As far as we know, the hiring freeze at the U.S. Department of Justice is still on. This shouldn’t come as a shock, given all the recent political logjam concerning the debt ceiling and the federal budget.

When it comes to job opportunities at the Justice Department, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the DOJ Honors Program is still hiring — and is now accepting applications.

So consider this your friendly reminder from Above the Law, like the ones we’ve done in years past: if you want to apply to the Honors Program, accurately described as “the largest and most prestigious federal entry-level attorney hiring program of its kind,” then you need to get your materials in by SEPTEMBER 6, 2011. For complete application information and the full hiring timeline, see the DOJ website.

Now, the bad news (because there’s always bad news). It seems that the Honors Program might be extra-small this time around….

Applicants to the Honors Program or to the Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP), the DOJ’s program of paid summer internships, receive this auto-reply (complete message reprinted below):

Please be advised that there have been changes to the list of components participating in the Department of Justice Honors Program (HP) and Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP) for the current application season and, in some cases, a reduction in the number of available positions. We recently suspended access to the Honors Program/Summer Law Intern Program application on Avue in order to update the list of participating components and the number of tentative vacancies. Those changes have now been implemented on the online application and are posted on the DOJ website (HP: www.justice.gov/careers/legal/entry-participants.html; SLIP: www.justice.gov/careers/legal/slip-participants.html).

Over at the Honors Program website, you’ll see this message (emphasis added):

Please be advised that there has been a change to the list of components participating in the Department of Justice Honors Program for the current application season. The reduction in the number of projected hires is based on DOJ budget projections for 2012, and reflects the budget constraints that are being felt government-wide. We are pleased that the HP is continuing in its tradition of recruiting highly-qualified individuals from around the country, although the number of available positions is smaller this year as compared to past years.

According to an analysis by one of our readers, using data currently on the DOJ website and data available through the ever-useful Internet Archive Wayback Machine, the number of available positions is falling by more than half — from 165-171 in the fall 2010 application cycle to about 70-75 in the fall 2011 application cycle.

(At the end of this post, we’ve posted the raw hiring numbers for the past five Honors Program cycles, so you can double-check our tipster’s data and math if you like.)

“The cuts seem drastic,” a second source said to us. “The Civil Rights Division isn’t hiring at all; last year they hired 10. The Criminal Division is down to 3 from 10 last year. Civil is down to 3 from around 30 last year.”

And here’s why this turn of fate is especially cruel: “Because the Honors Program is essentially the only way to get into the Department and one is only eligible right out of school or a clerkship — meaning you can’t bide your time and hope it gets better in a year — it seems unfortunate that so many new lawyers will be shut out of government service for a big portion of their careers based merely on the happenstance of their graduation date. Simply unfortunate.”

Yikes. Can you say “Lost Generation”?

“Simply unfortunate” is a rather restrained way of describing the Honors Program cuts. For more-visceral reactions, check out this Top Law Schools thread on the subject:

“Wow it’s totally over, I’m not going to even waste time applying damn, what a shame.”

“This is probably the most underreported news in legal hiring this year. It’s not that this results in significantly fewer people getting hired by numbers — after all, even if the DOJ were hiring twice as many people, that’d only be an increase of another hundred attorneys or so — but it’s symbolic of the cutbacks and the resulting trickle-down that’ll happen everywhere.”

Well, consider the story a little less underreported, as of now. Hopefully other outlets that cover the Justice Department or the federal government — such as Main Justice, The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, and the Washington Post (especially Al Kamen’s In the Loop column) — will pick up on this story.

Good luck to everyone applying to the Honors Program and to SLIP. Unfortunately, it appears that you’ll need it.

DOJ Looking for Free Aid [Main Justice]
DOJ Honors 2012 [Top Law Schools]
Legal Careers at Justice [U.S. Department of Justice]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of the DOJ Honors Program


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE — MESSAGE TO HONORS PROGRAM AND SLIP APPLICANTS

Dear Honors Program or Summer Law Intern Program Applicant:

Please be advised that there have been changes to the list of components participating in the Department of Justice Honors Program (HP) and Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP) for the current application season and, in some cases, a reduction in the number of available positions. We recently suspended access to the Honors Program/Summer Law Intern Program application on Avue in order to update the list of participating components and the number of tentative vacancies. Those changes have now been implemented on the online application and are posted on the DOJ website (HP: www.justice.gov/careers/legal/entry-participants.html; SLIP: www.justice.gov/careers/legal/slip-participants.html) .

If you have not yet submitted your application, please carefully review the ‘Employment Preferences’ screen and make any appropriate changes. Individuals who have already submitted their applications will be contacted separately and will be given an opportunity to make changes to their component selection and other modifications to their applications, as desired.

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and thank you for your continued interest in the Department of Justice.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE — NUMBER OF POSITIONS AVAILABLE THROUGH HONORS PROGRAM — FALL 2007 – FALL 2011

2012 Honors (hiring done in fall 2011):

Antitrust – 13
Civil – 3
Civil Rights – 0
Criminal – 6
DEA – 3-4
E&NR – 7
EOIR – 31
BOP – 2-4
Nat’l Security – 1
SG – 0
Tax – 0
Other – 4-6

Total: 70-75

2011 Honors (hiring done in fall 2010):

Antitrust – 11
Civil – 37
Civil Rights – 10
Criminal – 10
DEA – 10
E&NR – 12
EOIR – 56
BOP – 4
Nat’l Security – 1
SG – 1
Tax – 6-10
Other – 7-9

Total: 165-171

2010 Honors (hiring done in fall 2009):

Antitrust – 9
Civil – 30
Civil Rights – 10
Criminal – 6-8
DEA – 3
E&NR – 20
EOIR – 27 (with possibility of more subject to budget constraints)
BOP – 2-3
Nat’l Security – 2
SG – 1
Tax – 16-23
Other – 10

Total: 126-136

2009 Honors (hiring done in fall 2008):

Antitrust – 15
Civil – 30
Civil Rights – 10
Criminal – 8
DEA – 2
E&NR – 20
EOIR – 20-30
BOP – 4
Nat’l Security – 5
SG – 1
Tax – 16-23
Other – 23-25

Total: 154-173

2008 Honors (hiring done in fall 2007):

Antitrust – 14
Civil – 20-24
Civil Rights – 10
Criminal – 10
DEA – 2
E&NR – 15
EOIR – 45
BOP – 5
Nat’l Security – 4
SG – n/a
Tax – 22-27
Other – 10-12

Total: 157-168


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