DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:48 pm

When I was a student, I was always frustrated at the lack of info on the employment forum about Fed. Gov. positions, so I thought I'd post this to see what questions people have. I'm recruiting for the DOT Honors Attorney program class of 2016 (I also was hired through the program myself). Most schools should have an OCI or resume drop for the program, with deadlines between 8/14 and 8/31. I'm here to answer what questions I can about this program specifically, or government jobs more generally.

Info on the DOT program is here: http://www.transportation.gov/mission/a ... ey-program

Given what I know now, I think the DOT program in particular is underrated in the context of the federal government entry-level programs. The rotation process is fairly unique, and has significant benefits in letting you basically test-drive different practice areas before committing somewhere full time.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:56 pm

How important are grades versus say, a commitment to government and having a good interview/cover letter?

What are you looking for in the interviews and cover letters?

How competitive is this program?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:08 pm

1. Grades are an important threshold, but not a final determining factor. Generally you need top 30%-50%, depending on school to be considered. From there, the higher the grades the better, but they are simply one factor in the overall evaluation process. Commitment to public service (through actual prior experience) is always a plus, but again no guarantee. The hiring committee strives to hire a balanced class in terms of backgrounds and experiences, so not everyone will have prior government experience. Cover letter is essentially worthless, unless you have something really specific/unique and relevant to the job that is not apparent on your resume. Mostly your job in the cover letter is to convey enthusiasm without going over the top.

2. I look for two basic things in interviews - your legal analytical skills and your communication skills. I think the biggest mistake most people make in interviews is talking too generally about the issues/assignments they've worked on. Obviously you can't disclose confidential material, but if you worked on an appellate brief on a disputed legal question, I want to know the nitty gritty about what arguments/cases/positions you considered and analyzed and how you came to your conclusion. That helps me learn how you evaluate legal problems, especially ones where you can't just go to a treatise or case to find the answer. Communication should be obvious, but in the government far more than at a firm you will be interfacing directly with your in-house clients from the very beginning. Your ability to convey information clearly and be an asset during meetings and briefings is important.

3. The DOT program is highly competitive, even more than the DOJ Honors program by ratio of applicants to hires. In recent years, there have been 2000-2500 applicants for 8-10 positions.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:19 pm

so from a lower t14-- say Georgetown or Michigan, being at like median isn't prohibitive?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:24 pm

Each interviewer has a bit of discretion in selecting people to interview, but I would say that is not an automatic disqualifier, depending on the rest of the resume.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:04 pm

Thanks for doing this. Very rare for someone to be providing insight during the actual process (I'm assuming you're breaking protocol, so thank you, lol).

I already interviewed at my T20's OCI, and I do have to say, I really think it went well. When in the process do you start calling people in? Do they issue like twice the amount of CBs for those spots? [if there even are CBs, I really don't know]

Sorry I don't have really any substantive questions, but hopefully I'll get a CB so I'll have good ones to ask :)

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:48 pm

Our program does second round interviews in October. Invites for those interviews will go out in late September or early October. The precise numbers of callbacks will be determined by the hiring committee, but in the past 80 callbacks have not been uncommon.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:41 pm

Thank you again for taking questions! Regarding first-round interviews: How important is it to already have in mind which offices you would want to work in for the rotations during the program? How much should we be prepared to talk about the different offices and why we think we'd be qualified to work in them? Also welcome any general tips for first-round interviews! (Graduate here applying after a federal clerkship and a fellowship.)

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:41 pm

If it says top 50% required, and I'm like .04 below median.. should i bother?

User avatar
lavarman84
#MAGA
Posts: 7458
Joined: Thu May 28, 2015 5:01 pm

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby lavarman84 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 8:15 pm

How important for a government job is it to intern with the government for 2L summer? As a person that isn't sure what they want to do, I'm trying to figure out if I want to work as a biglaw SA during 2L summer or do something else. If I did work as a biglaw SA, would that significantly hinder my chances of getting a fed job out of law school?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:11 pm

Sorry for the delay in responding, been on travel a bit. Hope this info is still useful.

Thank you again for taking questions! Regarding first-round interviews: How important is it to already have in mind which offices you would want to work in for the rotations during the program? How much should we be prepared to talk about the different offices and why we think we'd be qualified to work in them? Also welcome any general tips for first-round interviews! (Graduate here applying after a federal clerkship and a fellowship.)


Sorry if I missed your interview already, but there is no need to have ideas about which offices you're interested in. The process for selecting offices for rotations is driven entirely by the Honors Attorneys once they arrive, and there is no expectation that you know the details of a specific office. That said, demonstrating that you've thought about the kinds of work that each different mode might take on would certainly help show your interest in this specific program. Beyond that, check my earlier post for interview suggestions, though understand that every interviewer has their own quirks in terms of what they may be looking for.

If it says top 50% required, and I'm like .04 below median.. should i bother?


Definitely apply and see what happens. I will say that if your school is doing an interview program, either on campus or at a specific location, you have a better shot than if your school just has resume collections. Someone that is traveling and investing a full day and might be more likely to take a flyer on a marginal candidate if they have a free interview slot. That being said, nothing about the DOT hiring process is determined solely by grades. As grades go up, the overall impression of the candidate goes up accordingly, but border line cases may be considered if there are other aspects that make you stand out.

How important for a government job is it to intern with the government for 2L summer? As a person that isn't sure what they want to do, I'm trying to figure out if I want to work as a biglaw SA during 2L summer or do something else. If I did work as a biglaw SA, would that significantly hinder my chances of getting a fed job out of law school?


Depends on the interviewer. Some like to see a government position 2L summer, some find that less important. It is not mandatory to have a government position 2L summer to signal an interest in public service, but for the most part you are going to get much more substantive work out of a government internship than a SA position. That may make a difference in the evaluation process for some people. The only definite thing I would say is that if you go the SA route, make some positive indication on your resume if you receive a post-graduate employment offer. While no-offers aren't the kiss of death in government applications that they can be in the private sector, they do raise concerns about an applicant's legal or interpersonal skills. If a resume is silent on an offer status after SA (assuming the summer is over), I take that as a somewhat negative mark.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:52 am

I have an initial phone interview this week (current fed clerk). Is there an advantage doing an in-person interview versus a phone interview? Thanks for taking questions!

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:59 pm

Phone vs. in-person is driven by budget limitations, but it is probably more common for clerk applicants to have phone interviews since they are spread all around the country. No advantage or disadvantage either way.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:52 pm

Thanks a lot for doing this, sincerely appreciate it. The only info I've been able to gather thus far (from past TLS threads) is that the DOT gets a ridiculous amount of applications and then does a ton of callbacks for only a few positions, so that was pretty discouraging :(

I have a phone interview this week. The interview is with an alum from my law school so im happy about that. Graduated in May, cum laude at a T30, I hope thats enough to make me competitive....Also, I have quite a bit of public service in my background but my 2L summer was spent in-house. Would you recommend emphasizing any particular skills/experience during the interview? I have a strong interest (and background) in practicing labor/employment litigation, should I emphasize that or just make it clear that I'm open to anything? Do the questions in the phone interview tend to be the general/broad questions you get during most OCI interviews (tell us about past experience where X, why are you interested in Y, etc) or are they more specifically catered to your resume?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:36 pm

Thanks a lot for doing this, sincerely appreciate it. The only info I've been able to gather thus far (from past TLS threads) is that the DOT gets a ridiculous amount of applications and then does a ton of callbacks for only a few positions, so that was pretty discouraging :(

I have a phone interview this week. The interview is with an alum from my law school so im happy about that. Graduated in May, cum laude at a T30, I hope thats enough to make me competitive....Also, I have quite a bit of public service in my background but my 2L summer was spent in-house. Would you recommend emphasizing any particular skills/experience during the interview? I have a strong interest (and background) in practicing labor/employment litigation, should I emphasize that or just make it clear that I'm open to anything? Do the questions in the phone interview tend to be the general/broad questions you get during most OCI interviews (tell us about past experience where X, why are you interested in Y, etc) or are they more specifically catered to your resume?


In terms of numbers, they are still large, though the number of call backs have been reduced by about half over the last two cycles.

For interviews, every first round interviewer does things slightly differently, so I can't give you any insight into what the questions will be like. Emphasizing public interest is never a negative. In general, I'd say focus on the message you want to convey and how effective you are at conveying it. The interviewer will be judging your communication and presentation skills as much as your substantive experience. These kinds of skills are a "show don't tell" type of evaluation, so making sure you are polished and articulate would be my general recommendation.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:31 am

Above you mentioned that one of the benefits of the DOT was that it allows you to test drive different practice areas. Can you elaborate on what the breakdown of work looks like for lawyers in the DOT? litigation vs. policy work for example? I understand that the DOT includes a diverse array of offices (FAA, Highway Safety, etc) and that this probably determines what kind of work an honors attorney would be tasked with, but I'd appreciate any insight or examples you can give on what kind of assignments are "typical" for a DOT honors attorney. Thanks again!!

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Sep 15, 2015 12:08 pm

Above you mentioned that one of the benefits of the DOT was that it allows you to test drive different practice areas. Can you elaborate on what the breakdown of work looks like for lawyers in the DOT? litigation vs. policy work for example? I understand that the DOT includes a diverse array of offices (FAA, Highway Safety, etc) and that this probably determines what kind of work an honors attorney would be tasked with, but I'd appreciate any insight or examples you can give on what kind of assignments are "typical" for a DOT honors attorney. Thanks again!!


One thing that's important to clarify upfront - government lawyers as a rule don't do policy work or make policy decisions (excepting a few DOJ offices that do policy work related to law enforcement and government legal positions). Government lawyers will provide legal support on policy analysis and decision-making, and can even suggest policy considerations that the policy officials might consider in making their decision, but ultimately there is a fairly strong organizational mindset throughout the federal government that sharply segregates legal analysis from policy analysis on a particular decision. That distinction is reinforced by the interests of both lawyers and policy officials in clearly marking their areas of authority. Now sometimes people with JD's and legal experience will move into policy roles, but to be a successful government lawyer it's important to understand the limits of policy work/influence you have as a lawyer.

In terms of the typical work of an Honors Attorney, the Honors Attorneys basically do whatever the individual office is doing. Whether the Honors Attorney is acting as a lead vs. support attorney on a given issue depends on its complexity and timeline (since Honors Attorneys are only in an office for 4 months). Since the work an office may be doing at any given time can vary tremendously, I think the best way to answer your question is to describe the basic work of the DOT that the attorneys support in general.

About half of the DOT is focused on funding transportation infrastructure. The closest private sector analogy might be to the work a bank would do. Attorneys are involved in the selection of funding recipients, execution of the funding documents, and oversight of the use of the funds. All federal funds are subject to a large list of legal restrictions, including Civil Rights laws, labor laws, procurement competition laws, Buy America laws, etc. Attorneys not only provide support in each individual funding action, but also help develop general practices, procedures, and forms that can be used to streamline the process as a whole.

The other half of the DOT is focused on regulating the safety of our national transportation systems. Different parts of DOT regulate all air traffic (commercial and private), commercial trucking companies, automobile manufacturers, all railroad companies (passenger and cargo), all mass transit entities, all interstate transportation of hazardous materials regardless of mode, and all interstate pipelines. In this arena attorneys work in pseudo-prosecutorial roles. They will receive investigation reports from field inspectors, evaluate cases, file regulatory notices of violation, and do all the negotiation or administrative trial work necessary to resolve the issue.

All parts of the DOT also have attorneys doing the equivalent of in-house counsel work for government agencies. This involves internal compliance of laws governing the behavior of federal employees, including procurement regulations and the investigation and resolution of employment law issues. This work also covers Freedom of Information Act requests, overseeing the administrative rulemaking process, interpreting the agency's legislative authority, analyzing fiscal/appropriations law to ensure that money is being spent properly, drafting legislation and interfacing with Congress, and providing litigation support to DOJ.

This in no way describes everything a DOT attorney might do, but hopefully gives you a slightly better idea of the various areas of work you may be exposed to.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:40 pm

Why does DOT only hire honors attorneys every other year?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:48 pm

Why does DOT only hire honors attorneys every other year?


The program is designed to be two years long for the attorneys hired into a given class. Unfortunately, the Department does not have the budgetary or administrative resources to manage two classes simultaneously (i.e. one in their first year, one in their second year). I think the arbitrariness of the timing is unfortunate from the students' perspective, and I think it hurts the general awareness of the program in the minds of career services offices and students, but I understand why the Department does it based on its limited resources.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:05 pm

How does DoT treat Yale students for the purposes of determining what their rough class rank is? Do you just compare them to the other Yale applicants?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:34 am

Recently had my first interview. It was an enjoyable experience. DOT seems like it has a lot of great people working there, and the practice is very diverse. Both pluses.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:Recently had my first interview. It was an enjoyable experience. DOT seems like it has a lot of great people working there, and the practice is very diverse. Both pluses.


By "first interview," you mean screener? Was it through OCI? Did the interviewer give you a time frame for call back offers to go out?

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Recently had my first interview. It was an enjoyable experience. DOT seems like it has a lot of great people working there, and the practice is very diverse. Both pluses.


By "first interview," you mean screener? Was it through OCI? Did the interviewer give you a time frame for call back offers to go out?

Definition: "screener"
n. First interview

It wasn't through OCI. It was telephone. They provided the same timeline as the OP. Second rounds are in October.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:28 pm

How does DoT treat Yale students for the purposes of determining what their rough class rank is? Do you just compare them to the other Yale applicants?


I could go into a much lengthier musing/ranting post about law schools and grades, but I will restrain myself to this. The process that results in a law school grade (14 weeks of lecture, many out-of-class study sessions, and a final exam/paper evaluated subjectively by a professor) has very little relevance to the skills that most lawyers use on a day-to-day basis. That being said, the grades you earn in law school often have some correlation with your general legal analytical abilities. Someone who gets A's/HP's in 80% or more of their classes has obviously shown an ability to understand and synthesize a variety of legal areas to a significant degree. Similarly, someone with at least a couple of C's/LP's might have more difficulty understanding and answering novel legal questions.

With that preamble, the answer to your question goes far beyond just Yale students. In the aggregate, the various ways schools grade or evaluate their students combines to make grades as a whole a difficult metric for initial screening. Although HYS make a big deal about not giving letter grades, in practice HP, P, and LP are easy enough to equate to A, B, C. Any grade, though, is irrelevant without understanding the curve, and HYS are part of a larger group of schools that do not publish the curve or average distribution of those grades. Even schools that publish general curves or more specific rankings have a variety of medians and inflations that make the global picture across schools fairly muddy.

These two paragraphs are a long way of saying that when a student's grades obscure rather than enlighten the underlying inquiry (what is the general quality of the student's legal analytical skills), we can look to other parts of the application that may provide the same information, such as work experience, journal publication, moot court success, etc. Sometimes that may mean we have to conduct a first-round interview to ask questions to obtain that information, but as the application process goes forward, the grades themselves can lose relevance as we gain more first-hand knowledge of an applicant's skillset.

Now that I'm off my soapbox, I'll answer more directly about my specific practice. If I don't have any anchor points to estimate class rank or how a student's grades fit into a school's curve, I will first ensure there are no significant red flags in the transcript. Then I will generally select interviews without reference to a student's grades/gpa. Also, to make sure that students from non-ranked or non-published curve schools don't get an unfair advantage, my personal practice is to somewhat blur our gpa guidelines for schools that do provide precise rankings. For example (and this is purely hypothetical), if I know I may unwittingly select a Harvard student at the 75th percentile, I won't be so strict about rejecting a candidate from a lower-ranked school who is at the 51st, but not the 50th percentile.

Anonymous User
Posts: 302665
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: DOT Honors Program - Recruiter Taking Questions

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:55 am

Thanks again for doing this, your insight has been really helpful! I was invited for a second round interview yesterday and I had a few more questions.

Are there any major differences in how I should approach the second round interview? during the screener (1 hour over the phone) the questions were mostly general (challenges I've faced, why I want DOT etc).

My interest is in the litigation-like (administrative trials/enforcement) work done by the DOT, are honors attorneys allows to focus on an area of interest or are they mostly generalist that work on whatever projects need attention?

Is there anything about the DOT program (good or bad) that you think I should know that I wouldn't learn from the info available online?

Do you have a sense of what % of attorneys that go through the program are actually hired and able to stick around long term? Worst case scenario, say no DOT offices are hiring at the end of the program, what are the exit options like?

Really appreciate your help.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.