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Leaving the Legal Grind: Land a Plum Job as an Administration Law Judge

Leaving the Legal Grind: Land a Plum Job as an Administration Law Judge

Elizabeth Juge |

Experienced litigators and administrative law specialists take note—the U.S. Office of Personnel Management recently announced that the Administrative Law Judge exam is open.

Thought to be one of the best jobs in government, ALJs are paid on a special pay scale that is commensurate with Senior Executive Service; but ALJs do not have direct supervisors and are not subject to participation in cursory performance appraisal activities. They have no production goals, and are not responsible for supervising others.

Start your Administrative Law Judge application on

Some view the position as prestigious—the Supreme Court noted that for most Americans, an ALJ is the highest ranking government official they will ever encounter. For attorneys looking to leave the grind of private practice, especially in a declining economy, the ALJ position provides steady and interesting work at a stable and equitable salary, which tops out in 7 years at over $160,000.

You can’t talk about ALJ hiring without talking about the Social Security Administration. SSA employs around 90% of all ALJs in the federal government. As of March 2009, there were 1,422 ALJs employed at 30 federal agencies and sub-agencies. SSA employed more than 1,100 of them. Chief Judge Frank Cristaudo has stated that SSA will hire up to 190 ALJs in a variety of locations in fiscal year 2010. Those judges will be hired from the register created by successful applicants from the upcoming exam. Applicants on the register could also be hired by any of the other agencies employing ALJs. Join in the Social Security Administration Blog and read about ALJ discussions. Blog quote: “I urge those who want to become Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to study this notice carefully and to monitor the OPM website closely. The last time the register was opened, it only stayed open for a few days. Many who were interested in becoming ALJs failed to apply in time.”

Elizabeth Juge, a Senior Federal Career Consultant and Legal Application Expert at The Resume Place in Baltimore, MD, answers Frequently Asked Questions by attorney applicants about qualifications, the exam review process and how to prepare successful application materials.

Next Page: Frequently Asked Questions

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