Wanted: Experienced Attorneys Willing to Work for Free

Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Justice Department Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Justice Department J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Justice Department has taken a new approach to dealing with the cutbacks caused by sequestration: hiring new employees, but not paying them.

Justice has posted more than a dozen unpaid positions on its website, according to ProPublica, which first reported the story. These are not simply summer internships, either; the department is looking for “experienced attorneys” with a law degree and active bar certification.

The hires would be banned from supplementing their income with outside law practice.

“This is a one-year appointment without compensation,” reads one post for a special assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of Illinois. “Note that employees of the Department of Justice, including uncompensated SAUSAs, may not engage in the compensated practice of law outside of the office.”

Still interested? Only the best and brightest need apply: “Only applicants with outstanding academic records and superior legal research and writing skills will be considered,” the vacancy says.

Sequestration forced the Justice Department to slash $1.6 billion from its fiscal 2013 budget. Though the agency was able to avoid furloughs, it had to institute a hiring freeze to reach the new spending caps.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the uncompensated positions will help Justice continue to fulfill its missions despite the cuts.

“Department of Justice divisions have begun a pilot program that allows lawyers to gain public service experience while providing valuable support to the Justice Department as we continue to address the staffing challenges imposed by sequestration and still fulfill our commitment to protect the American people,” the spokesperson said. “Sequestration and other budget constraints have forced the Justice Department to impose a strict hiring freeze which has caused the department to lose more than 2,500 staff departmentwide since January 2011.”

The spokesperson would not comment on whether the agency has received any applications for the positions. 

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