Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

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Anonymous User
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Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:13 pm

Hi all,

I am a 3L at GULC. I'm currently a law clerk for a Senate Committee on the Hill. (I feel comfortable saying this as there are many GULC 3Ls who are law clerks for Senate Committees :-P).

I am considering taking a counsel/LA type position in a Senator's personal office on the Hill post graduation. I would essentially be riding some fellowship $$ (thanks, GULC) until after November. Hill hiring is basically frozen right now for any mid or senior level position (especially counsel positions), as everyone is sitting tight to see what happens in the election. I obviously work for a party, but specifying which isn't entirely essential as it's prob 50/50 right now on who takes/retains the Senate. Obviously my party taking/retaining the Senate will influence my job prospects immensely. The outcome of the presidential race will also have an effect. Regardless, I'd say my prospects are very good considering my resume, experience and the connections I've made.

There is, however, a small % chance of disaster based on a perfect storm of election results in November & very bad luck. If I were to, say, work for 6-9 months post-graduation on the Hill (I've already been clerking there since last year part time), disaster were to strike, (meaning I couldn't acquire a Senate LA level position or higher), and I wanted to transition into private practice, how would I fare?

So, to sum my resume up at that point, I'd have:

-6+ months filling a law clerk/counsel/LA/whatever position for Senator's personal office post-grad
-9 months clerking for a Senate Committee while in school
-2L summer boutique litigation firm
-1L summer government work

The Hill jobs obviously contain no litigation work, but I do work on things directly relevant to the practice of law. It's not like I'm running around doing policy studies on the efficacy of windmills or something. Most of my work concerns constitutional law, SCOTUS precedent, how new legislation affects that, etc. and does require analysis of ongoing litigation, both at the appellate and trial court levels.

But if come January next year I decide the opportunities on the Hill aren't worth it... can I go back and start interviewing with private firms (civil litigation) and expect to get bites? Or will they look at my resume and say "this kid is a policy wonk and will jump at the first Hill job that opens and leave our firm." There is, of course, something to be said for practice experience and then going back to the Hill 3-4 years later. I just don't want to do that right now with my foot solidly in the door.

What if we change the hypo a bit and I find myself a successful position on the Hill but decide 10 years from now I wanna give it all up and go into private practice? Will I be laughed at?

My 2L summer job was at a boutique litigation firm, but nothing will be coming of that (for reasons completely unrelated to me). Firm jobs are hard to get right now. Symplicity is pretty bare and I struck out at OCI (18 interviews 2 callbacks). I'm roughly top 1/3 of the class, maybe a little outside of it. I am extremely good at networking (which is how I got myself to the spot I'm in now with relatively little Hill experience to speak of).

I do love policy and politics and I want to jump in on the Hill. I just wonder if I should "play it safe" and go for the litigation experience first and reevaluate 3-5 years down the road. I also wonder how big of a gamble this is. What if I don't get that job I think I will 9 months from now? Am I relegated to begging for court appointed work?

Oh and student loan debt is a concern, but GULC's generous LRAP will likely ease most if not all of that.

I apologize in advance if this post is scatterbrained or my questions are stupid. This is a stressful time. Thank you for your help.

Edit - Oh and I don't have a journal, but I did do some clinic work.

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NinerFan
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby NinerFan » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:What if we change the hypo a bit and I find myself a successful position on the Hill but decide 10 years from now I wanna give it all up and go into private practice? Will I be laughed at?



Political career ---> Private career seemed to work out okay for Sam Seaborn.

But in all seriousness, if you work on the hill as a non-lawyer (it sounds like your job is going to be writing analysis memos for someone), I find it hard to believe you can just waltz into a big law job afterwards. The government ---> biglaw transitions I've heard of have all been from actual lawyer positions in departments like the DOJ, SEC, etc.

Maybe, if you have connections, you could find an entry level-ish job at a smaller firm. Your practical experience will be nil, so they'll basically have to train you up from nothing. A traditional law firm probably isn't going to go for that.

Anonymous User
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:45 am

I was considering doing the same thing. My question is- is there a chance of getting a position higher than a LA? I mean, can't undergrads be Legislative Assistants?

All of the counsels seem to have previous experience, which makes me think someone out of law school won't be given the title of attorney, which could spell career doom.

LawIdiot86
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby LawIdiot86 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:12 am

OP, pm me if you're comfortable talking in greater detail, I think I have some specific advice for you.

Voodoo94
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Voodoo94 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:19 am

I was considering doing the same thing. My question is- is there a chance of getting a position higher than a LA? I mean, can't undergrads be Legislative Assistants?


There is a world of difference between an LA in the Senate and an LA in the House.

An LA in a Senator's personal office is a really good job coming out of grad/law school if you can get it.

srfngdd6
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby srfngdd6 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:29 am

NinerFan wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What if we change the hypo a bit and I find myself a successful position on the Hill but decide 10 years from now I wanna give it all up and go into private practice? Will I be laughed at?



Political career ---> Private career seemed to work out okay for Sam Seaborn.
But in all seriousness, if you work on the hill as a non-lawyer (it sounds like your job is going to be writing analysis memos for someone), I find it hard to believe you can just waltz into a big law job afterwards. The government ---> biglaw transitions I've heard of have all been from actual lawyer positions in departments like the DOJ, SEC, etc.

Maybe, if you have connections, you could find an entry level-ish job at a smaller firm. Your practical experience will be nil, so they'll basically have to train you up from nothing. A traditional law firm probably isn't going to go for that.



Actuually LOL'd for a solid 10 seconds...great reference

gulcregret
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby gulcregret » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:29 am

Honestly, there are difficult choices to be made here. To reiterate, a Senate LA is a good position and you will get mad experience and connections. If you are handling any specific area of law, you can become an "expert" in five years or so. You could hedge that into a policy group at a law firm. If you did healthcare, you would go to Patton Boggs. If you wait 10 years, your loans are wiped out and you have more experience than most all hill staffers. Odds are you will have mad connections and you could join a policy firm at a high level with a rather large salary.

The Democrats will still control the Senate after the elections. Anyone who says different is just plain wrong. So if you work for them, then you could have a shot at an assistant counsel position with whatever committee you are with currently. Congressional budgets are tight right now though.

In your worst case scenario, you get a few extra months of experience and are looking for a job in the new year. Depending on what practice area interests you, look for positions regarding that. Pass the bar somewhere, that will help. But keep in mind BigLaw is not generally going to hire entry level attorneys unless they have a specific practice need. Right now, employee benefits seems to be growing. Forget about litigation in a big firm, it will not likely happen, unless you know some people. Look into policy jobs, leverage your connections, and keep fighting for a position on the hill. Senators can pretty much pay you whatever. I have discussed this topic at length with staffers and the going rate seems to be around $70k right out of law school. But you can move up really quick and make $100k in just a few years. No one sticks around on the hill. Seriously, five years is considered a great deal ok experience and institutional knowledge.

Takeaway is that biglaw will only be an option if you have demonstrated interest and experience in a specific practice area for which a firm is looking to hire. While this is possible, your hill experience might be hard to spin for a traditional biglaw job.

Good luck. PM me if you want to discuss further. I worked on the hill and am considering going back instead of doing biglaw because I am addicted to power.

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El_Gallo
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby El_Gallo » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:07 pm

gulcregret wrote:Senators can pretty much pay you whatever. I have discussed this topic at length with staffers and the going rate seems to be around $70k right out of law school. But you can move up really quick and make $100k in just a few years.


Dang. 70K starting out with upward mobility while doing interesting/meaningful work? It sounds too good to be true. I wish I had applied to GULC.

gulcregret
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby gulcregret » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:52 pm

On the House side, a lawyer, even entry level would be overqualified and not paid nearly enough. The senate has larger budgets and if you are worth it, they will give you the salary and the work to make it worthwhile. And you don't have to be a GULC grad to get these jobs. It's more about who you know.

Napt
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Napt » Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:09 pm

gulcregret wrote:The Democrats will still control the Senate after the elections. Anyone who says different is just plain wrong.

Why do you say that? All betting prediction markets have the GOP gaining control of the Senate, and most polls seem to be indicating the same.

Scottie2Hottie
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Scottie2Hottie » Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:26 pm

After 10 years on the hill you should have worked your up to committe counsel or legislative director. If your really good at networking you could be chief of staff pulling in anywhere from 120-220K depending on the congressmen/senator. After you get that LRAP student loan problem you can easily get into a lobbyist position in a pricate firm. Am a 0L but have worked on the hill and have seen this cycle pay out

Anonymous User
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:48 pm

OP here:

Thanks for all the great advice guys. I think you all make really good points, and the observations about House v. Senate are very accurate from my limited experience. This is just such a difficult crossroads because I'm talking about potentially giving up ever practicing law to chase dreams on the Hill. There's no doubt that my law degree will be incredibly helpful (I mean, the positions often have "counsel" attached for a reason), but it's just... different.

I've PM'd several of you guys, and thank you for your time.

Edit - and yeah I basically have no interest in the House unless it's a really senior position and/or with a prominent, powerful member.

Anonymous User
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:25 pm

Do you have any idea what you're leaning towards doing? I was considering using my fellowship interning for a committee in the hopes of getting hired. Not sure though... I've kind of put it on the backburner.

I'm just concerned that being a Legislative Assistant is kind of like being a non-partner track associate- you can be excellent, but you still won't get that counsel title because someone from a firm will come in and get it.

HookemHooker
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby HookemHooker » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:54 pm

5 years of experience working on Capitol Hill and Big Fed.

Some major points to consider
1) You can run into the same issues working as a Senate LA and House LA. The experience in both will largely depend on the Member or Senator. So do not just accept a Senate LA position because it is in the Senate. I would strongly consider a prestigious House position over a generic Senate position. In the House, you would be part of a smaller staff and have a better opportunity to interact with the member.

2) Going to private practice from Congress is difficult. The truth is no matter how you characterize your work, you will be doing policy work. Slight exception is the Judiciary Committee. But even of-counsel positions in the vast majority of offices deal mostly with policy work. Going to Govt. will be much easier though.

3)ONE EXCEPTION- is lobbying/law firms. Breaking into lobbying, however, is not easy. You will have to work at least 5 years for a prestigious office. Otherwise you can end up in the sh*t law of lobbying. (Think something like attending a 2 hour cocktail party to meet with Congressman Joe Barton.) And yes there is sh*t law lobbying.

4) Do not underestimate the election cycle, retirement, or personal issues that may hurt your Member/Senator. Turn over in both the House and Senate are crazy for a reason. Staff positions are not very stable. And although you can latch on to another office, you will likely be fighting tooth and nail with other qualified applicants. Just something to keep in mind if stability is a major factor.

EdgarWinter
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby EdgarWinter » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:16 pm

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Last edited by EdgarWinter on Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:17 pm

Would work for the Judiciary Committee translate back to private practice unlike work for other areas?

HookemHooker
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby HookemHooker » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:Would work for the Judiciary Committee translate back to private practice unlike work for other areas?


Very difficult to say. The Judiciary Committee deals with legal issues but at a very aggregate level. most of the analysis is still largely policy as with the rest of the committees. With the exception of K-Street, firms focus on litigation, M&A, and contracts. Any analysis of legislative bills and their impact is considered policy work. As a staffer you will not be working on actual legal docs, preparing discovery, or even traditional doc review.

Staffers do lateral to hybrid law/lobbying firms. However, that is way too far down the road . The nice lobbying jobs also have a pecking order. (Think Cabinet directors>undersecretaries>deputy secretaries>Senators & Congressmen/women>staffers for ranking members and committees.) For now you should consider the Hill IF you want policy work. Do not base your decision regarding the Hill on some unreliable career prediction of what will happen in 5 or 10 years. This isn't a bad thing, just the reality of Hill work. Working as a staffer is an adventure.

Govt. might be a better option if you are really worried about maintaining a fall back into Biglaw. Experience working with regs and govt. processes is more desirable than Hill experience for most law firms inside and outside the Beltway.

gulcregret
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby gulcregret » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:02 pm

Generally agree with what was said above. If you have a chance to work on House Ways and Means or Financial Services, then take that over working for a Senator. A good entry level position that typically hires are investigations. Almost every committee has an investigations staff and you can make the valuable contacts to move up.

Honestly though, this career path is much more about personal skills than other skills. I currently know a counsel to a very prominent Senator who is by many accounts, highly "unqualified" for the job he has. However, he is a close friend of the Senator so he has a sweet $170k job where he works 3 days a week in DC and is in his home state the rest of the time. That's the nature of the game.

You could spend 30 years on the Hill and not be a Chief of Staff for a committee of a member. Or after three years, a new member could come in, love you, and promote you to COS or Leg Director, with a $150k salary. You have to keep a clean image and be likable.

Some BigLaw firms in DC do major lobbying work, Patton Boggs, Akin Gump, KL Gates, to name a few. Plus there are pure lobbying firms. They will all pay you pretty well. Even if you are an LA for a few years and gain expertise and contacts in a "hot" area of law you will be valuable to the private sector. Friend spent two years in the House but worked almost exclusively on Dodd-Frank, went to Reed Smith as a Legislative Counsel and makes $140k. This is a dude with a BS and two years hill experience. Another anecdote: another colleague, 15 years in health policy, moved up to Leg Director, not even COS, then went to HHS to roll out the ACA last year. Still makes about $130k.

oklahomabreakdown
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby oklahomabreakdown » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:45 pm

OP... I am a 2L at MD and I am trying to follow a similar career path and would like to pick your brain about how to pursue this career path. If you wouldn't mind pm me.

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Nestico87
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby Nestico87 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:03 pm

How difficult is it to get a summer internship as a legislative assistant in a U.S. Senator's office? Is this a viable option for 1L summer, or only 2L summer? I would really appreciate some helpful feedback.

tennisking88
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby tennisking88 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:10 pm

Nestico87 wrote:How difficult is it to get a summer internship as a legislative assistant in a U.S. Senator's office?


Quite difficult, as no such thing exists

gp86
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby gp86 » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:00 am

tennisking88 wrote:
Nestico87 wrote:How difficult is it to get a summer internship as a legislative assistant in a U.S. Senator's office?


Quite difficult, as no such thing exists


Yeah, "legislative aide" is an actual position. In the Senate, it's the most common senior staff position. It's difficult to make sweeping statements about how things work, but LAs generally have a graduate degree and/or significant Hill or political experience. And in my experience no LA will start off making 70k - 45k is probably more like it (eyeballing legistorm doesn't help because you have no idea how much experience a person has, and the experience range within the LA ranks is vast).

OP, if you get an LA position out of law school and you want to do politics, run with it. But if what you would go into is something more like an LC position, make sure it's something you'll be able to advance out of.

sheD
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby sheD » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:23 am

What about starting out in private practice for a few years and then moving on to the Hill? Do many people do that? I would think that working on the Hill for a semester might help make contacts that could keep you in the loop to make a transition later if you didn't want to forego more traditional legal experience out of the gate.

MoonshineJoe
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby MoonshineJoe » Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:15 pm

Hello fellow GULC students...

tennisking88 wrote:
Nestico87 wrote:How difficult is it to get a summer internship as a legislative assistant in a U.S. Senator's office?


Quite difficult, as no such thing exists


This is correct, but might be misleading. You won't be able to work for a summer as a legislative assistant, but you can get a summer (or fall/winter) position as an intern or, sometimes, law clerk. These positions are typically unpaid or very poorly compensated. Interns do everything from making copies to writing substantive memos, depending on the needs of the office. Typically, the positions are filled by college kids, but it is a way to get your foot in the door.

sheD wrote:What about starting out in private practice for a few years and then moving on to the Hill? Do many people do that? I would think that working on the Hill for a semester might help make contacts that could keep you in the loop to make a transition later if you didn't want to forego more traditional legal experience out of the gate.


This certainly happens. If you look at the resumes of committee counsel and staff directors they often, though not always, have experience at a law firm or agency beforehand. Typically, there is some connection between the work you've done at a firm and the work you would be doing on the Hill. If you've worked at the FEC you might get hired onto Ethics or if you worked on financial transactions you might find a position on the Financial Services Committee.

I think it is important to remember though that there are probably 500 other people, with similar qualifications, that want that job. Knowing someone who is working on the committee or in the personal office who will advocate for you is critical. Its not really a function of GPA/LR/academic pedigree in the same way firm hiring is.

desertlaw
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Re: Working on Capitol Hill & Beyond

Postby desertlaw » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:07 pm

1- When I was in undergrad, I worked for a congressman. Worked = answering phones and thus.

2 - Our legal counsel was a recent law school grad.

3 - she was hot and seemed really smart at the time.

4 - She graduated from some New York law school. I just assumed it was NYU. Then I told her about my 162 LSAT score and she was super impressed. I was really confused, because NYU is like T6.

5 - Found out later that she meant New York School of Law.

6 - she was still hot, not as smart.




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