Trump’s Freeze Leaves Students in the Cold

By: Lauren Cassel, 1L
Junior Editor

President Donald Trump has issued an executive order that effectively created a 90-day hiring freeze across all executive agencies.

A memorandum accompanying the order clearly states that this freeze will not apply to the military or any other department or agency that is essential to national security and public safety. The freeze is the Trump administration’s attempt to keep the status quo long enough for the Office of Management and Budget to develop a long-term plan to shrink the federal government.

Federal agencies are currently awaiting “guidance.” Departments and agencies will begin rolling out their individual guidelines for how they will handle the remainder of the freeze within the next few weeks. Yet, these guidelines will only be instated through the end of the freeze and are not indicative of what the Office of Management and Budget will propose at the 90-day mark.

It comes as no surprise that the Republican President seeks to shrink the size of the federal government. However, the news struck home at W&L Law, where many students were left wondering what would happen to their applications for internships and their job offers over the next 90 days and the next four years.

The scariest part of the freeze is the lack of information about what this freeze actually means and how it will affect law students. If you are confused, you are not alone because most of the agencies are confused, too. The IRS, for example,   stated: “This is an evolving situation, and agencies are doing the best they can in light of the uncertainty they’re operating under.”

W&L Law’s Assistant Dean Cliff Jarrett insists that if your heart is set on agency work, don’t give up yet. There are three things law students should keep in mind while analyzing their options at this point.

Trump meme

Trump issued a 90-day federal hiring freeze. | Source:

First, Trump’s presidency and his administration are still young. The freeze is only supposed to last through the first 90 days of his presidency until a new plan is created. So, students can expect hiring at federal agencies to begin again, though it is likely to be slower and more selective than in the previous administration.

Second, hiring freezes have happened before. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan instated short-term hiring freezes which did not affect the hiring of unpaid interns. The most common effect of the freeze will likely be delayed. There will also be limited availability for long-term jobs and paid internships. However, with fewer long-term staff members, the agencies may need to rely more heavily on unpaid interns.

Third, keep an open mind. If you are thinking about working for an agency, it may be time to consider other possibilities. Activist organizations are receiving unprecedented work and funding. The ACLU, for instance, received more funding this year than in the past six years combined. The value in internships is gaining experience and building skills. If you ultimately want to work at an agency and can’t find an internship there, look instead for internships that will teach you independent skills that are important to agency work and leverage them when you apply for a long-term job at an agency.

Currently, W&L Law’s Office of Career Services is collecting information from the agencies as it becomes available. The following agencies have produced some information on how they will handle the hiring freeze.

Department of Defense (DOD): The DOD will continue to hire both paid (SLIP) and unpaid (VIP) interns. The fate of the honors program is unknown at this time.

United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG): JAG’s summer paid internship program is currently on hold. Currently, it is unclear if the paid internship will be available at all for 2017. The summer unpaid externship will continue as planned. Students who are interested in the paid externship are encouraged to apply to the unpaid program because they can also apply to the paid program if it is approved.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): The SEC is still actively seeking 1L summer interns and will continue to staff volunteer interns throughout the year.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Though it was previously reported otherwise, the IRS may not be able to honor the offers already made for the Honors Program. In a statement, the agency said, “The agencies understand there are nervous students and are doing the best they can to communicate with applicants.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): As for the EPA’s Region 3 volunteer summer internships, the agency stated, “As you may be aware, the President recently issued a federal hiring freeze. EPA is currently seeking clarity on whether the freeze applies to student volunteers.”  In the meantime, the EPA has canceled its currently scheduled interviews.

Students who already submitted applications or who began the hiring process should not be afraid to reach out to the agency to ask questions and confirm their status.. If you have further questions about a specific agency, please contact your OCS adviser.

Categories: News