Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Federal contract specialists - what's your typical day like?

What do federal contract specialists do? Is your work partic ericcrapton06/30/17
NCMA certification...otherwise, work/life depends on the age thedudeabides06/30/17
I became a contract specialist after getting out of law prac flyer1406/30/17
Can you explain a bit about the retention issue? What do you thirdtierlaw06/30/17
The number one cause is JD's who never practiced law but hav flyer1406/30/17
The second option sounds intriguing. vohod06/30/17
Flyer14 has it correct. I believe he and I work for the same lawyernomore06/30/17
Which building are you in? Now I'm curious, actually flyer1406/30/17
Bldg. 32 lawyernomore06/30/17
I'm directly across the street from you in 16. Shoot me a du flyer1406/30/17
Thanks, all. I'm going to take a look at CFCM courses. ericcrapton06/30/17
I think I could pass the CFCM exam after taking a prep cours ericcrapton07/01/17
ericcrapton (Jun 30, 2017 - 8:43 am)

What do federal contract specialists do? Is your work particularly stressful?
What can you do to make yourself more competitive for the position? Is there a certification you can get?

Thanks!

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thedudeabides (Jun 30, 2017 - 8:45 am)

NCMA certification...otherwise, work/life depends on the agency...some are worse than Biglaw, but without the money, some are 6-figures and you finish the internet by 9am everyday.

End of FY (September) can be nuts.

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flyer14 (Jun 30, 2017 - 8:52 am)

I became a contract specialist after getting out of law practice.

In general, anything the government purchases has to have a contracting officer (CO) sign at the bottom of the document obligating the government to pay the contractor. The specialist is more of a support role - conducting market research, negotiating with vendors, and writing up the document for the CO to sign. There's a lot of regulations involved, primarily the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), as well as agency and department regs... a JD will do you well in reading and interpreting them.

The job isn't stressful at all in my agency (Air Force) but I assume it varies from agency to agency. Includes an excellent work-life balance and benefits and the office is always doing some sort of party or fun event. EOY in September can be busy, but you'll always get comped for your time.

I work 37 hours a week - 40 minus three hours allowed for PT. I work on a military base and get to use their gyms for free so I save another $20 a month that way.

In general, a JD or MBA will qualify you for a GS-9, with automatic promotion potential to GS-11 or GS-12, depending on the agency, after one or two years. At least where I'm at, becoming a warranted CO almost certainly guarantees you a GS-13 slot very quickly, which can be done in 4 or 5 years.

However, even with a GS-13, you do top out in terms of salary more quickly than you would in the private sector... keep that in mind... unless you went to industry later in your career. I have no intention of doing that, but that's because I like the concept of a defined benefit pension, among other things.

As far as certifications... you could become a certified federal contracts manager (CFCM) - it's a credit offered by NCMA if I recall correctly. They like to talk it up, but I don't think it really tips the scales that dramatically. Instead, if you land an interview, tell them how you plan on making a career out of it... most agencies have had retention issues with JD's-turned-CO's.

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thirdtierlaw (Jun 30, 2017 - 9:38 am)

Can you explain a bit about the retention issue? What do you think the cause of that is?

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flyer14 (Jun 30, 2017 - 9:43 am)

The number one cause is JD's who never practiced law but have that itch in their ass to practice law (i.e. they came straight out of law school into contracting). So they get an offer from a midsize firm to practice transactional law after 3-4 years. It pays more on paper so they take it... and almost universally regret taking the offer... but it's sometimes difficult to get rehired after leaving.

A few left to go in-house... they seemed to fare better.

Number two is when after X number of years experience, they get poached by the defense contractors... but that's not necessarily JD-specific.

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vohod (Jun 30, 2017 - 9:45 am)

The second option sounds intriguing.

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lawyernomore (Jun 30, 2017 - 11:54 am)

Flyer14 has it correct. I believe he and I work for the same agency, given his username.

A typical day involves arriving and checking emails, etc. I usually have some telecons or meetings and just handle day to day acquisitions for my program. Some days it is busy, but most of the time I have significant free time throughout the day.

There is an issue of attrition here, but much of it falls into either 1) people move to other civilian agencies or 2) they are hired right out of school and feel like they are missing out of being a lawyer. A guy in my office was actually hired out of law school as a contract specialist and worked here for about a year before quitting to take a position as a public defender. Long story short, he somehow managed to get his contract specialist job back after realizing that law practice wasn't rewarding financially or otherwise.

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flyer14 (Jun 30, 2017 - 12:38 pm)

Which building are you in? Now I'm curious, actually

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lawyernomore (Jun 30, 2017 - 1:40 pm)

Bldg. 32

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flyer14 (Jun 30, 2017 - 1:42 pm)

I'm directly across the street from you in 16. Shoot me a dummy email and we can catch up sometime

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ericcrapton (Jun 30, 2017 - 5:04 pm)

Thanks, all. I'm going to take a look at CFCM courses.

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ericcrapton (Jul 1, 2017 - 10:25 am)

I think I could pass the CFCM exam after taking a prep course, but sitting for the CFCM exam seems to require one year of contract management experience. Does the J.D. count for this?

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