One of the most difficult parts of my job is delivering the news to a client that their security clearance has been denied or revoked. It fortunately isn’t a frequent occurrence, but it inevitably does happen. And when it does, one’s career, livelihood, and reputation can all hang in the balance.

A close second in terms of difficulty is telling a client that their proposed course of action – typically, applying or re-applying for a security clearance – will result in consequences that are both avoidable and potentially devastating.

In the context of a security clearance case, such consequences can include employment discharge or loss of promotion potential; Article 15 or Uniform Code of Military Justice proceedings; revocation of a collateral clearance held with a different government agency; or, in rare cases, civilian criminal prosecution. Obviously, these are all potentially very serious ramifications; if they are avoidable, why take the risk?

Seeking Security Clearance Assistance Before You Apply

An increasing number of clients, perhaps awakened by the prominence of security clearance issues in the news over the last few years, are asking themselves that very question. Before applying or reapplying for a clearance, these savvy individuals are seeking experienced counsel to assess their chances – and evaluate their risk.

Of course, even the most experienced attorney doesn’t have a crystal ball and cannot promise or guarantee that an applicant will get a clearance or avoid consequences. But if nothing else, competent counsel can spot potential problems, advise on options, and refer a client to experts in other fields – such as criminal defense or bankruptcy – if necessary.  Think of it as arming oneself with knowledge.

With all that said, individuals considering some due diligence measures before applying or reapplying for a security clearance should prepare themselves for the eventuality of bad news. It is relatively rare that this attorney is forced to advise a client that applying or reapplying for a security clearance is not worth the risk, but it does happen. In those situations, some clients are grateful for the guidance but others are so deeply in denial about their situation and the risk exposure it creates that they react with disfavor or hostility to the advice.

In any such situation, disappointment is natural and understandable. Yet sometimes the most valuable legal advice is the guidance that helps a client dodge a proverbial bullet – even if it means not pursuing the course of conduct for which the client had originally sought the attorney’s advice.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit