The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is an agency within the United States Department of Justice. The primary mission of ATF is to prevent violent crime by enforcing and administering the Gun Control Act, the Federal firearms and explosives laws, and alcohol and tobacco trafficking laws. As a small agency with broad, interrelated missions involving law enforcement, regulatory compliance, and homeland security concerns, ATF affords attorneys, interns, and recent law school graduates the opportunity to experience a variety of legal disciplines in a dynamic and collegial environment.
The Office of Chief Counsel consists of approximately 80 attorneys who provide legal advice and services to the Bureau nationwide in support of programs and operations. A number of attorneys are located in ATF Headquarters in Washington D.C., where they provide legal advice and strategic guidance to Bureau leadership. Headquarters attorneys are divided into four practice groups: Litigation; Administration and Ethics; Disclosure, Forfeiture and Criminal Law; and Firearms, Explosives, and Arson. ATF lawyers are also based in field offices, where they work directly with special agents and industry operations investigators on active cases.
Although the responsibilities of ATF attorneys vary depending on the location or division to which they are assigned, they work closely with their colleagues around the country and their clients to support the mission of ATF as a law enforcement and regulatory agency. Attorneys are often encouraged to take opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience through details to other areas of legal practice.
ATF hires experienced attorneys through attorney vacancy announcements on http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/. As positions become available, they are posted with specific application requirements, which will vary depending on the position. ATF posts all attorney positions open to the public for application on this website. Please follow the application instructions on the individual announcement to apply.
Summer Law Intern Program
We participate in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP), which is the Department’s recruitment program for paid summer internships. Admission to SLIP is highly competitive and the majority of the students applying are in their second year of law school. Graduating law students are eligible for a summer internship before entering a judicial clerkship or full-time graduate law program. Visit http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/summer-intern.html for additional information on this program. The application deadline for this program is generally in September for the following summer.
Volunteer Legal Intern Program
In addition to SLIP, ATF offers unpaid summer and in-semester internship opportunities in Washington D.C. and in many cities throughout the United States. Academic credit may be granted for these positions, subject to law school policy and practice. Students wishing to apply for a volunteer position may submit a cover letter and resume via email to email@example.com.
Application deadlines for internship programs are as follows:
- Spring semester: October 1
- Summer: December 1
- Fall semester: June 1
Please note that the preferred contact method for status updates is via the above noted email address. Please indicate in the subject line of your email for which term you are applying (i.e., spring, summer, or fall).
Permanent Job Opportunities for Graduating Law Students
ATF also participates in DOJ’s Attorney General’s Honors Program, the only method by which the Department hires graduating law students as entry-level attorneys. Please note that the deadline for this program is generally in September of the fall semester of the student’s final year of law school or final year of clerkship. Visit http://www.justice.gov/careers/legal/ for additional information on this program.
Note that ATF is not able to hire students directly out of law school or immediately following the conclusion of a judicial clerkship unless applicants apply through the Honors Program.
Interns participating in SLIP and ATF’s volunteer program can anticipate receiving hands-on experience in all of the Office’s areas of practice. At Headquarters, student interns will have the opportunity to work closely with attorneys who provide legal advice to a wide array of ATF and DOJ officials on ATF’s policies, programs and enforcement operations; review and draft legislation impacting ATF’s authority and enforcement capabilities; and handle employment-related litigation for ATF. Interns can expect to research discrete legal issues, review and organize documents for litigation, draft memoranda and correspondence, and perform other tasks as required. Legal interns may attend client meetings, depositions, moot courts, and other professional activities involving ATF attorneys. In addition, interns may have the opportunity to participate in
brown-bag lunches with senior Bureau officials and to tour ATF facilities, such as the ATF National Laboratory, the Canine Training Center, and the Firearms Tracing Center.
I couldn’t have asked for a better summer. I worked on unbelievably interesting projects, from electronic surveillance to federal emergency responses in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. The attorneys were absolutely fantastic to work with, and they really made an effort to involve us in a wide range of projects, meetings, and assignments, not to mention field trips to the firing range, explosives range, canine training center, and many others â try to find THAT at a firm!
— Summer Intern 2005, University of California, Los Angeles.
I came to ATF hoping to learn about what it is that government lawyers do and got more than I could have asked for. The environment is fun and challenging; the attorneys have excellent rapport with one another, and are genuinely enthusiastic about working with interns. While the attorneys have offered exceptional guidance and mentorship, I have also had an exciting degree of independence in my work. The projects that I have been a part of have been interesting and challenging, and have involved a surprising variety of issues, ranging from employment to criminal law. Throughout the summer, I worked on projects in each of the different divisions and was exposed to various ATF facilities on a number of enjoyable field trips. This summer has been an amazing exposure to ATF as an agency, a client, and a (fantastic) employer. I have had such an excellent experience with ATF that I will be continuing my internship at a field office next semester. No questions asked, I would recommend this program to anyone!
— Summer Intern 2008, Yale University
My internship experience at ATF has been nothing short of spectacular. The Office of Chief Counsel boasts an amazing work environment, especially for a prospective attorney. The general camaraderie of all of the attorneys fosters an atmosphere of growth and learning. Every project to which I have had the opportunity to contribute has been interesting and rewarding, due not only to the nature of the job, but also to the encouragement and support of my supervisors. In addition to all of the exciting work that we accomplished, our mentors and supervisors organize a multitude of fun and interesting field trips and brown bag lunches to ensure that we experience numerous aspects of what ATF does… It is a testament to how much I have enjoyed this job that I am continuing to volunteer here during the fall semester. All of my fellow interns from this summer are continuing their jobs in their respective ATF field offices as well.
— Summer Intern 2005, Georgetown University.