The U.S. Government Wants Lawyers To Come Work For Free!

The U.S. Government is looking for lawyers willing to work for free.

Attorney In Court

The United States Government is looking for lawyers willing to work for free:

The Justice Department, more specifically the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver, naturally has a far more modest proposal in mind: Let’s just make them work for free.

The office, which says it offers an “inclusive, rewarding work environment” for its 74 lawyers, is looking for a “Special Assistant U.S. Attorney” to work in the civil division. The lucky applicant will have a chance to “represent the United States and its agencies and employees in a wide variety” of matters, “representing federal agencies and employees in civil lawsuits, assisting in the office’s fraud investigations” and so on.

This is not a desk job. You will write briefs, take depositions and appear in court. You must “be able to negotiate effectively with opposing counsel, and be devoted to justice, excellence and representing the public.”

Your reward? Love for the law. Because this is an “uncompensated one-year” job. [Emphasis in original posting] But, if you want to keep working for nothing, “it may be extended without further competition.”

The positions are apparently all located in Colorado, so there is that side benefit I suppose, but as The Washington Post’s Al Kamen notes at the link, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for, well, rent, food, transportation, and pretty much everything else on your own. The job description also mentions occasional travel, but it doesn’t say if the expenses associated with this necessary work-related travel will be covered by the “employer.” It’s also not clear that there are any benefits, such as health care coverage, associated with the job, and it doesn’t appear that there is any kind of a stipend for what essentially amounts to an internship in all but name. So, basically, Uncle Sam wants lawyers to come to Colorado, on their own dime, and work for free to help relieve the work load of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, Durango, and Grand Junction.

Why would anyone do this, you might ask. Well, I suppose the opportunity to be able to put the title “Special Assistant U.S. Attorney” on your resume might have some value in the future for someone looking to establish a career. Indeed, if you read through the qualifications for the position it’s clear that the Justice Department is targeting recent Law School graduates as potential applicants. Unfortunately for people in such a position, if you’ve received an offer of employment from a law firm that has been deferred for a period of time and are being paid during that deferment period, which is not an uncommon occurrence among larger firms who hire recent graduates but don’t actually begin their period employment for as long as a year afterward, are not eligible to apply for this position. Neither are people who have worked as contract attorneys for other government agencies. So basically, the Justice Department is looking at recruiting unemployed recent Law School grads who don’t have any real prospect of a job, don’t have any promise of employment in the legal profession, and if they are working are doing so in a field unrelated to the law, a job they will obviously have to quit in order to become a “Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.”

The enrollment period opened November 24th and closes on December 12th, so don’t waste any time kids! You too can work countless hours on civil litigation for the Federal Government for no money at all while your student loan debt goes unpaid for a year! How can you possibly say no to that!?!

 

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Government, Law and the Courts
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Doesn’t state the most important question for a job in Colorado – if it’s unpaid, do you still have to take a drug test?

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Doug, you obviously don’t understand Obamanomics.

    The lawyer can obviously get a $15/hr job at McDonald’s to support himself/herself while working for the government for free.

  3. wr says:

    Gosh, the government is in such terrible financial trouble they’ve come to this. If only there was some way to raise the money necessary to run the government. Oh what could it possibly be?

  4. Ben says:

    Does the Government exempt itself from the Fair Labor Standards Act? I looked at all of the exemptions and I don’t see the federal government listed as one of the exemptions, but it’s certainly possible I’m missing it. How do they get around the minimum wage? This most certainly does not qualify for unpaid internship exemption, as you are certainly doing work as a normal employee for the benefit of the employer. In order for an unpaid internship to be legal, it must be for the benefit of the intern and the employer must gain no immediate advantage.

  5. steve says:

    An unpaid internship. Meh.

    Steve

  6. Tyrell says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Those $15 /hour jobs: that is higher than a starting teacher gets around here after four years of college. If McDonalds and other fast food restaurants start paying that, they will have all kinds of high skilled, educated people show up to apply, with the economy we have today where skilled, experienced people are finally returning to work at such lucrative jobs as stuffing envelopes, sidewalk gum scrapers, Santa’s helper at the mall, washing cars, assembling tricycles, wrapping gifts, and handing out samples at the food stores. Economic recovery!
    Actually, it is usually the other way around for these lawyers who work for the government. They get paid, but do no work.

  7. CSK says:

    It’s a job for the ultra-privileged, since clearly the only people who can afford to take it will be those whose families can subsidize them fully for a year.

  8. JKB says:

    I seem to remember a law that prohibited agencies from accepting donated services.

  9. JKB says:

    This is nice. No outside work in the field of law permitted.

    Employees of the Department of Justice, including Uncompensated Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSA), may not engage in the compensated practice of law outside the office.

  10. Davebo says:

    So basically, the Justice Department is looking at recruiting unemployed recent Law School grads who don’t have any real prospect of a job, don’t have any promise of employment in the legal profession, and if they are working are doing so in a field unrelated to the law, a job they will obviously have to quit in order to become a “Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.”

    That is a very large pool of potential applicants right now.

    It could be a great opportunity for a young lawyer who can afford it to get his or her career started at an otherwise bleak.

    According to Harvard Law School the starting salary for an AUSA is as low as $46,000.00.

  11. JKB says:

    Apparently, it is a legit perk program for thse wiyj money to support themselves, i.e., rich kids.

    Here’s an Above The Law take on it from last year.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    Apparently, it is a legit perk program for thse wiyj money to support themselves, i.e., rich kids.

    You provided a great link, but I’m not sure I get the same takeaway from the article there.

    This apparently originated as a way around a hiring freeze, and continues both for that reason and because it works. The workload for US Attorneys is more than the paid staff can keep up with; why wouldn’t they accept skilled volunteer help if they are allowed to do that?

    My wife points out that the other population of attorneys that might be interested in this are recent retirees. They would be an awesome resource, they were planning to be self-supporting anyway, and might be intrigued by the job — at least for a year or two. It would be hard to argue that they were being exploited, at any rate.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    @steve: But most unpaid internships violate federal and state labor laws, and subject the employer to civil suits for back pay, liquidated damages and attorney’s fees. The lawsuits are few because the people who accept them don’t want to burn bridges.

    This is the six-factor test for determining whether an unpaid internship is legal:

    • the training the internship provides is similar to a vocational school;

    • the training benefits the intern and not the company;

    • the intern does not displace any regular employees and works under close supervision;

    • the company gets no immediate advantage from the intern’s activities;

    • the intern is not entitled to a job at the end of the internship; and

    • the company and the intern both understand there is no compensation.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    Finally! The private sector has been exploiting utilizing college students with this unpaid internship unpaid yet valuable career opportunity stuff for years now, so why not the Federal Government? After all, shouldn’t the Federal Government be run like a private sector business?

  15. grumpy realist says:

    You’d think the least the government could do is forgive all educational debts in exchange….heck, most states get rid of law school educational debt if you go work in areas they really, really need people in, even if you are being paid a crappy salary.

    Sounds to me like a doofus idea suggested by some low-level flunky and no one gave it the requisite horse-laugh at the right time.

  16. @al-Ameda:

    Depends on the field. For engineering at least, paid internships are the norm, to the point that offering an unpaid one would be interpretted as a sign the recruiter is actually a con artist.

  17. Barry says:

    @CSK: “It’s a job for the ultra-privileged, since clearly the only people who can afford to take it will be those whose families can subsidize them fully for a year.”

    This is an incredibly important point about the ‘internship’ economy. If you can’t afford to spend a year not getting paid, then you’re not in it (unless the internship is so undemanding that you can pull down a second job).

  18. Barry says:

    @DrDaveT: “The workload for US Attorneys is more than the paid staff can keep up with; why wouldn’t they accept skilled volunteer help if they are allowed to do that?”

    I’m tired of the mother-f*cking econowhores who haven’t seen an abusive employer practice yet which they don’t excuse.

  19. John425 says:

    Wow! Substitute Doctor for Lawyer in the job description and you have Obamacare!.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Very true. Our summer associates earn slightly over $3,000 per week (ironically just a tad less from a salary perspective than our first year associates, but SA’s don’t participate in the bonus pool). I can’t imagine that anybody with decent grades from a decent law school would even consider this program unless they just have a serious chubby for public service or they’re retired & bored.

  21. Rick DeMent says:

    … and how is this different from any American company?