Attorneys and JAGs Needed: Administrative Law Jobs

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The complex Administrative Law Judge examination is expected to reopen in 2013; ALJ specialists from The Resume Place, Inc. announce a free webinar with tips for applying.

From Social Security appeals, whistleblower fraud, and compensation claims to utility rate findings and animal welfare enforcement proceedings, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) handle a wide range of cases across federal departments and agencies. Authorized under the Administrative Procedure Act, ALJs serve a crucial adjudicatory function, resolving disputes on behalf of the Executive Branch of government. With authority to issue subpoenas, rule on evidence proffers, administer oaths, and make factual and legal findings, ALJs enjoy a significant degree of autonomy, unlike other administrative judges and hearing officers employed by various agencies.

Over four years have passed since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) last opened the ALJ exam. Closing a mere 30 hours later, once the targeted number of applications was reached, the exam is now expected to reopen sometime between now and the end of March 2013. Though no formal announcement has issued, the number of attorneys eligible for hire from the current ALJ register has now reached the point where the government cannot reasonably be expected to fill upcoming vacancies due to attrition and retirement.

In anticipation of a reopened exam, and in order to serve the needs of many qualified applicants unfamiliar with the federal hiring process and the ALJ's application requirements that are substantially more onerous that other positions open to attorneys in the federal government, The Resume Place, Inc. is offering free 30-minute webinars to review the application process. Hosted by attorney and former federal court litigator Nicole Schultheis, an expert in federal attorney hiring and the ALJ application, the webinars will teach attendees how to meet the requirements of the ALJ application, write a compelling federal resume, and prepare cogent experience narratives and competency essays that meet the government requirements for this application.

Schultheis explains what makes the position as well as the multiple-stage ALJ examination process unique. "Although most GS-0905 attorney positions require little more than a resume and a questionnaire, the initial ALJ application can easily total 20 pages. And then there is a proctored, written exam. Also, GS-0905 attorneys are not subject to automatic veterans' preferences, but ALJs belong to the AL-0935 series, and preference points apply. The ALJ exam has several components, yielding a combined score of up to 100 points. The competency narratives account for up to half of that. Candidates with scores of 60 and up are best positioned to receive offers. Vets with preference points will get another 5 or 10 points added to that total. Whether or not you're a vet, it's important to take great care in creating your narratives."

Veterans also have an edge when it comes to qualifications. As Schultheis explains, "Most applicants need a full seven years of litigation experience and/or experience handling contested administrative matters at the Federal, State or local level. For veterans, time spent in the Armed Forces counts as qualifying experience in one of two ways, whichever yields a better result: considering the actual duties performed by the applicants as an attorney or military judge, or, treating military service as an extension of the employment engaged in immediately before joining the service."

Currently, the ALJ examination is closed for most applicants, but 10-point veterans can apply at any time. 10-point preference eligibles, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2108(3)(C)-(G) and 3309(1), have the right to open an examination that is closed. The ALJ register contains candidates left over from the last time the announcement opened, in November 2009. At the time, the announcement was open for only 30 hours. Many highly qualified candidates simply missed the boat. Next time, the open period may be longer or another method may be used to encourage larger numbers of the most qualified applicants to apply.

The number of successful candidates on the existing roster, which has been extended several times, is shrinking. The better candidates received the earliest offers. Joining the roster now, before it reopens to all US citizens, positions vets well for the next round of hires, assuming another round of hires is made before the exam is reopened. Although some are optimistic that a new announcement will be posted between now and March 2013, others believe that at least another round of hires from the current register will be made first.

For veterans, the application process is the same as in 2009, providing vets with a prime opportunity to pull application materials together with due deliberation and preparation of the essays required. When the new ALJ announcement is posted, the application process could change.

According to The Resume Place, The ALJ announcement for 10-point veterans isn't posted online. The version that appeared on USAJobs in 2009 has been taken down. Interested candidates may write to for a modified version of the 2009 announcement, along with instructions on how to apply. Meanwhile, anyone can peruse the 2009 ALJ announcement in the documents library of the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference.

Nicole Schultheis says, "Whether or not you're a veteran, now is the time to prepare the right kind of federal resume and develop the narrative content you'll need if you want to score well on the ALJ exam. There's not a lot of guidance out there for candidates, but attending one of the free webinars is a good place to start."

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