BY ERIN ARCHERD
Stuffed to the gills of Pound 100 last Tuesday evening, eager 1Ls learned about the host of career opportunities at the Department of Justice during an information session hosted by the Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising.
Sheila Hubbard, Associate Director of OPIA, introduced the featured speaker, Debra Brookes, HLS Class of 1998, who went into the Attorney General’s Office, Antirust Division upon graduation.
Brookes’ eight years at the AG’s office have led to a wide range of per se antitrust violation cases. One of her most notable cases was investigation of the Christies and Sotheby’s auction houses. She began by acknowledging the crowd.
“I’m so excited about the DOJ and the wonderful opportunities we have to offer,” she said. “I’ve made many presentations, but this is by far the largest I’ve done. Sometime, I’ve talked to three people in a room.”
She boasted about the clout she had as a white-collar prosecutor.
“When I want to assert some power I’ll issue some subpoenas. If you’re working for a top white shoe law firm, I’ll be making your Thanksgiving and Christmas bright as I serve you a mountain of paper.”
Brookes, a federal prosecutor, emphasized the many divisions of the DOJ, both civil and criminal. 85% of the attorneys in the DOJ are litigators, but they aren’t all in Washington. There are myriad jobs outside of DC, including with the 94 US Attorney’s Offices, the Immigration Courts, the Trustees Office, which handles bankruptcy, and the Antitrust and Environmental Law Division
Not all the divisions handle litigation. The Office of Legal Policy, for example, monitors the legal activities of the other divisions.
“We don’t want them calling cause you’re usually in a lot of trouble,” said Brookes. “One of the guys we were targeting decided to sue me, my boss, and John Ashcroft for a million dollars. I explained that if you read the complaint, he was only looking for money to get a new girlfriend.”
She told the audience that the DOJ’s Legal Intern Program is the best bet for getting a 1L summer spot. Students can submit applications to individual offices for summer positions.
“The Legal Intern Program is the best opportunity, best odds. The biggest employer is the US Attorney’s Office. They really need volunteer interns.”
There is also a highly competitive Summer Law Internship Program that has a centralized online application.
“We receive thousands of applications for a handful of positions,” Brookes said.
For those looking to work at the DOJ immediately upon graduation, there is the Attorney General Honors Program.
“It’s highly regarded. If you want to come in as an entry-level attorney, you want to do it this way,” she said.
The DOJ also recruits lateral attorneys, though rarely those with fewer than five years of litigation experience.
There are many smaller offices within the DOJ for law students to consider. For example, the Office of Solicitor General argues cases before the Supreme Court, and the reorganization of several sections has led to the National Security Division.
She encouraged students to start applying to US Attorney’s Offices soon, and to check the website http://www.usdoj.gov/oarm/ for more information. The DOJ looks for demonstrated interest in the work, at an applicant’s undergraduate major, and commitment to public service. Summer positions must last at least 10 weeks, although they allow splits, and applicants must be US citizens.
She repeated several times the importance of being up front during the security clearance and drug tests.
“If you lie, you die,” she warned. “It’s better to be up front than keep it covered. We will find out. If they catch you providing false or misleading information, that’s it.”
Although DOJ attorney’s don’t make the law firm salaries – the audience laughed at her slide comparing the two, which highlighted “brown bag lunches and bagging bad guys” as perks of the DOJ – there is the Attorney-Student Loan Repayment Program, which gives new attorneys $8,000 on top of salary for three years to pay for loans. There’s also an accelerated salary track for the honors program, and within four and half years honors attorneys are making six-figure salaries.
Brookes found the other benefits even greater.
“You get a life. I have not worked a weekend in over three years. The pay is good, and you want to get up in the morning to work for the United States of America.”