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Legislative Careers – Work On Capitol Hill As A Law Grad

Capitol Hill jobs for lawyers are explained in today’s career video by our guest David Sadkin, who worked for Congress as senior counsel to the US House Government Reform & Oversight Committee. David shares his insights on these legislative careers from his experience working as a government lawyer and describes some of the different jobs on the Hill, particularly for law grads.

If you’re exploring law degree jobs and have a passion for politics, public policy, or advancing a specific subject area, David tells us that working on the Hill is a great way to mix all of that with serving your country, meeting a diverse network of interesting people, and building a strong foundation for your career.

  Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Investment advisor David SadkinCapitol Hill Veteran David Sadkin
Title: Former Sr. Counsel to the US House Gov’t Reform & Oversight Committee
City: Los Angeles, CA
Law School: Harvard Law School in Cambridge, MA
College: University of Illinois in Champaign, IL
Current Career: Today David is a financial investment advisor at Bel Air Investment Advisors in Los Angeles.
David’s Videos: Capitol Hill Jobs For Lawyers & David’s Career Advice

Capitol Hill Jobs For Lawyers

With 435 House members and 100 Senators, David tells us that there are plenty of staff positions on the Hill that could use your law background – you’ve just got to aggressively network your way into these competitive spots.

In the full career video, David explains the differences between some of the different Capitol Hill jobs for lawyers – from working for a member of Congress as personal office staff to committee staff to government lawyer roles. If you’re wondering what to do with a law degree after working on the Hill, David covers that in the video below too!



This is a preview of the video transcript on Capitol Hill work opportunities.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career guidance video library & transcripts.

Luber: Hey everyone – Are you one of the many lawyers who feels drawn to work in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill? We’re gonna be looking at some of your options! We’re exploring Capitol Hill jobs for lawyers today on JD Careers Out There – so stick around!


Alright – As you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths you can do with a law degree – both in law practice as well as other law degree jobs – and we do this to help you find a career that fits you – so you can love what you do.

I’m Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree in alternative ways – from working in the music business to becoming a legal recruiter. I’ve been consulting lawyers on their careers since 2003. It’s my mission here to help you find career fulfillment.

Today I’m gonna talk to David Sadkin, a former Congressional committee Senior Counsel. After graduating from Harvard Law School in the 90s, Dave moved to Washington, DC and spent 6 months bartending while he fought his way into a great gig on the Hill. Dave ultimately rose to be the Senior Counsel to the House Government Reform & Oversite Committee under Congressman Henry Waxman. He’s got a lot of great advice to share.

Dave, welcome to JD Careers Out There.

David Sadkin: Thanks for having me, Marc.

Luber: Dave, tell us about some of the different Capitol Hill jobs for lawyers.

David Sadkin: Well, for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with how Washington works, there’s two types of staff on Capitol Hill.

There’s personal office staff, and these are the people that deal with constituent services and deal with the members’ issues, whether they’re writing speeches or figuring out how to vote on a particular issue.

And then there’s committee staff – and those are really more of the professionals. Those are the lawyers that are out there. They’re writing the legislation, conducting investigations. So the committee staff, there’s a little bit more substance to the job than working for an individual member.

So what happened was when I started working on Capitol Hill, it happened to be a time when there was a big high-profile investigation going on. I joined a committee staff, spent several years working on the staff and then, just through the normal course of employment, you just start to get more seniority – especially in a place like Washington, where much of the staff is very young and right out of school.

If you spend enough time in Washington, you start to develop more of an expertise, more of a reputation, become more of a trusted advisor and you climb through the ranks.

Luber: So then what are you doing on a regular day in that role? Who are you interacting with and what are your responsibilities?

David Sadkin: Well, it all depends on which committee you’re working on. There are some committees that have a lot of legislative responsibilities and they’re actually drafting the laws. They’re doing research, they’re holding hearings, they’re figuring out what various stakeholders’ positions are and trying to craft legislation that will accomplish their goals. That’s kind of the traditional committee staff.

Our committee was slightly different because we were the investigative arm of Congress. We were the committee responsible for conducting investigations, primarily of the executive branch.

So, the primary function of Congress is to enact legislation, but the secondary role is to conduct oversight and that’s to make sure – it’s one of the checks and balances, under the constitution, is that Congress has oversight responsibility of the executive branch.

So our job was to make sure that there was a fair and balanced investigation of certain behavior by the executive branch to make sure – the majority at the time was trying to make a case that the executive branch acted inappropriately, and our job was not to defend the executive branch – they could defend themselves, but just to make sure that the investigation was being conducted in a fair and balanced way so that it wasn’t being used for partisan political purposes but actually for the legitimate purpose of making sure that the appropriate checks and balances were in place.

Luber: Wow! So it’s a pretty important job.

David Sadkin: It’s a very important job.

Luber: Was working on Capitol Hill your goal when you went to law school?

David Sadkin: No. I was your typical law student. And that is, I went with what was the path of least resistance. When law firms came to campus to interview, everyone I knew was interviewing with law firms for a job as a summer associate and I took the same route.

I actually spent both my summer after my first year and my second year working in fairly large law firms. And it was after my second summer, when I got back to school, and I just felt very dissatisfied with the work I had done that summer.

I felt that I was just a cog in the wheel. I didn’t really feel like I was doing anything that was personally satisfying to myself.

Luber: I want to interrupt – these firms were in Chicago, right? You’re from Chicago, you’re not from DC. So it’s not like your family’s all connected in DC. Everyone should realize that, right?

David Sadkin: Right, I grew up in Chicago and I spent both my summers in Chicago, went back to law school – I was at Harvard, and I was talking to a friend of mine in school and we were talking about our summer.

I said, “I just didn’t really like being at the law firm, I had an offer, I was going to get paid a lot of money, what seemed like a lot of money at the time, and I just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me” and she had worked on Capitol Hill before law school and said to me, “you really should go to Washington – I think you’re perfect for it, you’re going to love it, you’re really interested in the issues”.

I was at the time and still am a committed environmentalist. I felt that I really wanted to work on something that would be meaningful and so I decided to…I basically turned down the law firm and spent the following spring break literally pacing the halls of Capitol Hill trying to get any meeting I could get with anyone who I had any remote connection to.

And then I decided, after studying for the bar exam, I was just going to move to Washington, which was some advice I’d gotten. If you want to be on Capitol Hill you have to be in Washington. So I moved to Washington.

Luber: I love it. In the full video interview, Dave will tell us how you don’t have to go to a fancy, smarty pants school like Harvard to work on Capitol Hill. He’ll talk more about the different Capitol Hill jobs for lawyers, how YOU can do them and how YOU can break in to these roles.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the deep-dive career path video interviews & transcripts that will help you find and land a career that fits you. Check out what people are saying about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.

[theme song]

©2015 Careers Out There

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Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.