Congress Needs a Clerkship Program

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.

The Latest

THE BILL IS ON THE MOVE IN CONGRESS - AND YOU CAN HELP!

Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) re-introduced the bill as S. 1458.

We are honored to have such influential champions in the Senate: the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Legislative Branch, and the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The companion House bill is expected to be introduced soon by Reps. Peter King (R-NY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) with an extensive bipartisan cast of cosponsors.

Sign the National Petition and Write to Congress urging your Senator or House Member to cosponsor the bill!    

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Read about our efforts at:

The Hill, a legendary Capitol Hill publication
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/judicial/198235-judges-could-use-legislative-experience

The Ohio State Moritz College of Law Sidebar
http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/alumni-old/sidebar/article.php?ID=1015&type=story&sidebarID=99

The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/opinion/starting-out-the-lawyers-apprentice.html?ref=letters&_r=0

Georgetown Law Alumni Magazine Res Ipsa Loquitur
http://www.pageturnpro.com/Progress-Printing/37576-GL_SpringSummer2012/index.html#42

Point of Order Blog
http://www.pointoforder.com/2011/10/15/a-congressional-clerkship-program-or-how-larry-kramer-went-back-in-time-and-stole-my-idea/

Wall Street Journal Law Blog
http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/05/06/congressional-clerks-an-idea-whose-time-has-come/

National Law Journal - Educators: Congress Needs Law Clerks
http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202493152192&src=EMC-Email&et=editorial&bu=National%20Law%20Journal&pt=NLJ.com-%20Daily%20Headlines&cn=20110506nlj&kw=Educators%3A%20Congress%20needs%20law%20clerks&slreturn=1&hbxlogin=1

ABA Law Student Division - 11th Circuit Newsletter
http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_students/about_us/circuits/11th_circuit.html

Stanford Law School News Blog
http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/newsfeed/2011/04/07/the-daniel-webster-congressional-clerkship-initiative/

Georgetown University Law Center News
http://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/web-stories/a-new-push-for-congressional.cfm

Work Studies Blog
http://workstudies.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/legislative-clerkship-conference-at-georgetown-law/

First One @ One First
http://f11f.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/legislative-tangent-day/

Georgetown Federalist Society Blog
http://georgetownfedsoc.blogspot.com/2011/03/congressional-clerkship-initiative.html