Magistrate Lands Administrative Law Judge Position
Preparation Is Key to Winning a Job as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Julio Johnson served as county attorney and assistant prosecutor, and simultaneously ran a part-time litigation practice, for over 7 years. In his early years as a prosecutor and county attorney, he handled more than 1,000 contested cases and often appeared before an administrative law judge or a judge of the local court. Johnson represented his county board of health in enforcement actions, cooperating and negotiating with state and federal agencies on these matters. While working for the county, Johnson oversaw the implementation of an administrative hearing procedure to enforce new regulations while respecting citizens’ rights.
Meanwhile, in his solo practice, he also handed litigation, mainly probate and bankruptcy cases, representing individual and corporate clients.
Johnson thereafter served, for an additional 6 years, in a judicial role, as a magistrate for his county’s common pleas court.
All of these experiences were documented in his resume with specificity, supporting his qualifying experience. In his qualifications narratives, he was careful to describe both his administrative law experience and his litigation experience in detail, specifying the inclusive months and years of practice and hours per week devoted to each. All told, Johnson’s qualifying experience added up to 6 years of full-time Litigation experience as a magistrate plus an additional 7 years of mixed experience, divided equally between Administrative Law and Litigation. This was more than enough to satisfy reviewers that Johnson possessed the minimum qualifying experience. He was allowed to take the online exam, scoring well; then the proctored, in-person exam; and ultimately, the structured interview.
In addition to meeting the minimum qualifications in his application, Johnson was prepared to address the 13 judicial competencies OPM tested in the ensuing exam. Johnson was prepared because he had practiced writing accomplishment narratives to address the ALJ competencies. He also studied examples of the various kinds of tests OPM would be using, and completed practice questions. He was prepared to answer interview questions with solid examples of his past experience. The examples were compelling because they elaborated upon experiences already well documented in his resume.
Because he quantified his qualifying experience in the initial application, and was prepared to address all 13 ALJ competencies in the ensuing exam phases and interview, he joined the new ALJ Register in September 2014 with a high score. But not only were his scores high—his resume presented an excellent record of performance, with a diversity of accomplishments and experiences sufficient to predict his future success as an ALJ. SSA hired Johnson as one of the new register’s first selectees, and he was working as an ALJ by January 2015.
More Pay for Fewer Hours
Johnson’s pay as a magistrate was $86,000 per year for more than 70 hours per week. Base pay for ALJs ranges from $107,000 to $160,300; locality pay can add up to 35 percent for appointments in expensive cities, such as San Francisco and New York.
Johnson’s Tips for ALJ Selection Success
Applying to become a federal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has at least one thing in common with being a litigator: One must be thoroughly prepared. For Julio Johnson, preparing for each stage in the examination process paid off. “Even though he had no experience with, or knowledge of, Social Security law, he scored well on the exam and was among the first selected for a job” in a distant city, says Nicole Schultheis, ALJ Application Consultant for The Resume Place, Inc.
Johnson also made shrewd tactical choices to maximize his chances. Johnson was clever enough to select all geographic regions when he applied, to improve his range of job offers. Although he did not receive his first-choice city at the outset, he was soon able to transfer to an opening closer to home.
Another key to Johnson’s success was his unstinting attention to detail. “Candidates must read the announcement closely, make sure their resumes reflect the right type of work experience, and in all other respects adhere to the instructions provided,” says Schultheis. Johnson agrees.
It helps many ALJ candidates to have access to in-depth information about the federal ALJ resume, OPM’s selection processes, and the USAJOBS application.
The Resume Place, Inc. just published The ALJ Writing Guide, 2nd Edition to meet this need. You might also want to attend our ALJ webinar or consider our package of ALJ application preparation services.
The ALJ Writing Guide 2nd Edition is the best available resource for any attorney who would like to compete for a slot on the Administrative Law Judge register and ultimately be selected for an ALJ position.
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