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Government Honors Programs are the most common pathway for 3Ls and certain recent graduates to enter government service. However, in January 2017, the Trump Administration froze federal government hiring. Many agencies had already extended Honors offers at that point, and ultimately most, if not all, of such hires were exempted from the freeze and allowed to come on board at their agencies this fall.

Nevertheless, it is unclear when the freeze may be lifted, and whether some/any agencies may be allowed exemptions from the freeze for their future Honors Programs (and if so, to what extent). For example, during the most recent past hiring freeze (2011-13), while the Department of Justice was able to run its Honors Program, the number of attorneys it could hire into the offices in which HLS applicants are typically most interested was reduced dramatically. At this point, therefore, we cannot predict what federal agency Honors Programs will look like next year. OPIA will continue to stay informed about the impact of the hiring freeze on federal Honors Programs for next year, and will circulate any reliable information we receive. If you have specific questions about federal Honors Programs, please make an appointment with OPIA advisors Catherine Pattanayak and/or Joan Ruttenberg.

Government Honors Programs

The US Department of Justice Attorney General’s Honors Program has historically been the largest and among the most competitive of the government honors programs. Ordinarily, the DOJ Honors Program has one of the earliest deadlines. Assuming the DOJ Honors Program proceeds this year, students should be able to apply online between July 31, 2017 and September 5, 2017. This is a hard deadline – no exceptions! In early August, OPIA will post its updated Insider’s Guide to the DOJ SLIP and Honors Program Application Process. You can view the now; the lion’s share of this guide will likely be relevant to the 2017-18 application season, as well.

Other federal, state, and local agencies depending on the status of the federal hiring freeze, as well as some state and local agencies will also offer entry-level Programs. The University of Arizona College of Law Government Honors and Internship Handbook (password is thinmints) provides detailed application information for many of these Programs. The Handbook should be updated to include most 2018 opportunities by early August; watch for additional information from OPIA over the summer. Note that many of these Programs will have deadlines beginning in August/early September. Below are deadlines we are currently aware of, as well as deadlines from last year to give you a sense of typical timing for these opportunities.

Currently announced deadlines or deadlines that are the same every year (Note: As stated above, it is not clear whether some of these programs will be offered this year):

Deadlines from last year’s programs:

Students interested in government careers should also strongly consider the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF), a competitive two-year fellowship that places over 600 graduate students (including 3Ls and LLMs) in public policy and management positions with executive agencies. Applications are typically due in mid-September or early October, though the date is still to be announced. Shortly after the federal hiring freeze was announced, it was ruled that 2017 PMF awardees would be exempt from the freeze. Students interested in the PMF should watch OPIA emails and the PMF website for updated information about the 2018 PMF program.

Important Steps in Your Government Job Search

You must take a strategic approach to your search. Critical components of your search should include the following:

  • Checking agency websites regularly, beginning in July, for hiring instructions. Some agencies have unique hiring requirements or ask that you submit applications directly to a specified e-mail address. Be sure to follow any instructions listed on an agency’s website.
  • Checking USAJOBS regularly, beginning in July, for Honors Program application announcements. Because of changes to the federal government hiring process implemented during the current administration, many federal agencies must recruit for entry-level positions (including Honors positions) through USAJOBS.
  • Checking the Arizona Handbook (password is thinmings) regularly, beginning in July, for Honors Program application announcements. Although the Handbook is not infallible, it remains the most comprehensive source on Honors program application information at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Applying directly and through the Public Interest Interview Program (PIIP). Typically, several government agencies interview students through PIIP each year. However, because many agencies receive more on-campus bids than can be accommodated through interview slots, you should apply directly to each agency, as well. Watch for e-mails about PIIP (including information about the bidding process and participating employers) in the coming weeks.
  • Networking. Because of the large number of applications received by government agencies, personal contacts can often mean the difference between an application languishing in an inbox or landing on a decisionmaker’s desk. Networking also helps you learn more about an agency’s structure and day-to-day work, which will allow you to write stronger cover letters and essays, where required.
  • Applying broadly. Each year, HLS 3Ls and recent graduates are offered spots in federal, state, and local Honors Programs. Nevertheless, Honors Programs and the PMF Program, which serve as the primary entry-level hiring vehicles for government, are extremely competitive; if you are interested in government work after graduation, we strongly encourage you to think broadly about your interests and career goals, and to apply to any Program (federal, state, or local) that is compatible with those interests/goals.
  • Educating yourself about the security clearance process. Most federal agencies require post-graduate applicants to undergo some degree of background check or security clearance before employment; the level of scrutiny varies with the nature of the position and the agency involved. Common clearance issues can include past drug use, defaulted student loans, neglected financial obligations, failure to comply with intellectual property laws (particularly with respect to illegal downloading of music or video recordings), or failure to comply with tax laws. If you are concerned about possible factors that could affect your clearance, make an appointment with an OPIA advisor.