Degree and Certificate
Law students who successfully complete the Center for Legislative Practice program of study receive a J.D. degree accompanied by a legislative practice certificate. In addition, the accomplishment is noted on students' transcripts, which signals their unique preparation in legislation and administrative rule-making procedures.
The program of study for the Center for Legislative Practice begins in the second year of law school and provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary for legislative practice. The required courses focus on general topics involving the structure and operations of governmental agencies. They are:
Administrative Law (3 hours): Second or Third Year
A general overview of federal and state law spelling out the powers and principles of administrative agencies and the legal remedies available to persons wronged by administrative action.
State and Local Government Law (3 hours): Second or Third Year.
A study of the sources of, and limitations on, the power of local governmental units.
Legislation (2 hours): Second Year - Fall
A focus on the legislative process, constitutional requirements of state legislation, judicial construction of statutory words and phrases, and bill drafting.
Legislative Internship (2 hours): Second Year - Spring
The practical component of the Legislation course where students work with Iowa lawmakers during the annual legislative session.
Legislative Practice (2 hours): Third Year - Fall
A classroom component combined with individual assignments to assist with research and drafting on topical legislative initiatives for the Iowa General Assembly.
Legislative Practice Internship (2-3 hours): Third Year - Spring
Students are assigned as interns to public interest groups, associations or government agencies that are advocating for or against legislation, or to the research staffs of legislative caucuses or support agencies.
In addition, students are encouraged to take elective courses in a special interest area of their choice, one that is regulated by legislation and administrative rules. Students may choose courses in agricultural, environmental, business, family, education or health law. Armed with a thorough understanding of policy-making and a comprehensive background of knowledge in a specialty area, students are well prepared for the hands-on, practical experiences offered by the program.
Iowa's Capitol is located five minutes from the Drake campus. Its proximity to other state and federal offices, trade associations, union headquarters and public interest group agencies means students have numerous opportunities to learn first-hand how these institutions operate.
Some of the internships are lobbying positions. Others center around legislative functions such as drafting bills and amendments, analyzing legislation, helping with budget preparations or monitoring administrative rules. The Governor's Office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Legislative Service Bureau and the Secretary of Agriculture's Office are just a few examples of internship possibilities.
The potential also exists for internships outside of Iowa. Students interested in exploring opportunities in other legislative settings - such as Washington, D.C. - can do so with prior approval and arrangements.
Professional staffs that aid legislators in drafting bills and managing their fiscal responsibilities look to the legal profession for necessary expertise. Public interest groups, trade associations, unions and private law firms also need lawyers with legislative and administrative experience. Students who have completed a certified program in legislative practice are prime candidates for such positions.