Being able to identify prospective legal job opportunities before they become publicly known and responded to is a powerful job-search strategy that few law students or practitioners utilize. This out-of-the-box approach can enable you to go to the head of the pack and get your application to an employer before anyone else and often even before a job ad is posted. One of the best methods of doing this is to monitor proposed legislation.
While no one really wants to see how sausages and laws are made, holding your nose and monitoring the legislative process when it comes to serious bills that could enhance your future legal job prospects is a potentially winning strategy.
You need to ask two due diligence questions before committing to following a bill as it makes its way through the process:
First, what is the likelihood that this particular bill will become law? Not every introduced bill has “legs.” Members of Congress propose more than 10,000 bills in a typical legislative session. All but a few go nowhere and are not worth wasting your time following. You need to analyze each bill relevant to your job aspirations in order to understand which might be serious and have decent prospects for enactment, and which do not and thus can be ignored.
A sub-set of due diligence questions pointing to a bill’s prospects of becoming law should include:
Who is behind the bill? Legislation often originates outside Congress and state legislatures. Members receive proposed drafts from constituents, academics, special interest groups, lobbyists, state legislatures, executive branch departments and agencies, and the President or governor.
Who introduced the bill? Bills introduced by leadership or powerful committee chairpersons typically go to the top of the heap.
Who is co-sponsoring the bill? Multiple and/or bipartisan co-sponsors increase the probability that a bill will become law.
What has the bill’s progress been to date? Look for bills that are approved by the committee(s) to which they have been referred, bills passed by one House, or bills that passed during a prior session.
How did the votes go in committee and/or on the chamber floor? Large majorities mean a higher likelihood of a bill becoming law.
Second, if this bill becomes law, how will it affect my job or business prospects? Many bills that survive to enactment have a significant impact on the legal job market. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), for example, not only represented the most sweeping reform of financial services regulation in 80 years; it also spawned 400 regulations issued by multiple U.S. government financial regulatory agencies and several Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) that spurred both federal and private sector legal hiring while also generating a gold mine of business for outside law firms of all sizes.
An important principle that almost always accompanies major federal legislation is what I call Hermann’s Corollary to Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Sir Isaac’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Corollary states that for every major piece of federal legislation that creates new federal jobs, there are multiple private sector jobs created.
Politico’s Essential Guide to Legislation (12 pp.). Free This free, downloadable Guide provides a useful (and painless) precis of the step-by-step process showing how congressional bills become laws. The Guide breaks down each step of the legislative process in the House and Senate, the steps that can result in changes to legislation before it becomes law, as well as how the two houses resolve legislative differences. Go to http://www.politico.com/pro/register-guide-to-legislation?cid=701f2000000h6WP and complete the download form.
Sorry, there is no comparable guide to how sausages are made.