Federal Government

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?

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The job market remains challenging for graduating law students. Here at Above the Law, we try to do what we can to bring opportunities to the attention of 3Ls. In recent weeks, we’ve discussed judicial clerkships and the DOJ Honors Program.

Granted, clerkships and the Honors Program are opportunities that are (1) fairly obvious and (2) extremely competitive. Some of you might be asking: Have any other bright ideas, Team ATL?

As a matter of fact, we do….

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Judge Peggy Ableman

Ed. note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow. A restful and happy Labor Day to all!

* More about the Delaware benchslap that we covered last week (including the news that Judge Peggy Ableman’s pajama party did not go forward as proposed). [Delaware News-Journal]

* The federal government is suing 17 banks for almost $200 billion, blaming the banks for mortgage-backed securities that went bad. [Bloomberg]

* An interesting dissection of the legal fees that Dewey & LeBoeuf is running up as counsel on the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy. [New York Times]

Roger Clemens

* Roger Clemens will face a second trial next year. Lester Munson, the esteemed legal analyst, explains why. [ESPN]

* “From One Bankrupt Firm to Another: Brobeck Asks Heller For $471,000.” [Am Law Daily]

* AT&T faces a tricky balancing act in dealing with the Justice Department’s challenge of the T-Mobile deal. [New York Times]

* If you’re confused about the current role of lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Michael Arrington over at AOL, in the wake of AOL’s acquiring his TechCrunch site, you’re not alone. [Digits / Wall Street Journal]

Just a friendly reminder to our 3L and law clerk readers: if you’re interested in the Honors Program of the U.S. Department of Justice, you need to submit your application materials very soon — about a week from now. (And note that the Labor Day holiday falls during this period, which could affect your ability to obtain transcripts or contact references.)

As we previously mentioned, the Honors Program application deadline is SEPTEMBER 6, 2011. For complete application information and the full hiring timeline, see the DOJ website.

We wish you good luck — because you’ll definitely need it….

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We all know Michele Bachmann as the Tea Party darling running for the Republican presidential nomination. Before that, Bachmann the Congresswoman became famous for making some of the most truly ignorant statements in modern American politics.

But few people know that before Bachmann became a crazy-eyed, anti-tax standard bearer, Bachmann was a lawyer. A tax lawyer. Working for the IRS. That’s right, as a lawyer Bachmann helped the government collect taxes.

But I wouldn’t call her a hypocrite. It seems she wasn’t all that good at collecting taxes….

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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….

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Jeh Johnson

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fate of Guantanamo Bay. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The rise of WikiLeaks. The raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. The conflict in Libya.

On these and many other critical national security legal issues, one of the most important advisers to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama’s White House has been Jeh C. Johnson, General Counsel of the Department of Defense. In light of his role as senior legal adviser to the largest government agency in the world, responsible for the work of over 10,000 lawyers, it is no understatement to describe Johnson as one of the powerful and influential lawyers in the entire federal government.

I recently went down to Washington to interview Johnson in his office at the Pentagon. If you think security at your law firm is tight, visit the Pentagon. I had to pass through a metal detector and multiple security checkpoints before arriving at Johnson’s office, located on the E Ring within the mammoth structure — the world’s largest office building by floor area, with over 6.5 million square feet housing over 25,000 employees. (I was accompanied at all times by a member of Johnson’s staff, which prevented me from getting lost inside the maze-like complex.)

Before entering Johnson’s private office, I had to surrender my Blackberry – the office is a SCIF (pronounced “skiff”), or “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.” This means that it is specially designed to prevent eavesdropping, thanks to walls and doors of specified thickness and the use of jamming technologies. The windows of Johnson’s office, tinted a yellowish green, are blast-resistant and designed to preclude visual surveillance.

Once I made it to the inner sanctum, I was in for a treat. My wide-ranging discussion with Jeh Johnson covered his remarkable career path, which has included service as a federal prosecutor, partnership at a top law firm (Paul Weiss), and his current post as GC of the Defense Department; the virtues of public service, as well as the growing challenges for lawyers interested in it; and Johnson’s advice for law students and lawyers who aspire to careers in government (hint: keep your nanny on the books)….

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Last week I attended an interesting talk by Preet Bharara, currently serving as the U.S. Attorney for the (extremely powerful and prestigious) Southern District of New York. I had heard great things about Bharara from many people, including current and former colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s office and people who previously worked with him on Capitol Hill, where he served as chief counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer. So I was eager to hear his remarks, which he delivered to the New York Financial Writers Association, a group of business and finance journalists here in New York.

Here’s my report on what he had to say — including, for those of you who aspire to be assistant U.S. attorneys, what he expects from the prosecutors who work for him….

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Being a federal prosecutor, an assistant United States attorney (AUSA), is a great legal job. The work is interesting and challenging, you’re serving the public, and you’re paid decently — maybe not Biglaw bucks, but reasonably well when compared to many state government or public interest positions. And if you want to earn more money later, perhaps as your kids approach college age, you can walk through the revolving door into the world of private practice, which values AUSA experience.

I worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in my home state of New Jersey from 2003 to 2006 (under then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie). My colleagues enjoyed their work. I remember that when I interviewed for my position, I met one AUSA who told me, “I love my job so much, I’d do it for free!”

Well… would you? Because that’s what some U.S. attorney’s offices are offering: the opportunity to work there, for no pay, with a minimum commitment as to time period.

And apparently lawyers are lining up for the opportunity….

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Although this could change, right now it looks like the federal government is about to shut down (for the first time in 15 years). Here’s an open thread for discussion.

Speaking of shutting down, we’re done for the day. To learn about how the courts and the Department of Justice will (or won’t) be affected by the shutdown, check out the excellent links collected below.

UPDATE: A compromise deal has been reached, averting a shutdown. Yay!

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