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But think of all the valuable exposure!What a tempting offer for our nation’s cadre of experienced lawyers: work for the Justice Department, reviewing applications for wiretaps in major federal criminal investigations. Probably this is pretty easy, given (as we’ve recently learned) that there is no reason NOT to ever wiretap! So if you want something a little more challenging, perhaps you can serve as a special attorney in the Office of Enforcement Operations.

But wait! There’s more! Not only could you maybe work for the Justice Department for a year in either of these important positions, you can do it in exchange for absolutely no money! Yes! That’s right! You will get paid in Experience, which, like Exposure, is even better than money!

From ProPublica:

We’ve reported on the mounting trend of unpaid internships among college students and recent graduates. But an increasing number of trained attorneys in the Department of Justice are also working for free, with 13 uncompensated positions for “experienced attorneys” (many of them full-time) currently listed on the agency’s web site.

The program “provides a valuable support to the Justice Department as we continue to address the staffing challenges imposed by sequestration and still fulfill our commitment to protect the American people,” said a Justice Department spokesperson, in an emailed statement. The Department of Justice began posting uncompensated special assistant U.S. attorney positions in January 2011, after Attorney General Eric Holder announced a department-wide hiring freeze (individual U.S. attorney offices had hired unpaid lawyers before then, the spokesperson said).

Do not be surprised to learn, dear readers, that there is no dearth of applicants for these unpaid positions, given that only 56% of class of 2012 law school graduates had found stable (paid?) positions in law in spite of taking on debtloads of $100,000 or more.

There are currently 96 unpaid special assistant U.S. attorneys working for the department, according to a spokesperson, who said paid assistant U.S attorneys have starting salaries ranging from $44,581 to $117,994.

Worried? Don’t be: it’s totally fine that the government is hiring unpaid workers to do really important jobs, like act as Federal Prosecutors or Deputy District Attorneys, or work for free alongside paid members of the Justice Department, says this guy at the Justice Department who presumably gets paid:

The Executive Office for U.S Attorneys responded  [to a letter from the National Association of US Attorneys condemning the practice] six months later, defending the unpaid positions. [The National Association of Attorneys also followed with another letter which] raised concerns about what it means to have unpaid, short-term lawyers representing the U.S. in federal court.

“We continue to believe the department’s long-standing use of uncompensated [special assistant U.S. attorneys] is legally permissible,” wrote H. Marshall Jarrett, director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. While special assistant U.S. attorneys have a legal maximum salary, he said, there’s no minimum. Which means the Justice Department considers itself free to set their salary “at a gratuitous rate of pay (i.e. $0).

Well if it’s legally permissible, then clearly it’s a good idea, right? Nothing bad could POSSIBLY come out of having unpaid, volunteer attorneys representing the U.S. in federal court, making decisions about the legality of wiretapping, or acting as Deputy District Attorneys.

In fact, why stop at government jobs? Surely the private sector would run much more efficiently (and shareholder wealth would be maximized) if, say, CEOs worked for free. Or hedge fund managers. Or bankers. Seriously, think about how much money would be saved if companies just hired unpaid interns and volunteers to work in upper management!

Really, why not just run the entire economy on free labor? Everyone can get experience and exposure, and then take that experience and exposure to the NEXT unpaid, volunteer job, and on and on and on until finally, someone somewhere has enough extra money to throw around and decides to pay someone for his or her work.

This reminds us of something else we said, way back in March, when an editor from the Atlantic wrote a rambling and incoherent ode to the joys of working as unpaid writer:

…Here we are! Debating about whether or not it is appropriate to PAY PEOPLE FOR WORK. So far, the debate is restricted to paying journalists, writers, artists and musicians, but it will not stop there. For example, your Wonkette is a graduate student at a huge famous prestigious university that you have surely heard of, and to save money these days, they are hiring lecturers to WORK FOR FREE…Welcome to 2013!

[ProPublica]

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