Is it possible to get a government legal job straight out of law school?

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  1. jetsfan
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    jetsfan Silver Member

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    I was curious if anyone knows if this happens. My eventual goal is to work for the FTC BCP, AG, Secret Service, or similar state agency (something involving consumer protection). Do I have to get a big law job first? How competitive are these gov't jobs?
     
  2. Westsox
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    Westsox Gold Member

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    I know the FBI hire right out of college and law school, not sure about the other agencies.
     
  3. Sam Axe
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    Sam Axe Silver Member

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    I'm pretty sure you can still clerk for a Federal judge straight out of law school. A friend of mine has made a pretty good career out of that for much of the last 20 years.
     
  4. Lalala
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    Lalala Silver Member

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    I would look at exec. Branch fellowships, those always lead to great jobs. I'm not sure about judicial branch, but maybe the DOJ has something similar.
     
  5. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Federal agencies do hire straight out of law school. Used to be really easy. When big law firms were in a hiring frenzy, government was taking the low end of the graduating pool. With firms having paired back compared to where they were a few years ago, there is more competition for government jobs. And despite significant growth in some government agencies, on the how government legal hiring seems to be slower the past year.

    As with most any legal position, there are things you need to do to enhance your appeal to employers -- government or private sector.

    * Grades. They don't really matter unless you're going to be at the very top of your class, and you don't want to be at the bottom.

    * Law review. Get on the main law review especially. Grades only matter in those cases where you can still grade on to law review. Pay attention and actually invest in your pass/fail legal writing seminar because it'll really put you in a good position to write onto law review. Big resume builder.

    * Summer. Summer before your 3L you want to work for the place you hope to hire onto. Summer before your 2L you have more flexibility, but it should still be a resume builder, something that'll help you get your next summer's job.

    * Clerkships. Work for a federal judge. Great experience that'll help you write your ticket.. If you can do it a second time, moving up to a higher court, do. So if you have to settle for a district judge first, do it, and then consider trading up to an appeals court. If you can clerk for a federal appeals judge, consider one that's a feeder judge... each of the Supremes has a handful of federal appeals judges whose clerks they take. (Eg Kozinski clerks used to go on to O'Conner, if I recall correctly Luttig clerks are well-positioned for Scalia, etc.)

    * Articles. Get a publication while you're still in law school. You're reading case law anyway. You're writing anyway. Turn it into an article. Even a fun one, written on a lark, shop it around. Not just a student note, but what sort of theory of the law have you developed or what interesting thing have you noticed? This is a great opportunity to engage one of your profs as well for advice... build a relationship that'll turn into a letter on your behalf...

    Plenty of opportunities along the way for fellowships, e.g. Presidential Management Fellowships. Be in and around the places you want to work, get to know the people that are already there, they'll fight for you so you're not just one of a bazillion applications off the street.

    Cheers,
    Gary
     
    thetenken, barelyelite and jetsfan like this.
  6. Dunno how far along you are in LS, but I can advise that I clerked for the US Atty's Office in Honolulu after my 1L year. There was a federal hiring freeze at the time (thank you, Mr. No New Taxes) but it was a good way to start making connections. There were some districts (HI wasn't one of them) that did hire straight out of LS, but that's not the path I chose in particular.

    Best of luck,

    O/H
     
  7. jetsfan
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    jetsfan Silver Member

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    Thanks. I haven't started law school yet. I'm either going to start this fall or fall, 2012 if I can get a deferral. GW was my top choice, but I got wait listed. I'm still waiting on American, but I'm probably going to go to Minnesota just because it's ranked so much higher (I'm well aware of the problems with the ranking system, but it still remains that American grads have to compete in DC with GULC, GW, UVA grads as well as grads from the Boston schools and other T14s).
     
  8. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    If you're not going to a 'national' law school then rankings are sometimes less important than where a particular school feeds their graduates.

    If you want a particular job, look at where people who have that job now went to school.

    And before you choose a school, look at where they send their graduates.

    A better ranked school that primarily feeds a local geographic area won't do you nearly as much good if you don't want to practice law in that area.

    It'll be a limiting factor based on who recruits gradautes from the school, where the school has a network of alumni, where the faculty members have contacts.
     
  9. thetenken
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    thetenken Silver Member

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    Picking law schools based on rank could be a major mistake. Unfortunately unless you're going to a biglaw firm, you'll want to actually go to school near where you want to eventually settle down, or sometimes more importantly, you want to be in a big city where you can get recruiters to come on-campus. It's always easier to impress in person than in a cover letter/resume.
     
  10. joanek
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    DOJ is very competitive ---I don't know about the others. You do need to be near the top of your class, and be willing to give up the spoils of private practice for public service.
     
  11. LXJenkins
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    LXJenkins Silver Member

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    Most federal agencies (ie. DOJ, HUD, etc.) operate some sort of honors program for new attorneys. These programs are virtually the only way that particular agency will hire new attorneys (otherwise you'd have to look on USAJobs for a position - however, these seem to almost universally require some sort of real world attorney experience). Most of the honors program will require that you apply in the first few months of your final year of law school.
     

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