Posted Oct. 22, 2008.
Prepared by Mary Whisner.
See also the related Gallagher guides on:
Serving the Public: A Job Search Guide: Harvard Law School's Handbook & Directory for Law Students and Lawyers Seeking Public Service Work. (Vol. 1 is U.S., Vol. 2 is international.) KF299.P8S46 at Reference Area
Now Hiring: Government Jobs for Lawyers (ABA Law Student Division). KF299.G6 F4 1997-98. This work is apparently no longer being updated, but this old edition might still be of use for general information about government work.
Alan B. Morrison & Diane T. Chin, Beyond the Big Firm: Profiles of Lawyers Who Want Something More (2007). KF299.P8 M67 2007
Gary A. Munneke et al., Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers (ABA 2006), especially chapter 8, Government Service. KF297 .M85 2006 at Reference Area
Do Your Legal Career Justice: Opportunities for Entry-Level Attorneys and Law Students at the U.S. Department of Justice (2002). A short guide. KF299.G6D6 2002 at Reference Area
The Riley Guide, Jobs in Public Service & Administration (not specifically law).
Many government agencies hire new graduates and judicial clerks through "honors programs." The biggest player is the Department of Justice. In 2008-2009, the DOJ plans to hire about 150 lawyers in its honors program, compared with 3 at the EEOC, 4 at the FCC, 9 at the Department of Transportation, and 40 at the IRS.
At the Department of Justice and some other agencies, the honors program hires are in permanent positions, and some attorneys stay at their agencies for most of their careers. On the other hand, some agencies hire people in their honors programs for a set term (one or two years).
Many agencies also offer internships to law students, both unpaid and paid.
A comprehensive guide is Government Honors & Internship Handbook. (Get the password from Career Planning.) It describes federal, state, and local programs. Be sure to take consult the Appendixes, which list application deadlines by agency and programs by deadline, among other information.
A note about politics: Traditionally the honors programs have been nonpolitical. The Department of Justice was criticized for using ideology and political affiliation from about 2002 to 2007. It appears that the hiring practices will return to their nonpolitical roots -- i.e., looking at education and experience. See U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program (2008) (KF3457 .I47 2008 at Classified Stacks). The report is interesting not just for its investigation of the controversy but also for its description of the program generally.
The Office of Personnel Management has a searchable database of government jobs.
Federal agencies that regularly hire law students and law graduates include:
State Government Jobs has links to state personnel agencies.