Clinic student provided counsel to the Domestic Violence Clinic and the Human Rights Clinic, developing a resolution and strategy for having both the Austin City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court declare freedom from domestic violence to be a human right.
Legislative Lawyering Clinic
Practice Law, Make Law.
The Legislative Lawyering Clinic prepares students for intellectually-rewarding careers as legislative lawyers—lawyers who practice at the intersection of law and politics. Legislative lawyers help legislators, governors, administrators, and judges make and interpret law because of both their keen understanding of how law is created and their strong set of skills in reading and crafting legal texts.
Clinic alumni have worked as law clerks on Capitol Hill in D.C. and found post-graduation employment with the Legislature and nonprofits engaged in legislative advocacy.
Legislative lawyers practice in an area of law intensely focused on the functions, operations, and processes of governing at the Federal, state, and local levels. They advise clients on how legislatures should respond to executive activity and judicial decisions, how executives control policy agendas and administrative agencies, and how judges read and interpret governing instruments. Legislative lawyers practice before officials, bodies, and tribunals shaped by the rawest of political forces: the voters.
Students working as legislative counsel in the Legislative Lawyering Clinic counsel clients, research and prepare legislation and higher-level written legal work such as legislative testimony, bill analyses, options memos/briefing papers, and other material used by political decision makers. Students work directly with the client’s lawyers, top management, other stakeholders, and government officials and their staffs.
While anyone can become a lobbyist or political strategist (careers for which the Clinic does not train students), a legislative lawyer occupies a unique position in the political process. A successful legislative lawyer practices law in a political setting to ease the conflicts between law, politics, and policy—they combine substantive legal knowledge with political understanding to produce good law and good policy.
Distinguished alumnus Sam Rayburn, ’08, hoped for a legislative process that would “write such just laws that shall in the years to come be of service to humankind yet unborn.” By preparing students for that task, the Legislative Lawyering Clinic furthers the public service mission of The University and contributes to the continued “maintenance, support and direction of a University of the first class”.
What Our Clients Say
“Thanks for all of your help and insight. The student lawyers did a good job explaining their proposed ordinances and managing the legal and political discussions and questions with the Planning and Zoning Commission, the City Council, and our citizens. They handled sensitive issues with tact and worked to help us achieve our goals. The Legislative Lawyering Clinic is one of the best things about Texas Law—I wish it had been there when I was a law student!” —Susan C. Rocha, ’82, City Attorney, City of Buda, and Partner, Denton Navarro Rocha & Bernal P.C., San Antonio
Cases and Projects
A Clinic student worked closely with the director and staff of the Tarleton Law Library to propose state adoption of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, which is designed to ensure the integrity of legal material posted online. This student guided law school faculty in the preparation of written and oral testimony before the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
One pair of students analyzed rulemaking proposed by the Texas Ethics Commission designed to curb the use of “dark money” – campaign contributions secretly funneled through non-profit corporations – in Texas elections. These students submitted written comments to the Ethics Commission, analyzing the constitutionality of the proposed rule and offering substantive changes to ensure that the resulting rule is lawfully applied and legally defensible. In the wake of hallmark campaign finance cases such as Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC , these students were at the cutting edge of state-level efforts to ensure transparency in the democratic process.