Article I of the U.S. Constitution establishes Congress as the federal government’s “first branch” and the primary author of federal law. Congress is, appropriately, also the branch most accountable to the people. Of the three branches, however, Congress is by far the least influential on the legal community’s constitutional perspective.
One major reason is that Congress is the least accessible to new lawyers in their formative first years: Congress lacks a program similar to the judiciary's clerkship program, or the Honors programs at executive branch agencies.
The legal community is also missing out on the opportunity to have its rising stars learn about legislation--the bread and butter of federal legal practice--from the inside. In contrast, the consistent flow of lawyers through apprenticeship programs in the courts and executive branch agencies has given the legal community a deep and constantly renewed grounding in judicial and administrative lawmaking.
Congress is missing out, too. Basic legal legislative work--statutory research, drafting, and analysis--often gets short shrift in busy Capitol Hill offices, reflected in shortcomings in Congress’s legal product. Congress would benefit from the fresh perspective, energy, and legal training of these temporary hires in their first years after law school, focused on the legislative branch’s legal work.
Legislation has been moving in Congress in recent years to establish a legislative law clerk program. This website provides a focal point for these efforts, and explains how you can help make this program a reality.