Department of Homeland Security 2012 General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program

About the DHS General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program:

The General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offers highly qualified third-year law students; graduate law students (applying in the fall of the last year of their graduate law study); and judicial law clerks the unique opportunity to start their legal career by addressing some of the most critical and challenging issues facing our nation today.  The broad mission of the Department offer Honors Attorneys experience in a variety of practice areas.  These include, but are not limited to, litigation, administrative law, commercial law, procurement law, legislative and regulatory drafting, maritime law, immigration law, enforcement law, and national security law.  Honors Attorneys working for the Department can expect to be given a significant amount of responsibility early in their career, often handling highly visible or legally significant cases on an accelerated basis.

The General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program includes an extensive orientation on the operating divisions of DHS and the federal government inWashingtonD.C., including visits to such locations as  the U.S. Coast Guard Washington Air Station, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Forensic Document Laboratory, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspections facility at Dulles International Airport.   

Rotation Program:

Honors Attorneys are hired for a two-year temporary term.  During these two years, Honors Attorneys will participate in four six-month rotations, at least one of which will be within the headquarters office of the Office of the General Counsel at one of the nine law divisions:  Immigration, General Law, Intelligence, Legal Counsel, Technology Programs, Regulatory Affairs, Ethics, Operations & Enforcement, and National Protection and Programs.  Honors Attorneys also will have the opportunity to rotate into component legal offices within the Office of the General Counsel, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Secret Service, U.S.Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard.   All of the offices in which Honors Attorneys will serve during their two-year term are located in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

Permanent Employment:

The General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program is the cornerstone for entry-level hiring within the Office of the General Counsel for DHS.  Honors attorneys will be eligible to apply for full-time positions after 18 months in the program (although under special circumstances an honors attorney may be considered for permanent employment after one year).  Although not guaranteed permanent placement, attorneys successfully completing our Honors Attorneys Program frequently receive one or more offers of permanent employment from various elements of the Department’s Office of the General Counsel.


The DHS General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program is highly competitive.  It seeks a diverse applicant pool; specifically, candidates with well-rounded backgrounds, demonstrated intellectual and analytical abilities, and excellent judgment.   

The Department selects candidates based on multiple factors including:

Superior academic achievement: 3.0 GPA or above or top 1/3 class ranking strongly encouraged;

  • Excellent research, writing, and analytical skills;
  • Participation in law review or a secondary law journal, or moot court, trial advocacy,  legal aid or clinical experience; and/or
  • Specialized academic studies or post-graduate work, in addition to extracurricular activities that relate to the work of the Department.  

 Candidates for the Honors Attorney Program must be United States citizens.

 Compensation and Benefits:

Honors attorneys hired within one year of graduation from law school are hired at the GS-11 pay grade.  Honors attorneys hired following judicial clerkships may be hired at a GS-12 pay grade depending on the duration of the clerkship.  Attorneys joining the honors program from multiple-year judicial clerkships may be hired at a GS-13 level on a case-by-case basis dependent upon funding availability.  (Please see the website for additional information on the GS pay scale and for the latest salary and locality pay information).

Honors attorneys will become eligible for promotions either within grade or to advanced grades consistent with the promotional policies and standards, including time-in-service requirements, of the Office of the General Counsel headquarters. 

Honors attorneys receive all standard benefits available to federal employees including annual and sick leave, transit benefits (as applicable), participation in the Thrift Savings Plan and Federal Employees Retirement System.

Application Process and Timelines:

DHS will accept applications for the 2012 General Counsel’s Honors Attorney Program from August 18, 2011 until October 1, 2011

Candidates must submit a cover letter, resume, law school transcript (unofficial copies will be accepted) and list of three references

The Office of the General Counsel’s Hiring Committee will conduct initial telephone interviews in October 2011.  Successful candidates will be invited for in-person interviews at the Office of the General Counsel headquarters in November 2011.  DHS will not, however, reimburse candidates for travel expenses but will arrange telephonic interviews for those candidates who cannot travel toWashington,D.C.

The Office of the General Counsel will make final hiring decisions in early December 2011 and notify successful applicants on or around December 15, 2011.   All hiring is conditional upon successful completion of a background check and receipt of at least a Secret-level security clearance.

For additional information please contact Craig Raynsford, Legal Advisor, DHS Office of the General Counsel, or 202-447-3303.