Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Professor Gluck Backs Bill to Create Congressional Clerkship

A new bill was re-introduced to Congress on July 25, 2017 that would establish the first ever congressional analogue to the federal judicial clerkship. The bill would establish a structured congressional clerkship program for recent law school graduates and young lawyers. The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act was backed by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). The bipartisan legislation was also supported by many in the academic community, including Yale Law School Professor Abbe R. Gluck ’00, who is a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee. The bill was initially submitted in 2016 and was raised again this summer.

“Strikingly few practicing lawyers, much less judges, have had any experience working in Congress,” Gluck said. “But in an era when the bulk of legal work is statutory work, we can no longer afford to have a profession that is ignorant of how Congress works or how federal legislation is made.” Gluck explained that top law students flock to judicial clerkships, government honors programs, public interest and academic fellowships and law firms to apprentice themselves.

“Where we send our graduates sends a loud signal about what experience we respect and what institutions the profession values,” added Gluck. “Congress simply should not be left off this list any longer.” 

Gluck, who worked in Congress before attending Yale Law School, has written a series of articles which have appeared in the Harvard, Stanford and Columbia Law Reviews documenting the gap between Congress and the courts. In 2011-2012, she conducted the largest empirical study in history of congressional drafting, which illustrated not only that many of the assumptions that courts make about Congress are mistaken but also that Congress is unaware of, or affirmatively rejects, many of the doctrines the courts apply to interpret legislation. 

The four Senatators who introduced this bill echoed Gluck’s sentiments, noting the importance of having a clerkship program for Congress.

“Unlike the Executive and Judicial branches, Congress currently lacks a structured program for recruiting and hiring recent law school graduates,” Sen. Lee said. “Too often this means that new attorneys, who are otherwise qualified and eager to work for Congress, do not even consider a congressional career and are instead pursuing other opportunities.”

“A clerkship can provide invaluable experience to a young lawyer at the start of his or her career,” added Sen. Leahy. “The federal judiciary has long had a clerkship program that teaches recent law school graduates the workings of the judicial branch.  Yet there has never been a formal clerkship program in Congress. Creating a pathway for more young lawyers to gain an understanding of how Congress works and the value of public service will lead to a greater embrace of public service.  I am proud to be introducing once again bipartisan legislation to encourage more young lawyers to work in the Congress.”

“We want to attract the best and the brightest to public service,” Sen. Hoeven said. “The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act will create a formal program to bring young, energetic and talented recent law graduates to work in the Senate and House and see firsthand representative democracy at work.”

“For many years, the brightest young minds coming out of law school have flocked to the federal courts and the executive branch for clerkships and fellowships,” Sen. Cruz said. “Unsurprisingly, this has contributed to the legal profession’s excessive focus on litigation and bureaucratic regulation, at the expense of legislative knowledge and development.  The Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act is a small, yet important step in the fight to change that trend.  Ideally, the Act will better position Congress to obtain top-notch services from stellar law school graduates, and it will give those graduates access to—and a much better understanding of—the legislative process.”

Committees in the Senate and the House will be responsible to select at least six clerks each year to perform a one-year clerkship. These committees would oversee the selection process in order to guarantee fair allotment between the majority and minority party offices.  

“Senators Lee, Leahy, Hoeven, and Cruz are to be applauded for their vision in championing this bipartisan legislation,” said the Coalition’s Steering Committee, composed of Larry Kramer, former Dean of Stanford Law School; Robin West, professor at Georgetown University Law Center; Bill Treanor, Dean of Georgetown University Law Center; Abbe Gluck, professor at Yale Law School; and Dakota Rudesill, professor at Ohio State.

“The problem is not that Congress does not have enough lawyers,” the Steering Committee noted.  “Rather, the problem is that Congress is not competitive for the opportunity to apprentice lawyers on the fast track to the legal profession’s most influential ranks.  Congress is missing the opportunity to shape the constitutional perspective of the law’s future leaders.  That is because unlike the federal courts, federal agencies, law firms, and law schools, Congress lacks a regularized apprenticeship program that is readily accessible to any top new law graduate, on the basis of objective qualifications,” the Coalition’s Steering Committee emphasized.

This bill is named after Daniel Webster, who is considered one of the most admired and distinguished lawyers and legislators to ever serve in Congress.