Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act – Empirical Support

The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act is again winding its way through Congress (H.R. 151 and S. 27).   This legislation would create a law clerk program in Congress much like judicial clerkships for recent law school graduates.

In the Washington University Law Review, Dakota S. Rudesill, who has written on this topic before, argues for this legislation with new empirical support.

In “Closing the Legislative Experience Gap: How A Legislative Clerk Program Will Benefit the Legal Profession and Congress,” Rudesill writes:

“[T]his legislation may die in the Senate as it did last session, unless the legal profession and Congress come to a better and more broadly held understanding of a congressional clerkship program’s potential benefits.

One is that over time it would begin to correct the profound comparative lack of legislative work experience among the legal profession’s leaders that my empirical research has identified. Here, I present new data demonstrating that the incidence of legislative work experience among the profession’s top 500 lawyers, as ranked by Lawdragon.com, trails badly behind experience working for courts, government executive bodies, in private practice, and in academe. These empirical findings supplement my study in this publication in 2008, which focused on federal appellate jurists and law professors at Top 20 law schools.

I argue that closing the legislative experience gap ultimately will benefit the profession and Congress by helping both of these key legal players better understand-and take more seriously-an under-appreciated reality: legislative work is legal work. I conclude by refuting objections, and encouraging lawyers to engage with Congress in support of the bill.”

The comment has some fascinating statistics.  For example, “less than 4 percent” of the “legal superstars” (from lawdragon.com) have worked inside a legislature.   “Academic experience is more than four times as common, private practice and judicial experience are nearly six times as common, and executive branch government experience is nearly seven times as common.”

The article closes with a plea to contact your Senator and ask for their support of S.27, along with a single page download that summarizes the legislation.

Congressional Clerkship Act

To commemorate Constitution Day, consider the following legislation that is working its way through Congress.   H.R. 6475: Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act of 2008 passed the House earlier this month and was introduced today in the Senate by Schumer (D-NY) and his co-sponsor Clinton (D-NY).  Below is a brief summary from the Congressional Research Service:
“Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act of 2008 – Establishes the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Program for the appointment of individuals who are graduates of accredited law schools to serve as Congressional Clerks in the Senate or House of Representatives.
Requires the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on House Administration to each select at least six individuals for a one-year term to serve as employees in their respective chambers.
Specifies eligibility criteria for a Congressional Clerk, including that the selected candidate be a graduate of such a law school as of the starting date of his or her clerkship.
Requires the committees to ensure that Congressional Clerks selected under this Act are apportioned equally between majority and minority party offices.
Entitles each clerk selected to the same compensation as, and comparable benefits to, an individual who holds the position of a judicial clerkship for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia within three months of graduating from law school.”
To read more about this and discover the Stanford Law School connection to the legislation, read the Stanford Law School press release.