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Educators: Congress Needs Law Clerks

Publication Date: 
May 05, 2011
The National Law Journal
Karen Sloan

Dean Larry Kramer spoke with Karen Sloan of The National Law Review about the need for a congressional clerkship program, and the kind of impact it could have on law school graduates.

Each year, hundreds of energetic law graduates begin federal judicial clerkships--jobs that will shape their view of the courts and position them for some of the most sought-after jobs in the legal profession.

Others land White House fellowships, Bristow fellowships in the solicitor general's office or similar prestigious positions in executive branch agencies.

But when it comes to Congress--the body tasked with creating laws--there is no formal program to place newly minted lawyers in the offices of committees and lawmakers.


The idea isn't exactly new. Stanford University Law School Law Dean Larry Kramer floated the concept among his fellow deans in 2005, and legislation to create the clerkships has twice cleared the House of Representatives only to die in the Senate. But advocates think the time is right to renew the push for legislative clerks.


"The legal profession as such is extremely court-centered," Kramer said. "One of the reasons for that, I think, is that court clerkships are the first job out the door for many graduates of the best law schools in the country. They move on and become leaders in the profession, and it's incredible the extent to which that first job shapes their thinking and understanding about the profession."


For Kramer, it's just a matter of time before Congress comes around.

"This Congress, they're not spending a whole lot of money," he said. "But I think the success is eventual. It's just a small, good-government measure. We just have to stick with it and wait for that moment when the stars align. It's kind of beyond me why nobody thought of this before."