http://www.opm.gov/feorpreports.
Each agency has its own diversity plan to suit its particular hiring needs. For instance, the
Department of Labor holds an annual Opportunity Conference that provides job and networking
opportunities targeted at the Asian Pacific, Hispanic, and African American communities. The
fifth annual conference will take place in the fall of 2007. More information is available at
The Asian Pacific American (APA) Federal Career Guide, a joint publication by the OPM and
the Department of Labor, provides guidance for Asian Pacific Americans in obtaining
employment with the federal government. The APA Guide is available at
Information on a particular agency’s diversity hiring program may be obtained by contacting the
Equal Employment Opportunity office or its equivalent at that agency.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation within the Department of Justice has implemented several
initiatives to address diversity and equal employment opportunities within the agency’s
workplace. Information regarding these initiatives can be found at http://www.fbijobs.gov/42.asp
Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and
Diversity (EEOD) is committed to efforts in identifying and recruiting qualified, diverse
candidates. During 2003, EEOD partnered with a group of human resource officials to develop a
CI Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention strategy. EEOD was also involved in the process, which
identified the more than thirty highly qualified college students who were selected to participate
in the CI Student Career Experience Program (Special Agent Training Program). More than 75%
of the students selected were minorities. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3847.pdf
Information discussing the Environmental Protection Agency participation in several diversity
initiatives, including the National Hispanic Outreach Strategy and Student Environmental
Associate Program and Diversity Initiative, can be found at
http://www.epa.gov/careers/diversity.html and http://www.epa.gov/careers/stuopp.html
In addressing racial under-representation in the workforce and implementing a strategy to
maintain diversity, the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce
participated in several initiatives, including but not limited to attending and representing the
Department and ITA at the 2006 HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities);
attending the Fall 2006 Career & Internship Fair at Florida International University, a 56%
Hispanic student population university; contacting Historically Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCUs) and Hispanic institutions to communicate open vacancies using the QuickHire
diversity feature; and communicating monthly diversity data to ITA management via the ITA
diversity website. (http://www.ita.doc.gov/hrm/documents/hc_quarter1.pdf).
People with Disabilities
The federal government has special appointing authorities for persons with disabilities. To be
eligible for these noncompetitive, Schedule A appointments, a person must meet the definition
for being disabled. The person must have a severe physical, cognitive, or emotional disability;
have a history of having such disability; or be perceived as having such disability.
People who are disabled and have a certification letter from a State Vocational Rehabilitation
Office or the Department of Veterans Affairs may apply for noncompetitive appointment through
the special authorities. Applicants with certification letters may apply directly to agencies’
Selective Placement Coordinators or equivalent to be considered for jobs. Applicants should
send an application plus the certification to the Selective Placement Coordinator or equivalent.
Disabled veterans may also be considered under special hiring programs for disabled veterans
with disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs of 30% or more.
OPM administers the Federal Employment of People with Disabilities program
(http://www.opm.gov/disability), which provides information for individuals with disabilities
who are interested in obtaining or changing Federal employment positions. Details on the
process for finding a federal job, obtaining a certification of disability, working with the selective
placement coordinators, and interviewing are also provided on the website.
Most federal agencies have a Selective Placement Program Coordinator, Special Emphasis
Manager (SEP) for Employment of Adults with Disabilities, or equivalent, who helps agency
management recruit, hire, and accommodate people with disabilities at that agency. SEP
Managers also develop, manage, and evaluate the agency’s Affirmative Employment Program
for Individuals with Disabilities. The Selective Placement Program Coordinator directory is
available at http://apps.opm.gov/sppc_directory.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers entitlement to veterans’ preference in
employment under Title 5, United States Code, and oversees other statutory employment
requirements in Titles 5 and 38.
The OPM also publishes the VetGuide, which provides information on the federal government’s
hiring procedure for veterans claiming preference in applying for federal employment positions.
The VetGuide is available at http://www.opm.gov/veterans/html/vetguide.asp.
To receive veterans preference, a veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty
in the Armed Forces under honorable conditions (i.e., with an honorable or general discharge).
When applying for federal jobs, eligible veterans should claim preference on their application or
resume. Veterans who received an honorable or general discharge from active duty in the Armed
Forces, and who may claim one of the preference categories listed on Standard Form SF 15 –
Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference (http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF15.pdf),
may have 10 points added to their civil service examination scores. Veterans who are not
eligible for the 10-point preference may be eligible for a 5-point preference.
Federal Government Salary Information
Serving as a lawyer or manager in the federal government may not provide as large a salary as a
major metropolitan law firm, but it offers a salary that is competitive with many public service
opportunities. Moreover, government employment provides a variety of unique challenges and
rewards that can make the job worth the sacrifice of a private sector salary.
To get an idea of how much federal jobs pay, a good place to start is the Office of Personnel
Management’s website (http://www.opm.gov/oca/payrates). Most white-collar federal jobs fall
under the General Schedule (or GS) pay scale (see below). In this scale, jobs are ranked
according to level of responsibility and difficulty and are assigned corresponding grades. Grades
start at GS-1 and go up to GS-15, then into the Senior Executive Service (SES). As your grade
goes up, your salary rises with it. Within each grade level there are several steps, often as many
as 10. Length of tenure in a position and job performance can bump employees up by steps
within their grade. For information on salaries, promotions and benefits in the Department of
Justice, see http://www.usdoj.gov/oarm/arm/hp/hpsalary.htm. College graduates with a four-year
degree typically enter the system at GS-5 or GS-7. Master’s level graduates usually enter at a
GS-9 or higher, depending upon number of years of work experience.
Special rules allow agencies to pay attorneys more, so law school graduates usually start at a GS-
11 or GS-12, depending on whether the applicant is entering an honors program or has
experience from a clerkship. This will generally mean a starting salary somewhere between
$52,000 and $71,000. Why the wide range? The federal government has base pay tables and
locality pay tables. In metropolitan areas such as San Francisco or New York, federal employees
earn a higher salary to compensate for the higher cost of living. Areas that do not have a locality
pay formula are covered by the rest of the United States formula.
For 2007, basic pay under the General Schedule or GS pay plan is as follows:
Grade Base Pay
GS – 1 $16,630
GS – 2 $18,698
GS – 3 $20,401
GS – 4 $22,902
GS – 5 $25,623
GS – 6 $28,562
GS – 7 $31,740
GS – 8 $35,151
GS – 9 $38,824
GS – 10 $42,755
GS – 11 $46,974
GS – 12 $56,301
GS – 13 $66,951
GS – 14 $79,115
GS – 15 $93,063
To view the 2007 Locality Pay Charts visit http://www.opm.gov/oca/07tables/indexGS.asp.
Finally, while these pay tables are a good reference, keep in mind that there are always
exceptions. For instance, for certain hard-to-fill positions, departments and agencies may be able
to offer a “special pay rate” that allows them to increase salaries for potential recruits. Examples
of such departments and agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department
of Justice, Internal Revenue Service (Office of Chief Counsel), General Accounting Office,
Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, the Army and Air Force JAG, Housing and
Urban Development, and Health and Human Services.
Federal Government Benefits Information
Federal employees can enroll in health insurance coverage for themselves and their families at
reasonable rates. They enjoy one of the widest selections of plans in the country. About 245
plans participate in the health insurance program. Employees can choose among fee-for-service
plans, health maintenance organizations, and point-of-service plans. There is an annual open
season during which employees can change their enrollment. Unlike a growing number of
private sector health benefits programs, federal employees can continue their health insurance
coverage into retirement with a full government contribution. Most enrollees pay about one-
fourth of the health benefits premium. See also: http://www.opm.gov/insure.
Full-time federal employees are entitled to 10 paid holidays each year. These holidays are listed
by year at http://www.opm.gov/fedhol/index.htm.
Accrual of annual leave is based on the number of years served. The rate of accumulation of
leave for full-time employees is:
1-3 years 4 hours every two weeks-13 days per year
3-15 years 6 hours every two weeks- 20 days per year
Over 15 years 8 hours every two weeks- 26 days per year
Most full-time and part-time employees are automatically enrolled in basic life insurance equal
to their salary, rounded to the next $1,000, plus $2,000. The government pays one-third of the
cost of this group term insurance. Employees do not have to prove insurability—no physical is
required. Basic coverage includes double benefits for accidental death and benefits for
dismemberment. Employees can also purchase optional insurance at their own expense. Optional
coverage includes additional insurance on the employee’s life as well as coverage for the
employee’s spouse and eligible children, if any. Accelerated death benefits are available to
terminally ill enrollees so that they can receive life insurance proceeds while they are living.
Many large organizations are cutting life insurance benefits to retirees. This is untrue in the
federal government, which allows life insurance to be continued into retirement. It can also be
converted to private coverage upon termination, without proof of insurability. See
Loan Repayment Assistance (LRAP)
Federal employees can receive up to $10,000 per year in student loan repayments, and up to
$60,000 total. In return, they must commit to at least three years of agency service. The federal
loan repayment program is still relatively new, but several agencies have started to use it as a
recruitment and retention incentive. See more information on LRAP in the next two sections…..
Loan Repayment Update: Extra Assistance for Public Lawyers
By Sarah Hilton
Sarah Hilton is the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division’s project coordinator.
NOTE: this article was originally published in summer, 2007. Subsequent legislative action
may change the details overviewed in the article.
LOAN REPAYMENT UPDATE: EXTRA ASSISTANCE FOR PUBLIC LAWYERS
Law school debt keeps many graduates from pursuing public service careers. Over 80 percent of
law students1 borrow to finance their education. For 2006 graduates, the average accumulated
debt load was $54,509 for public law schools and $83,151 for private.2 Two-thirds of
undergraduates carry almost $20,000 in debt on average, and many law students graduate with
six-figure financial obligations.3 With starting salaries ranging from $36,000 for civil legal
services organizations to $44,000 for state and local prosecuting attorneys, young lawyers with
educational debt who enter public service face an incredible repayment challenge.4 Present and
future public lawyers, the ABA and many in the legal community enthusiastically support recent
efforts by Congress and some federal agencies to ease the loan repayment burden for lawyers in
Amending the Income Contingent Repayment Option for Public Servants
In June, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Higher Education Amendments of
2007 or Senate Bill 1642. On July 24, the bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 95-0; a House
vote is pending. The act would amend the Income Contingent Repayment Option (ICR Option),
a U.S. Department of Education plan designed to make repaying education loans easier for
graduates entering lower-income fields, such as public service. Right now, the ICR Option
allows graduates to repay their qualifying loans as an affordable percentage of their income over
25 years, after which any remaining balance is repaid by the government. Many who are eligible
to take advantage of this option decline to do so because of the lengthy repayment period.
The ABA has repeatedly proposed amending the ICR Option to shorten the term of repayment
and supports Sen. Kennedy’s bill. This bill recommends reducing the repayment period to 10
years for those who work for that entire time in public service. After 10 years in public interest
legal services, including prosecution and defense, and 10 years of monthly income contingent
payments, the federal government would forgive the remaining educational loan balance. In the
House, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) also introduced bills in
June to amend the ICR Option to provide loan forgiveness after 10 years of monthly repayments
made during 10 years of full-time government or non-profit employment.6 Rep. Miller’s bill,
H.R. 2669, passed in both the House and Senate in July and proceeded to conference.
Providing for Loan Repayment for Prosecutors and Public Defenders
This winter, Representative David Scott (DGA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced
versions of the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act of 2007 in the House
and Senate.7 The identical bills would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act
of 1968 to include a student loan repayment program for prosecutors and public defenders.
Bipartisan support exists for both bills. On May 15, 2007, the House passed its version of the
bill. In July, Sen. Durbin offered Amendment No. 2377 to include the John R. Justice
Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act as an amendment to S. 1642. The amendment was
agreed to by unanimous consent.
Sen. Durbin’s amendment would establish a loan repayment assistance program for law school
graduates who agree to spend three years employed as state or local criminal prosecutors, or as
state, local or federal public defenders. If eligible, these public lawyers would receive up to
$10,000 per year in repayment assistance, along with an option to renew their three year
commitment, with a maximum payout of $60,000. The program was modeled after the current
loan repayment assistance program for federal prosecutors.
Pushing for Loan Repayment Assistance for Legal Aid Lawyers
In April of 2007, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation to encourage more lawyers to
choose careers in legal aid. The Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Repayment Act, S.1167, would
amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and establish a loan repayment assistance program for
new law graduates who work for legal aid. Eligible legal aid lawyers who agree to a three year
term of service would receive $6,000 per year in education loan repayment assistance, and could
renew their commitment for a second three year term up to a $40,000 maximum. Assistance
would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, although civil legal aid lawyers already
receiving the benefit or serving a three year term of service, and lawyers who have practiced law
for five years or less and have spent at least 90 percent of that time as a civil legal assistance
attorney would be given priority. In July, Senators Harkin and Ben Cardin (D-MD) offered
Amendment No. 2380 to amend Sen. Durbin’s amendment (No. 2377) to S. 1642 to establish a
student loan repayment program for civil legal assistance attorneys. The Harkin/Cardin
Amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent.
More Loan Repayment Assistance at More Federal Agencies
According to a report issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management,8 34 federal agencies
provided 5,755 employees with nearly $36 million in student loan repayment benefits during FY
2006. This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of federal employees receiving student
loan repayment benefits and a 28 percent increase in the agencies’ total financial investment in
this recruitment and retention tool, when compared to FY 2005. Section 5379 of Title 5 of the
U.S. Code authorizes agencies to establish student loan repayment programs. Agencies may
make loan payments of up to $10,000 for an employee in a calendar year up to the maximum of
$60,000. In return, the employee must sign a service agreement to remain in the service of that
agency for at least three years.
The number of agencies offering employees loan repayment assistance programs has more than
doubled since FY 2002, and nine times as many employees received this benefit in FY 2006 as in
FY 2002. In FY 2006, more than half of the federal agencies either made student loan
repayments or established a student loan repayment program.