Senators Introduce the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act of 2016

December 6, 2016

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the Daniel Webster Congressional Clerkship Act, Monday, a bill that would improve the business of Congress and increase the public’s understanding of its work by establishing a structured congressional clerkship program for recent law school graduates and young lawyers. 

“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,” Sen. Leahy said.  “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, comprised of Larry Kramer, former Dean of Stanford Law School; Robin West, law professor at Georgetown University Law Center; Bill Treanor, Dean of Georgetown University Law Center; Abbe Gluck, law professor at Yale Law School; and Dakota Rudesill, law 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, named after Daniel Webster, is considered one of the most admired and distinguished lawyers and legislators to ever serve in Congress.