About Our Clinic
Students in the Federal Legislation Clinic learn legislative lawyering skills through practice for clients, classroom discussion, and intensive exercises. The students take the lead, with primary responsibility for advising and representing the client. The Professor and two Teaching Fellows provide individualized supervision, training, feedback, and evaluation.
1. LEGISLATIVE LAWYERING: FIELDWORK FOR CLINIC CLIENTS (avg. 20 hours/week)
Throughout the term, most of the students’ learning occurs by doing legislative lawyering work on behalf of their clients. The students are in the lead, with the Director and Fellows as guides via training and supervision. During the term, students are primarily responsible for:
- Conducting the Clinic’s relationship with the client;
- Developing projects and establishing deadlines in consultation with the client;
- Developing and executing project plans;
- Doing the research, analysis, writing, and presenting that goes into projects;
- Advising the client;
- As circumstances warrant, representing the client – including potentially negotiating on behalf of the client – with third parties on Capitol Hill or elsewhere.
- Practicing reflective lawyering by considering their ethical obligations and professional development responsibilities.
Clinic fieldwork may also include attending coalition meetings, working group meetings, congressional hearings, and briefings.
2. CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION AND DISCUSSION (avg. 4-6 hours/week)
The Clinic meets up to three times per week for seminar sessions. During the first half of the semester, the in-class portion of the Clinic will include discussions focused on learning the organization and operation of the federal legislative and executive branches; how law, process, policy, politics, and personalities (the “LP4 factors”) shape their decision-making; and how to advocate successfully to and within these branches. Some sessions will include visits from special guests or skill-building exercises. Preparation for class and active participation in class are expected.
It is not enough, however, to understand intellectually how the LP4 factors come together to shape decision-making by Congress and the Executive Branch. Able legislative lawyers also develop a sharp sense of these contextual factors and institutions, and they reflect frequently and deeply about their work and responsibilities. Accordingly, the Clinic provides several important opportunities for students to observe and engage firsthand with expert practitioners and key institutions.
- Distinguished Guests. Throughout the term, the Clinic will be visited by distinguished guests from practice who will offer their reflections on the qualities that distinguish successful lawyers in Art. I and II practice. These off-the-record sessions, in the Clinic’s collegial, conversation-based seminar environment, represent a remarkable learning opportunity.
- Field Trips. The Clinic may visit key institutions and individuals, such as the U.S. Congress, Executive Branch agencies, and senior leaders.
- Congressional Committee Meeting or Floor Watching. At least once per term, each student is required to attend a congressional committee hearing, markup, or other kind of formal meeting, OR watch the Senate or House floor in session (30 minutes if the student watches in person from the gallery, or 90 minutes straight if the student watches on C-SPAN). Attending a committee meeting in connection with a Clinic field trip or project satisfies this requirement.
3. WRITTEN & ORAL EXERCISES (range from 5-25 hours/week)
This Clinic combines its practice and classroom work with an intensive series of exercises that build essential legislative lawyering skills. Through these experiential activities and simulations, students learn by practicing (and reflecting on) the day-to-day activities of legislative lawyers.
Many of the Clinic’s exercises focus on aspects of practice before Congress and the Executive Branch that are different from litigation and other forms of practice. While students may perform some traditional legal research related to legislative history or judicial interpretation, our work focuses on navigating Capitol Hill and the “dance of legislation.” Our students learn to write and speak concisely and precisely. They work with non-lawyers and lawyers, in Congressional offices and in taxi cabs, through formal procedures and hallway conversations. They learn to form relationships and shape laws.
The Clinic’s exercises also emphasize self-reflective lawyering and practicing with integrity despite serious time and personality pressures. Students receive extensive feedback throughout the semester and learn how their skills transfer to other practice environments.
The Clinic’s primary exercises are:
- Clinic Daily Brief (CDB) – Four times during the semester, two Clinic students are responsible for providing the Professor, Fellows, and any special guests with a concise and precise written and oral briefing on current activities in Congress and the Executive Branch, and recent developments. The CDB is often delivered under Washington field conditions.
- Legislative Simulation – Over the course of three weeks, students do all the research, legislative drafting, written and oral advocacy, politicking, negotiation, and use of congressional committee procedural rules done by Members and staff in advance of and during a committee markup. A markup is a committee meeting at which a draft bill is debated and amended before being sent to the floor. The simulation is open-universe, with most real world facts and law applying. Meanwhile, all usual Clinic activities continue, including practice for clients, giving student lawyers the experience of having to balance competing responsibilities in legislative practice.
- Pitch Meeting – Once each term, every student practices advocating on behalf of a legislative, regulatory, or other policy proposal to decision-makers in Congress or the Executive Branch. The roles of key officials are played by current and former Congressional staffers and others.
4. INDIVIDUALIZED SUPERVISION & FEEDBACK (approximately 1-2 hours/week)
All students meet weekly with their supervisor(s) for 30-60 minutes. These meetings include time for project planning, updates on fieldwork, revising written materials, reflection, and other questions or issues that arise during the semester. Some of the most intensive individualized student-supervisor contact in the Clinic occurs in relation to a student's research, analysis, and drafting of one or more legislative lawyering documents, and the related presentations and advice to the client.