A recent National Law Journal article discusses a slow-down in entry-level hiring by federal government agencies. Interest in the government "honors programs", the entry-level hiring system for most federal government agencies, has grown in the last few years, mainly because of the constriction of the private sector market. But hiring has begun to slow in the government too, as agencies across the board face budget pressures. The severe budget constraints at most federal agencies combined with the increase in interest, mean more candidates are applying for fewer positions.
The article goes on to discuss specific agencies that plan to hire fewer honors attorneys for 2012, but also mentions a few, such as the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Energy, that are adding new honors attorney positions. Importantly, the article mentions that not all entry-level positions go to graduates from top-tier law schools with top-notch grades. While good academic credentials are important, so is a demonstrated commitment to public service, and some experience in the work of the particular agency. Clerkships are also helpful, as well as speaking a foreign language.
Students interested in working for a federal government agency need to know that the field is getting more competitive, but that being selected is more than a matter of where you go to law school and your GPA.