Congratulations to successful applicants to the U.S. Department of Justice’s prestigious and highly selective Honors Program. As noted on the program’s website, the DOJ Honors Program “is the only way that the Department hires entry-level attorneys.” (Otherwise you have to clerk or practice elsewhere first — as I did, before joining the DOJ as an AUSA.)

Offers for the Honors Program have actually been going out for a little while now. We first heard of offers being issued a little over a week ago, around November 12. In the past few days, though, we’ve been getting many more reports. And according to the list of key dates on the program website, now is the time for offers to be issued.

So, which divisions — or “hiring components,” in DOJ speak — are making offers?

Sources report that offers have been issued by the following divisions: Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Environment and Natural Resources (ENRD), and U.S. Trustee (UST). Feel free to mention others, in the comments.

One successful applicant posed some questions over email:

I’m still a bit nervous, though, since it is a giant drop in pay [from the law firm job I'd otherwise take]. Is the prestige worth it? From the perspective of a law student, I don’t know.

My own take: there’s more to life than pay and prestige. Focus mainly on whether you think you’d enjoy a job, on a day to day basis, and whether you’d find it fulfilling and worthwhile. Many law schools now have programs designed to assist graduates who enter government service with their student loan burdens, so financial considerations should not loom as large as they once did.

(Of course, if you have six figures in student loans, a mortgage, and three kids who need to go to private school, then perhaps you can’t afford to turn down a law firm starting salary for what the DOJ is offering.)

Another question from our successful Honors Program applicant:

[H]ow are the exit options from DOJ right now? Sure, during the peak of the recession, firms did not hire laterals. But I’ve been hearing about the lateral market picking up.

Historically, DOJ exit opportunities to firms have been fairly solid (or at least so people tell me). Is that still true? Or are they shying away from DOJ?

Our recruiter friends and sources tell us that the lateral market is picking up. But the more fundamental point is: Should you really be fretting so much about exit opportunities for a job you haven’t even started?

It’s commendable that you’re thinking so far ahead. These qualities of intelligence, foresight and preparedness are how you managed to land a coveted Honors Program position in the first place. But realistically speaking, if you go down the Honors path, you’d probably stay at DOJ for at least a few years. It’s very hard to predict (1) what the private-sector job market will look like a few years down the road or (2) what you’ll even want to do with yourself and your career at that point in time. So don’t lose sleep over the exit opportunities issue.

Feel free to discuss the issues raised by this reader, and trade notes about which DOJ components are making their Honors Program offers, in the comments.

The Attorney General’s Honors Program [U.S. Department of Justice]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of the DOJ Honors Program


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