The Federal Trade Commission has agreed to offer to minority persons 17 per cent of its job openings for attorneys next year and to take several other steps to increase the number of such employees in its highest-paying professional positions.

The agreement marks the first time that a federal agency has, without a court order, agreed to make a major overnaul of its hiring and promotion practices. The settlement affects about 600 positions in the agency, and will set an important precedent for similar cases throughout government, according to attorneys who specialize in racial discrimination cases.

As a part of the settlement to a two-year-old class action suit alleging racial discrimination at the agency, the FTC conceded that it "has in the past been less successful in hiring and retaining qualified minority employes than it has in hiring and retaining qualifed nonminority employes."

The agreement includes a requirement that the commission hire an outside consultant to review its personel policies and suggest necessary changes to correct any discriminatory practices that might be found.

It was reached following numerous negotiating sessions between attorneys for the commission and attorneys for minority FTC employes under the guidance of U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey.

FTC chairman Michael Pertschuk said he was "pleased with the settlement and proud of the action we have taken because it confirms our basic commitment to equal opportunity."

Among the unusual aspects of the agreement, which affects applicants for the past two years and the next five years for FTC jobs as attorneys, economists, accountants, research analysts, and computer specialists, are:

Appointment of a special administrator within the agency to supervise implementation of the decree.

A requirement that attorney applicants cannot be asked to list their LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) score, and that the LSAT cannot be used as a criterian for hiring or promotion decisions.

Special efforts to notify economics and law schools of the FTC's interest in hiring minorities.

Hiring of minority law students "who may not satisfy all traditional hiring criteria" but who would be given temporary jobs and judged on their performances.

Training of FTC supervisors and personnel specialists in Equal Employment policy, and annual grading of supervisors on their EEO performances.

Regular reviews of the amount of time spent "in-grade" by minorities and a comparison to the amount of time spent by nonminorities at he same pay scales.

Regular reports to Judge Richey for the next five years concerning the implementation of the agreement.

In addittion, the stipulation - which has been conditionally approved by Judge Richey pending final details and notification of class members - requires the FTC to pay any fees for plaintiffs' attorneys that arise over the implementation of the decree.

The agreement defines "minority persons" as blacks, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans. It affects those persons who are above the level of GS-9, the pay grade that begins at $15,000 per year.

The agreement was signed two years and one day after Donald L. Bachman filed the suit in federal court claiming he had been discriminated against because he had not been promoted to a GS-15 job at the agency. Bachman's suit was later certified as a class action for all blacks above the GS-9 level at the agency.

Roderic V.O. Boggs, an attorney for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, praised the FTC for demonstrating its "strong commitment" to equal employment opportunities at the agency in the future.

Boggs' group and Roger Warin, an attorney for the firm of Stepoe and Johnson, entered the case for the plainstiffs after Judge Richey ruled last fall that it was improper for members of the class continue to represent themselves. Boggs said that although there have been other court orders affecting alleged discriminations against government employes, the Bachman case sets an "important precedent" because it is a conset agreement.

Warin said there were at least 15 meetings over the past two months between attorneys for the plaintiffs and the FTC, and that at least 20 different drafts of the final agreement were considered.

In the agreement, the FTC chairman is required to inform each of the commissioners of the stipulation in writing and "shall encourage them to apply the spirit of this stipulation in their hiring and promotion decisions."