It’s hard out there for a 3L. That’s essentially the finding of our reader poll from a few weeks ago. Not many employers are interviewing third-year law students this fall.

But there are employment opportunities out there for enterprising third-year law students. We’ve recently mentioned judicial clerkships, the Justice Department Honors Program, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

Today we bring you information about another program that’s hiring graduating law students. The good news: the work/life balance is good, as are the benefits and the pay (six figures). The bad news: these positions aren’t easy to land.

So, what program are we talking about?

“You down with OCC? Yeah you know me!”

Say hello to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. As explained on its website:

The OCC’s primary mission is to charter, regulate, and supervise all national banks and federal savings associations. We also supervise the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. Our goal in supervising banks and federal savings associations is to ensure that they operate in a safe and sound manner and in compliance with laws requiring fair treatment of their customers and fair access to credit and financial products.

Given all the upheaval in the banking sector these days, we suspect these folks are pretty busy.

They are certainly staffing up — and they’re looking for freshly minted law school graduates, through the Chief Counsel’s Employment Program:

The Chief Counsel’s Employment Program is designed to provide valuable, stimulating opportunities for outstanding candidates. OCC assigns appointees to positions affording both extensive legal experience and substantial individual responsibility.

The training program also ensures careful evaluation and supervision of the appointees’ work. The OCC prefers to hire individuals who expect to work for the agency for at least 3-4 years.

Program Qualifications

The Chief Counsel’s Employment Program is open to third-year law student applicants throughout the country who have excelled in their law school work, as well as recent law school graduates who are completing judicial clerkship programs. Competition for available entry-level positions is keen. OCC considers the following factors in reviewing an application….

For the full list of hiring factors, as well as information about pay, benefits, and the application process, check out the program website. Be sure to note the application deadline: SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 (i.e., this Friday — so get a move on).

One lawyer who entered federal government service through the OCC Chief Counsel’s program was quite enthusiastic, noting a “high starting salary,” as well as coverage of bar exam and moving expenses.

How high? Certainly high by federal government standards:

Salary for incoming 2011 attorneys will be in the range of $105,000 for Washington headquarters positions. Salaries in the various district office locations may be different because of geographic differentials that apply to those offices. The OCC also offers incoming attorneys up to $2,500 for a bar review course and $2,500 for relocation expenses when an applicant is required to move 50 miles or more for their work location.

A starting salary of $105,000 is considerably higher than what DOJ Honors Program lawyers earn. Remember, these are young lawyers fresh out of law school or clerkships.

(If you work as a lawyer for the federal government, it will usually take you a few years to make it into six-figure territory. There is considerable variation, depending on where you work within the federal government. Assistant U.S. attorneys, on the (awful) AD scale, will generally earn less than their counterparts at Main Justice, on the GS scale. Lawyers at financially-oriented entities, like the OCC and the SEC, can do even better.)

What else does our OCC source have to say?

It’s a good gig for the government, with about the highest pay for starting attorneys in government.

Benefits are top-notch, above standard government benefits — you can see this on the OCC website.

It’s a self-funded agency, so money can’t be cut by Congress, meaning lots of money for travel, training, computers, etc. And work / life balance is great — weekend and late night work are rare.

So what’s not to like? The long odds of getting a position. As our tipster told us, “With the crappy job market, the applicant pool is tough. The OCC is looking at top GPAs from top 50 schools.”

But so are federal judges, and so is the DOJ Honors Program. So if you’re a 3L still looking for a job who has an interest in the financial-services sector, you might as well apply, right?

If you know of other opportunities for graduating law students to consider, please feel free to email us. Thanks.

Entry-Level Attorney Careers – Accepting Applications [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency]

Earlier: On-Campus Interviewing: Is Anybody Coming To See 3Ls?
Reminder: Presidential Management Fellows Applications Are Due Soon
Reminder: DOJ Honors Program Applications Are Due Soon
Clerkship Application Season: Open Thread


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