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Please submit applications for generalist attorney-adviser positions online to

Or by mail to:

Office of the Legal Adviser
U.S. Department of State
L/H-EX Room 5.600, SA-17
600 19th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20522-1705

What to submit:

Applicants for full-time attorney-adviser positions must submit a comprehensive resume that includes information about their educational background and scholastic standing, academic and other honors, professional experience, other government or military experience, publications, and other relevant attributes. A copy of the applicant’s law school transcript, a list of three academic or professional references, including from the applicant’s supervisor at the most recent employer if not a current law school student, and a cover letter must also accompany the application.

Application deadlines: 

L accepts applications on a rolling basis from practicing attorneys, judicial law clerks, and students in their final year of law school.  Judicial law clerks are encouraged to apply no earlier than 12 months prior to the completion of their clerkship; students are encouraged to apply as early as possible during their final academic year.  As noted in more detail below, the hiring process, including obtaining a Top Secret security clearance, often takes several months, and can, in some rare instances, take longer than a year. All applicants should consider this timing when applying.

Interviews in Washington, D.C.:

Because of the large number of applications and limited resources, interviews of prospective full-time candidates in Washington, D.C., are by invitation only.  Candidates will not be reimbursed for travel expenses.  If you are invited to interview but would face hardship in traveling to Washington, D.C., for financial or other personal reasons, please indicate that in your application materials, and we will make arrangements for a virtual interview.  All interviews have been conducted virtually since the onset of COVID-19.  In-person interviews will resume once circumstances allow.

Specialist positions:

Specialist positions are announced through USA Jobs and legal recruitment websites.  Applicants for specialist attorney positions responding to a specific job announcement should follow the instructions for applying in that announcement.  Applications to join L as a specialist attorney can also be submitted to  Applicants should include “Specialist” in the subject line of their email and cover letter and should clearly state their area of specialization.  Attorneys for these positions are hired as needed, not on a fixed schedule.

Employment requirements:

  • Only U.S. citizens are eligible for appointment as attorney-advisers.
  • All attorneys must receive a Top Secret security clearance based on a comprehensive background investigation. The length of the investigation and adjudication process varies but usually takes six to nine months to complete.  For more information, please refer to the Department’s webpage regarding security clearances.
  • All Department of State employees in positions requiring a Secret or higher security clearance are subject to random drug tests.
  • Attorneys in the Federal Service are required to be admitted to and maintain active membership in the Bar of a state, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. However, recent law school graduates may be hired before being admitted to the Bar under a special, one-time Law Clerk appointment limited to 14 months, which cannot be extended. Upon receipt of satisfactory evidence of Bar admission, the appointment will be converted to that of attorney-adviser.
  • New attorneys initially receive three-year appointments. At the end of that period, subject to continuing successful performance, appointments are made permanent.  Prior full-time service as a practicing attorney at a federal agency or serving in a federal clerkship is counted toward meeting this initial requirement.
  • Third-year students should plan to report to duty no later than November 30 following graduation from law school.

Compensation and benefits:

Attorney-advisers are paid according to the General Schedule for Federal employees. For recent law school graduates with less than one year of relevant legal experience, the standard appointment is at GS-11, step one.  Candidates with at least one year of experience, such as judicial clerks, will be appointed at GS-12, step one.  Non-government laterals are appointed at the grade level (up to GS-15) and step that they would have earned had they joined L directly from law school.  On a case-by-case basis, we may be authorized to compensate a newly appointed attorney with “superior qualifications” at a higher step level. Attorney-advisers at the GS-11 level may be appointed at up to step 10 in their salary grade.  The possible step increase varies for the higher grades.  Salary levels for lateral attorneys from other Federal agencies are based on their current grade and step.

Attorney-advisers who perform exceptionally well are eligible for rapid advancement through GS-15. Employees must be in grade for one full year before being promoted to the next grade.  Assistant Legal Adviser positions are under the Senior Executive Service and typically are filled competitively.

Attorney-advisers have the option to participate in comprehensive health and life insurance programs. They are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which consists of a pension program, the Thrift Savings Plan (a 401k-type savings program), and Social Security.  Paid annual leave is earned at a rate of 13 days annually for employees with less than three years of service, increasing to 20 days a year for three but less than 15 years of service and 26 days a year for 15 or more years of service. Full-time employees also earn 13 days of paid sick leave each year and receive 11 paid Federal holidays. In addition, Federal employees covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 shall receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave in connection with the birth or placement of a child.

U.S. Department of State

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