ATF Attorney






An Attorney with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) works primarily at the ATF Headquarters in Washington, DC. The work of an ATF Attorney involves litigation, investigations, and support for field agents nationwide. Many law students have been afforded considerable and varied experience through internship programs with the ATF before moving on to other post-grad career options.

Some however, find that the work as an ATF Attorney is just what they are seeking.

The Role of ATF Attorney in Criminal Justice Law

As with any attorney, much of the time spent as an ATF Attorney involves preparing for the prosecution of cases. This includes helping gather evidence properly, putting the case together, and presenting the case in court. In addition, as with any attorney position, writing briefs and other such necessary documents is part of the job. Thus, the primary role of an ATF Attorney is that of a prosecutor…the equivalent of an ADA (Assistant District Attorney).

ATF inspector at a federally licensed gun dealer
ATF inspector at a federally licensed gun dealer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most ATF Attorney’s are located in Washington, DC, but many also work in field offices. It is in these offices where they support field operations agents in the pursuit of violators of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms violations. As such, their role is to provide agents with both strategic guidance and advice so that investigations may be conducted with the highest ethics and legal foundations.

Although the ATF is a small entity, the scope of their work continues to grow. While traditionally the agency focused on enforcement of the Gun Control Act, today the ATF also investigates Arson, Explosives violations, and matters related to Homeland Security. With terrorism a growing concern, the role of the ATF continues to grow and the need for skilled Lawyers with it.

Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has nearly 5000 employees scattered among 25 Field Offices, 11 International Offices, and the Headquarters in DC.

25 Field Offices of the ATF

The following cities have U.S. Field Offices and each must have Lawyers in house to aid in local operations and court cases.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explo...
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Atlanta
  2. Baltimore
  3. Boston
  4. Charlotte
  5. Chicago
  6. Columbus
  7. Dallas
  8. Denver
  9. Detroit
  10. Houston
  11. Kansas City
  12. Los Angeles
  13. Louisville
  14. Miami
  15. Nashville
  16. Newark

    English: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and F...
    English: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms headquarters building at 99 New York Avenue, NW in Washington, DC, also known as the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  17. New Orleans
  18. New York
  19. Philadelphia
  20. Phoenix
  21. San Francisco
  22. Seattle
  23. St. Paul
  24. Tampa
  25. Washington

For fact sheets, key personnel, and contact information, select the desired city from the list above.

11 International Offices of the ATF

Because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms deals with terrorism and smuggling operations, having offices in other nations where possible is most useful. The International Locations of the ATF are:

  1. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (located in the U.S. Embassy)
  2. Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Located in the U.S. Consulate)
  3. Miami, Florida (which manages all Caribbean Operations)
  4. Bogotá, Colombia (located in the U.S. Embassy)
  5. San Salvador, El Salvador (located in U.S. Embassy)
  6. Lyon, France (located in INTERPOL)
  7. The Hague, The Netherlands (located in EUROPOL)
  8. Mexico City, Mexico (located in the U.S. Embassy)
  9. Monterrey, Mexico (located in the U.S. Consulate)
  10. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (located in the U. S. Consulate)
  11. Tijuana, Mexico (located in the U. S. Consulate)

Attorney’s needing addresses or more information related to International ATF locations, click here.

Training and Preparation for a Career as an ATF Attorney

Naturally, a Law Degree and entrance to a State Bar is required to become an ATF Attorney. Thus, a four year degree followed by law school is necessary. Experienced attorney’s interested in employment with the ATF can apply here.

English: Badge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobac...
English: Badge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms also has internships for students. The ATF has both a summer internship program called SLIP (Summer Law Internship Program) and a volunteer internship, which helps many students gain both valuable experience and entry into the ATF and other similar regulatory agencies. Learn more about these programs here.

Applications for internship programs must be submitted by:

  • October 1 for the Spring Semester
  • December 1 for the Summer Semester
  • June 1 for the Fall Semester

To apply for an ATF Attorney internship, send a resume and cover letter to chiefcounsel-internships@atf.gov. To learn more, visit the Attorney’s page at ATF.gov.

How to Apply for a Position as an ATF Attorney

To learn more about working as an ATF Attorney and the requirements for application, go to https://www.atf.gov/content/Careers/careers-at-ATF/attorneys. There, you will find links for the various programs available to both students and licensed professional attorney’s.




The ATF also has a special Honors program administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ) for graduating law students. This program allows entry level students the ability to gain access to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms without having been through an internship. This Honors program is the only means by which recent graduates may gain direct entry to the Bureau or Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Additional Information Related to a Career as an ATF Attorney

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms currently employs about 80 attorney’s under the supervision of the Office of Chief Counsel.

Employment opportunities at the ATF are limited and not easy to obtain. Most interns move into other sectors of government and private sector employment on graduation, but all praise highly the ATF attorney internship as an enormous asset to their professional careers.

Average Salary of an ATF Attorney

Determining an average salary for an ATF Attorney is tricky and the government does not publish these figures. However, the salaries for all attorney’s within the Department of Justice (DOJ) are governed by Title 28 USC. There are essentially two pay scales, one as it relates to years in service with the DOJ (or ATF in this case) and the other per pay grade.

Under this system, an attorney with experience entering the ATF will usually receive a higher pay grade than one which is inexperienced, but both will receive the same service time pay.

As of 2010, the pay scale for an ATF attorney (really, any attorney under the direction of the DOJ) is…

ears of Experience GS Grade 2011 Annual Base GS Salary Range (steps 1-10) (Not Including
Locality Pay)
2011 Annual GS Salary Range for Washington, D.C. Area (steps 1-10)
(Including Locality Pay)
Up to one year GS-11 $50,287 to $65,371 $62,467 to $81,204
1 or more years GS-12 $60,274 to $78,355 $74,872 to $97,333
1.5 or more years GS-13 $71,674 to $93,175 $86,927 to $113,007
2.5 or more years GS-14 $84,697 to $110,104 $105,221 to $136,771
4 or more years GS-15 $99,628 to $129,517 $123,758 to $155,500*
*Rate limited to the rate for level IV of the Executive Schedule (5 U.S.C. 5304(g)(1)).

Chart Source: United States Department of Justice Pay and Benefits



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