Here Is What You Should Know about the US Impeachment Process

Former president Donald Trump became the first in history to be impeached twice during his presidency and was subsequently acquitted both times. While these processes made history, they also created some confusion about how the entire impeachment process works and the constitutional law that underlies the steps necessary to impeach and then remove a leader from office.

Many people use the term impeachment to refer to the process of an official being removed from office following a quasi-criminal proceeding. However, impeachment legally refers only to the quasi-criminal proceedings that come before removal, which is how a president can be impeached but not removed. If acquitted, the official can continue with the duties of the office with only a blemish on their record.

Impeachment involves a complex series of steps that the legislature takes, with each body holding different responsibilities. The House of Representatives undertakes what is essentially a grand jury inquest, while the Senate undertakes an entire trial with the Chief Justice presiding. Importantly, impeachment is not just directed at presidents, but all civil officers, including federal judgeships. However, the legislature delegates much of the impeachment process to committees when the office in question is lower than the presidency. Historically, seven judges have been found guilty and removed from office through the impeachment process. When the official involved is a president, all Congressional members must be involved in the proceedings.

An Overview of the Presidential Impeachment Process

The entire presidential impeachment process begins with the House Judiciary Committee, which deliberates on whether an impeachment inquiry is justified given the relevant circumstances. If the Judiciary Committee agrees to move forward with impeachment, they then adopt a resolution that seeks authority from the entire House of Representatives to conduct an official inquiry into the questioned action. The House votes on this resolution after sufficient debate. A majority vote is required for the resolution to pass. With that majority vote, the Judiciary Committee conducts the impeachment inquiry, which may include public hearings. Following this inquiry, representatives draft articles of impeachment that must be approved by a majority of the Judiciary Committee before getting introduced to the entirety of the House.

The entire House of Representatives reads and debates the articles of impeachment that were approved by the Committee. Each article needs a majority vote from the House to pass. If an article is approved by the majority, then the president is technically impeached and the entire process moves to the Senate.

For its part, the Senate holds a trial on the articles approved by the House. The members of the Senate serve as a jury while the Chief Justice oversees the proceedings. At the end of the trial, the Senate votes on whether to remove the president from office or acquit. A two-thirds majority is necessary for removal. Should the president be removed, the vice president assumes the position and chooses a new vice president, confirmed by Congress.

Notably, the Senate can vote to remove a person from office and bar that individual from ever holding public office again. This vote needs only a simple majority. However, the Senate cannot find an elected official criminally responsible since impeachment is a political rather than criminal proceeding. A president can face criminal charges at a later point related to the impeachment proceedings.

The History of Impeachment in the United States

In history, only two other presidents besides Trump have been impeached, and neither was removed from office. The first president to get impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868. The impetus for impeachment was a clash with the House of Representatives over the rights of individuals who had been freed from slavery. However, the immediate justification for the impeachment was Johnson’s decision to fire his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who was backed by Republicans. In addition, Republicans controlled the House of Representatives at the time. The other president to get impeached was Bill Clinton. This trial centered around Clinton’s coverup of his affair with a White House intern. While the Senate was 22 votes short of finding Clinton guilty, it was only one short of convicting Johnson.

The history of presidential impeachment highlights the confusion around what constitutes grounds for impeachment. According to the Constitution, “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are justification for impeachment, but this is quite vague. In both the Johnson and Clinton trials, the question was whether their actions constituted a high crime or a low one, which is largely up to what members of Congress think at the time of the transgression.

Given this broad definition, another president would likely have been removed from office had he been impeached. Richard Nixon faced three articles of impeachment due to the Watergate scandal. The charges centered around obstruction of justice and covering up crimes. Because it was likely that he would be removed from office, Nixon opted to resign before the House could impeach him.

5 of the Best Tips to Improve Your Law School Application Resume

The typical law school application includes several key components, such as an LSAT score and a personal statement. Another important component is the resume. While not all schools require a resume, virtually all will accept one.

Given the limited ability for you to sell yourself to schools, you should always include a resume to give a more complete picture of why you would make a great legal professional. Importantly, the resume you submit should be a bit different from the one you would normally send out for a job search, as law schools are looking for different things than employers. Admissions officers will take more time to read over the resume completely and get a feel for your background to make sure you are ready for the program.

Some tips to keep in mind when writing a resume for a law school application include:

1. Keep each section simple.

The key to a great law school application resume is to keep sections short and simple. You should always include the education, experience, and activities sections. You could include honors, skills, and interests, but you do not need to have a summary or an objectives section because they are not necessary for the application.

Mark each section clearly with headings and include only the key points in bullets so that readers do not need to work through large chunks of text. The entries in each section should be in reverse chronological order. Unless you graduated several years ago, you should put your education section before experience. Under education, include degree, major, and institution, as well as graduation date. You can include GPA if desired. Remove anything from high school as it is no longer relevant.

2. Make the document professional.

Sometimes, people try to stand out from the crowd with their resumes by including colors, symbols, or graphics. These elements only serve as a distraction and should be removed. Legal professionals keep communications concise; they don’t use gimmicks.

Be sure to include plenty of white space so that the resume is inviting to read. Large blocks of text will discourage people from delving into the content. Also, be sure that the resume looks appealing in both print and screen contexts as you cannot know beforehand how admissions committees will view it. Stick with the most common fonts and use size 11 or 12. Fancy fonts will send the wrong message. Typically, resumes should only be a page, but if you have a lot of experience directly relevant to law school, you can include a second. Never have more than two pages.

3. Give each bullet point its due.

Concision is key when it comes to writing a resume for law school applications. Only rarely should a position need more than three bullet points. Remove any extraneous information and focus on communicating as clearly as possible. Each bullet point should be only about a sentence long. If you are struggling to edit your entries down, think about what the admission committee most needs to know about you.

The verbs you use in each bullet point should be active and in the past tense, at least for old positions. If you are including current positions, you can use the present tense. The bullet points should focus on concrete tasks and responsibilities while putting a spotlight on exactly what you did in that role. Try to include evidence, such as specific numbers or accomplishments, and only include job skills that are most relevant to legal professions.

4. Represent yourself truthfully.

When applicants embellish the truth to make themselves look more appealing on a resume, they can find themselves in a lot of trouble. Law schools do not expect you to be thought leaders or industry titans, so representing yourself as such could raise suspicion.

Because your application will also include letters of recommendation, transcripts, and more, any information in your resume that is contradictory will be a major red flag for admissions committees.

Be sure to include all significant positions and try not to have any chronological gaps longer than a few months, as that will warrant some questions. Additionally, avoid making minor actions, such as one afternoon of community service, into full entries—committees will see through it.

5. Proofread and follow instructions.

Before you submit your application, proofread it thoroughly. You may want to ask a friend, family member, or colleague to read it. Make sure you are not including jargon or making anything overly wordy. Anyone should be able to pick up the resume and understand your background. Avoid cliches—they will come across as hollow.

It is worthwhile to mention that some programs will provide specific instructions for how they want the resume formatted or what you should include. Be sure to look at the requirements and instructions for each program and edit the document accordingly. Frequently, programs will include minor instructions just to make sure that applications are paying attention and reading thoroughly.

5 Tips to Make a Great First Impression as a Legal Intern

Summer legal internships are an important part of the law school experience. These opportunities provide the first chance for you to put your education to use and demonstrate your aptitude as a lawyer. Furthermore, internships offer the ability to network and create connections that can help you find a job and advance your career after graduation.

Once you have found the right internship for you, applied, and gotten accepted, the real work begins. Walking through the doors of your internship for the first time can be stressful, but with some preparation and the right attitude, you will make a great first impression. Some tips for making the best impression possible on your first day include:

1. Do your due diligence.

You should take the time to do some research before your first day so that you can hit the ground running. The type of research you need to do will depend on the internship. A good place to start is to lay a solid foundation in the relevant areas of law. While no one will expect you to be an expert, you should understand the basics and have a few key points up your sleeve to pull out when appropriate. If you are interning for a firm, go beyond brushing up on the areas of laws that it focuses on and learn about recent cases it has handled. If there are any high-profile cases, you should know the key stakeholders and arguments before walking in the door. When it is evident that you have done your research, the higher-ups will take notice.

2. Ask meaningful, relevant questions.

The point of an internship is to learn, so make sure that you are asking questions whenever something comes up that you do not understand. When you are learning the ropes, it is better to ask a lot of questions than to make mistakes that other people need to clean up for you. However, the questions should not be focused only on the processes at the firm. Take the time to ask high-level questions about personal philosophy or strategies for building an argument. Legal professionals who have been on the job for a long time likely have their own process for approaching an issue, and getting a better understanding of these different approaches will help you develop your own. After all, the point of a legal internship is to learn how to apply your classroom knowledge in the real world. Also, you will get a better sense of how your employers think and will be better positioned to help them.

3. Play the part of a professional.

While it should go without saying, you need to act like a professional from the very first day. This means showing up on time and dressed conservatively. It’s smart to arrive well ahead of the start time on your first day so that you can account for any unexpected issues on the commute and give yourself some time to get familiar with the area. First impressions are lasting, so it will be difficult to recover from walking through the door late or looking unprofessional.

Also, be professional while you are at the office. Any communications should be clean and free from abbreviations or colloquialisms. Avoid looking at your phone, as this will make you seem distracted or uninterested. Although we depend on our phones for many functions, people looking over your shoulder will not know whether you are answering a work e-mail or texting your friends.

4. Get to know people over lunch.

Even lunch can be stressful on your first day of a legal internship. You may not know if people go out together, eat alone, or bring their lunch to eat in a breakroom. You may want to bring both a packed lunch and money the first day so that you are prepared in either case and can use the lunch hour to connect with people.

During lunch, you can talk more openly about your goals and experiences, which can help people at the internship make the experience rewarding for you and understand how to mentor you. In addition, lunch is a great time to connect with any other legal interns. Interns should all work as a team instead of competing against each other, so building strong relationships from the very first day is important. While you can be a bit more informal during lunch, remember to keep conversations professional.

5. Check in at the end of the day.

One way to show that you are committed to the internship is to take some time at the end of the day to check in with your direct supervisor. If you just walk away at the end of the day, it may send the wrong impression. Take a few minutes to ask about how you performed and what you can do better. Asking for feedback is a great way to get important tips and show that you want to be as helpful as you can.

Also, it is important to check in before you head out to ask if there is anything else you can do to help. You should do this your first day and then every day, even though you will only ask for feedback about once a week or so. Your supervisor may also be trying to leave and could benefit from a few more minutes of help. Doing the work well so you can each leave demonstrates your commitment to teamwork.

A Look at the Different Forms of Modern Municipal Government

For many people, political knowledge starts at the federal level and perhaps extends down to the state, but getting involved with local politics can be harder to grasp. Part of this problem is that many different ruling figures and bodies have power at the city level, including the mayor, the city council, and the city administrator.

It can get even more complex, as many cities have different structures for their municipal governments. These structures dictate how the different figures and bodies interact with each other, as well as how they are selected. The first step in getting more involved with local politics is to figure out which kind of government your municipality has.

The Mayor-Council Form of Municipal Government

The mayor-council form of municipal government has emerged as one of the most popular in the United States. This is the form of government used by Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other major cities. With this form of municipal government, the mayor is elected by the general public and serves as the chief administrative officer for the government. A council is elected as well, though this can happen either at the district level or via an at-large election. Some cities have both at-large and district-specific councilmembers, which ensures that the needs of all neighborhoods have representation. The council acts as the legislative body for the city and has the authority to create and initiate city policies. Then, the mayor has the responsibility to execute these policies. While the mayor oversees council meetings, they only vote in the event of a tie.

The veto power of a mayor in this system is dependent on the specific policies of the city. Often, the city charter spells out veto authority. Mayors may have no veto power or may be able to stop legislation provided that the council does not override it with a specified majority. Mayor-council cities often have city administrators who serve under the mayor and focus on city management so that the mayor can have more of a political leadership role and contribute to policy development.

The Council-Manager Form of Municipal Government

Another popular system in the United States is the council-manager form of government, which has been embraced by Phoenix, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, and other major cities. With this system, the city’s residents elect a city council, which holds all responsibility for policymaking. The council then appoints a city manager, who has administrative responsibilities. This manager can offer policy advice while directing the city’s daily operations. In addition, the manager oversees all city personnel and has the power to appoint and remove employees. The council-manager form prevents the council from interfering with the manager’s administration. However, the city manager can be removed by a majority vote from the council at any time if that body deems the manager’s work unsatisfactory.

The council-manager setup is meant to mirror how a business is run. The board of directors is similar to a city council and the city manager is like a CEO. These cities still have mayors, but they are typically selected from and by the council itself. However, sometimes, the mayor does get elected directly by citizens. The mayor is the head of the city for ceremonial purposes but does not have actual administrative responsibilities.

The Commission Form of Municipal Government

The third most popular type of municipal government in the United States is the commission form. The best example of this type of government is Portland, Oregon. The commission form used to be much more popular in the 20th century, but the council-manager structure has since taken prominence.

With a commission form, commissioners are elected by the general public. These commissioners work together to function as the legislative body of the city. However, each of the commissioners also stands as the head of a specific city department. For example, there is often a commissioner of public safety, who doubles as mayor, as well as a commissioner of finance and a commissioner of public works. These titles can vary between cities.

Importantly, while one of the elected commissioners will have the title of mayor, that person does not have any additional power compared to the other commissioners who have been elected. The mayor in this setup has no veto power nor any administrative responsibilities outside of the department that he or she oversees. All decisions are made based on a majority vote involving all commissioners.

Other Forms of Municipal Government

Outside of these major forms of municipal government, there are a few less-common structures found throughout the United States. For example, some cities have a town meeting structure, in which all voters weigh in on basic policy decisions and the elections of officials meant to carry out policies. While this may be the purest form of democracy in the entire list, fewer than 5 percent of municipalities in the United States use this structure.

Another option is the representative town meeting, in which voters select representatives who then vote on policies and for elected officials. Fewer than 1 percent of cities in the United States use this structure, and virtually all of them are small towns in New England.

5 Tips You Need to Know to Get the Best Possible Letters of Recommendation

The process of applying to law schools often proves stressful and complicated. As you apply, you need to think carefully about which schools are the best fit while also ensuring your application is as strong as possible. While quantitative data like LSAT score and GPA matter a great deal, admissions officers also pay a lot of attention to the more qualitative elements of the application, from the personal statement to letters of recommendation.

Sometimes, applicants pay little attention to letters of recommendation aside from asking for them, which is a mistake. Extremely strong letters will make your application memorable to the people who read it. For that reason, you need to make sure you put your best foot forward with these letters. Some tips to keep in mind include:

1. Ask early and in person.

The key to getting a good letter is asking for it well ahead of the deadline. Generally, if you are asking a professor for a recommendation, you should do so at the start of the fall semester before that person’s schedule becomes too busy. When the recommender only has a small amount of time to finish the letter, the product will not likely be very reflective or impactful. Also, recommenders may resent being given only a few days and this could reflect in the content of the letter.

Ideally, you should ask for the letter in person. This gives you a chance to talk about why you are applying to law school and what information you are hoping that person is able to highlight. You may want to offer a list of talking points for the letter, or at least have one ready in case the recommender asks. That way, you can be sure that the letter touches on the important points you hope to make.

2. Choose recommenders who know you.

Many law school applicants try to pull strings to get recommendations from congressional representatives, judges, or even the big-name professors at their universities. Ultimately, letters have the greatest impact when it is clear that the recommender knows the candidate well. Unless you truly know these people, it is actually better to ask someone else.

Admissions officers will be more impressed by a strong narrative from a teaching assistant than a watery letter from a famous professor. Any recommendation from someone who does not truly know you is a missed opportunity as it will not make much of an impact. The most meaningful letters give real stories about the candidate and reflect on what that person can truly bring to the table. If the recommender cannot provide a narrative about your work, think about asking someone else.

3. Less is more for recommendations.

As a general rule of thumb when applying to law school, less is more. If you provide more information than is required, you should have a very good reason for doing so. Most programs will ask for at least two letters. In this case, two excellent letters will have much more of an impact than three lukewarm ones.

Only provide more than what schools ask for if it makes sense for your situation. For example, if you have been out of school for many years, it can make sense to have a third letter from a professional reference. Likewise, if you did something quite extraordinary, it can be helpful to include a recommendation from that experience. Otherwise, try to stay within the boundaries of what the school wants.

Also, while schools will be considerate of the fact that you have not been in school for some time, that does not mean it is appropriate to submit only professional letters rather than academic ones. These letters need to show that you will be a successful student.

4. Provide guidance for the recommender.

Some recommenders will have written many letters for law school admissions and may already have a good understanding of what they need to include. Even if this is the case, you should make it clear the specific points you would like emphasized as only you have a comprehensive view of your entire application.

At the same time, some people may not have much experience and will ask for your guidance. In this case, it is important to emphasize that letters are backward-looking and should speak to your academic performance up to this point rather than predicting success in law school. Anecdotes are better than adjectives.

Some recommenders will let you see the draft to give your input and doing so is fine, but you should never ask or expect to see the letter. Giving the impression that you want to see it can send the wrong message.

5. Develop a relationship with letter writers.

Applicants get the best letters when they invest time into the relationship they have with their recommenders. Often, this means starting to think early about who might write a letter, even in sophomore and junior years.

If you have someone in mind, you can try to take multiple classes with them, attend office hours, and put a lot of work into the papers you submit. Taking the time to talk regularly with these individuals will mean they have a lot to say about you as a student.

Also, do not think that doing poorly in a professor’s class means that person would not be a good letter writer. Law schools love to hear about candidates who grew and evolved over time. If you did poorly in the first class with the professor but then aced the next two, that can read as a great redemption story and show your capacity for personal growth.

A Look at the Different Forms of Modern Municipal Government

For many people, political knowledge starts at the federal level and perhaps extends down to the state, but getting involved with local politics can be harder to grasp. Part of this problem is that many different ruling figures and bodies have power at the city level, including the mayor, the city council, and the city administrator.

It can get even more complex, as many cities have different structures for their municipal governments. These structures dictate how the different figures and bodies interact with each other, as well as how they are selected. The first step in getting more involved with local politics is to figure out which kind of government your municipality has.

The Mayor-Council Form of Municipal Government

The mayor-council form of municipal government has emerged as one of the most popular in the United States. This is the form of government used by Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other major cities. With this form of municipal government, the mayor is elected by the general public and serves as the chief administrative officer for the government. A council is elected as well, though this can happen either at the district level or via an at-large election. Some cities have both at-large and district-specific councilmembers, which ensures that the needs of all neighborhoods have representation. The council acts as the legislative body for the city and has the authority to create and initiate city policies. Then, the mayor has the responsibility to execute these policies. While the mayor oversees council meetings, they only vote in the event of a tie.

The veto power of a mayor in this system is dependent on the specific policies of the city. Often, the city charter spells out veto authority. Mayors may have no veto power or may be able to stop legislation provided that the council does not override it with a specified majority. Mayor-council cities often have city administrators who serve under the mayor and focus on city management so that the mayor can have more of a political leadership role and contribute to policy development.

The Council-Manager Form of Municipal Government

Another popular system in the United States is the council-manager form of government, which has been embraced by Phoenix, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, and other major cities. With this system, the city’s residents elect a city council, which holds all responsibility for policymaking. The council then appoints a city manager, who has administrative responsibilities. This manager can offer policy advice while directing the city’s daily operations. In addition, the manager oversees all city personnel and has the power to appoint and remove employees. The council-manager form prevents the council from interfering with the manager’s administration. However, the city manager can be removed by a majority vote from the council at any time if that body deems the manager’s work unsatisfactory.

The council-manager setup is meant to mirror how a business is run. The board of directors is similar to a city council and the city manager is like a CEO. These cities still have mayors, but they are typically selected from and by the council itself. However, sometimes, the mayor does get elected directly by citizens. The mayor is the head of the city for ceremonial purposes but does not have actual administrative responsibilities.

The Commission Form of Municipal Government

The third most popular type of municipal government in the United States is the commission form. The best example of this type of government is Portland, Oregon. The commission form used to be much more popular in the 20th century, but the council-manager structure has since taken prominence.

With a commission form, commissioners are elected by the general public. These commissioners work together to function as the legislative body of the city. However, each of the commissioners also stands as the head of a specific city department. For example, there is often a commissioner of public safety, who doubles as mayor, as well as a commissioner of finance and a commissioner of public works. These titles can vary between cities.

Importantly, while one of the elected commissioners will have the title of mayor, that person does not have any additional power compared to the other commissioners who have been elected. The mayor in this setup has no veto power nor any administrative responsibilities outside of the department that he or she oversees. All decisions are made based on a majority vote involving all commissioners.

Other Forms of Municipal Government

Outside of these major forms of municipal government, there are a few less-common structures found throughout the United States. For example, some cities have a town meeting structure, in which all voters weigh in on basic policy decisions and the elections of officials meant to carry out policies. While this may be the purest form of democracy in the entire list, fewer than 5 percent of municipalities in the United States use this structure.

Another option is the representative town meeting, in which voters select representatives who then vote on policies and for elected officials. Fewer than 1 percent of cities in the United States use this structure, and virtually all of them are small towns in New England.

5 Questions You Should Ask Before Selecting a Law School

Preparing for law school can be an exciting time. However, the reality of what that means soon sets in as you begin studying for the LSAT, drafting personal statements, and exploring your interests. Part of this process involves identifying the most suitable law school for you. Often, people simply try to get into the best law school they can, although this is not always the best approach. Every schools has a different focus and culture. You need to figure out what you want from a school, which will depend on both your own career goals and the type of learning environment that will provide you with the best support. You should spend some time thinking about what exactly you will need from a law program and then ask the right questions as you begin to consider different schools. Since applications are expensive, you will need to be strategic in how you apply. The following are some questions to ask when selecting a law school:

1. Where do the school’s graduates work?

While the physical location of a law school is important, it is even more critical to understand how this will impact graduates. If the majority of the graduates practice in the same city, but do not want to stay in that location, then perhaps a different school is a better option. On the other hand, you may choose to attend a school due to its location in a city where you would like to work. If the school has a strong local alumni network and it is easy to get a job there, then that is a good thing. However, if most of the students go on to do things elsewhere, that is also important to know. While law school only lasts for three years, it is important to be happy during that time. Think about where you would be most satisfied studying intensely for that amount of time, as well as the opportunities available to graduates from schools in that area.

2. What kinds of jobs do the school’s graduates have?

When looking at different law schools, it is important to consider what kinds of jobs that the graduates secure. While most students do not start law school knowing exactly what they want to do, you will likely have some idea about what your practice would look like. When deciding on a school, you should check whether the graduates enter fields in which you are interested. Enrolling in a program that emphasizes your area of interest can open up new opportunities.

3. How do students obtain academic support?

No one enters law school thinking that they will need additional academic support, but the reality is that you may find yourself needing help, even if it’s only for a class or two. For this reason, it’s important to understand the type of academic support available as you sort through different schools. Law school can prove to be a competitive environment, and you will want to put your best foot forward, so an understanding of the available opportunities will help you to stand out. Law schools can vary quite a bit in terms of the type of support that they offer their students, so you should think about how you would be best supported before asking this question. Ultimately, the program is your lifeline, so it’s important to feel comfortable that you will have adequate support should you ever need it, whether that involves studying for a particular class or preparing for the bar exam.

4. What is the overall culture of the school?

Culture is an extremely important factor when it comes to identifying a program that will suit your needs. Ideally, you should visit the school in person, although opportunities for doing so will be limited during the pandemic. Culture is impacted by a number of different factors, ranging from what type of housing students generally live in to the extracurricular activities offered. You should also ask about the level of competitiveness between students and the involvement of the alumni. The friends you make in law school will become your future colleagues. Therefore, you should make sure to understand what types of students each program attracts and the mission of the program itself.

5. How much does the program cost?

Ideally, cost should not be a primary factor as you consider which law school to attend, but that is not realistic. Some of the most competitive programs will have a significant price tag, and you may spend decades paying off the loans to cover it. On the other hand, you could have an opportunity to obtain a scholarship through some smaller programs. You can consider asking the school if they know the average debt of their students and if there are any opportunities for grants or scholarships. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that you can sometimes secure additional scholarship money. If you would prefer to attend a more expensive school, but get accepted into another program with a scholarship, you should find out if the other program will match the financial aid. While the answer may be no, it is worthwhile to try to reduce the financial burden that you will face after graduation.

Civics 101: What You Need to Know about the Two Bodies of Congress

When Americans think about voting, their mind generally goes first to presidential elections. However, Americans vote for many other important leaders at the federal, state, and local levels. Some of the most important elections are for Congress, as evidenced by the recent Senate runoff vote in Georgia.

When voting for members of Congress, it is critically important to understand the role Congress plays in legislation, as well as the differences between the two houses that make up Congress. People often refer to Congress as if it is a single entity, but it consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. These houses work together to create and enact laws for the country.

Why Are There Two Congressional Bodies?

As the authors of the Constitutions were framing the American government, they understood that larger states with more people may have more power than their smaller counterparts. To reach a compromise, the framers created two legislative bodies. This framework was suggested by delegates from Connecticut at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. At this time, it was proposed that the House should have representation based on population within a state, while the Senate would have two representatives from each state. This proposal is known as the Great Compromise, or Connecticut Compromise, and was recorded as Article I of the American Constitution, which outlines the duties and selection of each body.

According to the Constitution, members of the House of Representatives need to be at least 25 years old and citizens of the United States for at least seven years. Representatives are elected for two-year terms and must reside in the states they represent. Initially, one Representative was allotted for each 30,000 inhabitants of a state. However, as the population increased, the number of Representatives was capped at 435 people, and these are allotted to states based on their population. As of the 2010 Census, each Representative now speaks for an average of about 710,000 people in a state. There is a lot of variation, however. 

To be elected to the Senate, individuals need to be at least 30 years old and citizens for at least nine years. The term for Senate seats is six years. Because of this length of time, the terms are staggered, so that about one-third of the seats turn over every two years rather than a large upheaval occurring every six. Each state gets two Senators so that each has equal power. 

What Are the Major Differences Between the Two Bodies?

The differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate do not stop at composition, qualifications, and terms. Each of these bodies has distinct powers and a different role to play in legislation. For example, all bills intended to raise revenue must originate in the House. While the Senate can propose amendments to spending and taxing legislation, no such laws can originate there. In addition, only the House has the power to impeach elected officials. The Senate decides whether to convict the person or remove them from office after the House has decided to impeach. In the House, bills require only a numerical majority to pass, which makes it possible to enact legislation more quickly.

In the Senate, a bill needs at least 60 votes to pass. The fact that more than a simple majority is needed was meant to encourage deliberation. While the House was created for speed, the Senate usually takes more time to pass legislation, and Senators have a lot of power to drive lengthy debates on important matters. The Senate has some unique powers and is the only body that can confirm presidential nominations and treaties. To pass, a treaty needs a two-thirds majority vote.

Another unique feature of the Senate is the role of the vice president, who presides over the Senate. While the vice president does not normally vote, he or she can provide a tie-breaking vote, which is sometimes needed because there are an even number of Senators (100).

How Does Congress Create Laws?

With the exception of bills meant to raise revenue, as discussed above, bills can be introduced by either the House or the Senate. The person who introduces a bill becomes its sponsor. The merit of the bill is discussed in a small group in whichever body it was proposed, and it then goes to a committee for further research and discussion. When the committee is ready to release the bill, it goes to the floor for debate and any proposed amendments are incorporated before it goes up for a vote. After the initial body passes the bill, it goes to the other for further discussion and amendment.

Once both bodies pass the bill, a joint committee works out any differences between the two versions and then both the House and Senate vote on the same bill. Once it is passed by both, the bill goes to the president, who has 10 days to sign it into law or veto (reject) it. Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority in both bodies. However, if Congress adjourns prior to the end of the 10-day period and the president fails to sign the bill, the bill expires and does not become law. This is known as a pocket veto. Congress cannot override a pocket veto and must reintroduce the bill to pursue it further.

What You Need to Know about How City Councils Work to Create Policy

Many people would like to get more involved in politics, especially at the local level. Local decision-makers have an extremely large impact on our everyday lives even if this form of politics does not receive as much media attention as it does on the federal level.

One of the biggest hurdles to getting involved with local politics is understanding how these smaller systems work. Cities can have their governments set up in several different ways, so it is important to figure out the type of legislation in place where you live as well as the main figures influencing decisions.

However, one of the key parts of government in any city is the city council. The city council consists of elected officials who collectively act as the legislative body for the jurisdiction. Members of the council represent the voices of their constituents in proposing, passing, and executing local laws and ordinances. Also, city councils are responsible for managing the budget and investigating city agencies.

The Process of Becoming a City Council Member

The exact requirements necessary to run for city council vary, but most have laws about age, citizenship, and residency. Virtually all city councils have term limits, as well, but these too can vary between jurisdictions. Cities may have single-member districts or hold at-large elections.

In single-member districts, the city is divided geographically and citizens vote for a council member to represent their specific district alone. This system ensures that different parts of the city all get a voice in the government. For at-large elections, all citizens in the city vote for candidates who, in turn, represent everyone living there. Unfortunately, this system can lead to disproportionate power.

Another possibility is holding both district and at-large elections. With this method, there are typically more single-member district seats than at-large. This system ensures that all geographic parts of the city get a voice while providing representatives who are responsible for thinking of the city as a whole.

The Relationship between the City Council and Mayor

City councils interact with the city’s mayor, but how this is done depends on the chosen form of government. A common choice is a council-manager system, which counts the mayor as first among equals members of the city council. In most cities, the mayor is an elected official, although some jurisdictions require the mayor to be chosen from the sitting council members.

Another is the strong mayor system, in which the mayor acts as a chief operating officer of the government, meaning they carry out the laws and policies created by the city council. Mayors may or may not have veto power in this particular setup. Often, the influence of the mayor is much greater than their actual power.

How Council Members Create New Laws

Despite these differences, the majority of councils follow a very similar process in terms of creating and enacting legislation. Typically, the entire process starts with committee meetings. Council members bring issues to the table during these meetings and talk about proposed legislation. After the committees weigh in on the possible policies, the council will meet with the mayor and collectively decide which bills should be given more consideration. Then, they hold meetings that are open to constituents living in the city. At these meetings, residents offer their opinions and thoughts on the bills. Attending these meetings is a great way to get involved with local politics and influence new policies in your city. Following these meetings, the council collectively decides on which bills get approved and which need revision.

Once the council approves a piece of proposed legislation, the bills are then presented to the mayor, who reviews them. Depending on the policies of the city, the mayor will sign them into law or veto them. In cities where the mayor can veto the decision, the council can override it. During this process, there may be revisions to the legislation that makes it more acceptable to all interested parties. Once everyone agrees to pass the legislation, the clerk will publish the final policy with the date at which it goes into effect.

Other Responsibilities of Council Members

Beyond legislation, council members have a responsibility to be advocates for their districts (or all citizens if they are at-large representatives). Council members need to respond to constituent requests and bring their concerns before the entire council for further consideration. For example, citizens may ask for the construction of new parks or the repair of dilapidated streets or sidewalks. Council members can secure some tax revenue for repairs in the event of a natural disaster and act as liaisons with their constituents during the repair process. Sometimes, council members also approve zoning laws and other building code issues depending on the level of influence and power they have in a particular jurisdiction.

5 Tips to Find the Ideal Summer Legal Internship You Need to Know

For law students, a summer legal internship is an invaluable experience. Through these opportunities, you amass a great deal of hands-on knowledge and make important connections. Summer internships give you the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom in a meaningful way and get real-time feedback.

In addition, internships are a great way to explore a specific area of law that interests you. They can open doors for jobs following graduation. While these experiences are extremely important to the development of a sharp legal mind, it is also not always clear how you can land your dream internship.

You should start thinking about what you may want to do during the summer when you first begin law school. Your first year will be busy, and many government and public interest jobs have application deadlines as early as January. At the same time, many smaller firms will not start looking for interns until the late spring, so it is never too late.

However, having an idea of what you would like to do is the first step toward finding the right opportunity. Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to finding the perfect legal internship include:

1. Use the internet to look for positions.

A Google search is a fine way to start looking for a summer internship. However, you should dive a bit deeper into the internet as your search. Sources like Lawyers Weekly and Indeed.com are great ways to look for potential jobs. Even Craigslist can point to interesting opportunities.

The point is to be varied in your approach. If you search just one or two websites, you will likely find only limited opportunities. Continue searching and keeping track of what you find to figure out the opportunities you might want to pursue.

Also, be sure to use resources specific to your interests. For example, PSJD.org is a great website for finding public interest positions. State agencies tend to list opportunities directly on their own websites, and USAJobs will have some federal internships listed.

2. Be proactive with potential employers.

You do not need to wait until a summer internship job is posted to ask for one. If you know roughly what you would like to do, you can contact attorneys, firms, and legal organizations directly to let them know your interest.

Keep a running document on this contact and follow up as you would with a normal job posting. You can use websites like LinkedIn and Martindale to help in direct contact or to find the best firms to email about potential internships.

That being said, avoid contacting dozens and dozens of employers. Focus on a small group of organizations and explain clearly your reasons for wanting to get involved. Even if you do not end up with an internship, this is a great way to make connections that could help you down the line.

3. Continue to build your network.

Research has shown that the vast majority of Americans get a job through someone they know. While in law school, creating a network is crucial and doing so could open up some summer internship opportunities. Let your advisors and instructors know what kind of opportunities you are looking for and they can help you find something.

You may just find that these individuals already have a great job in mind. If the position is not exactly what you were thinking, keep an open mind and ask why you think you would be a great fit. These individuals often have some insight that you lack and can point you toward opportunities you had not even considered.

4. Lean on the career services office.

Your school is there to help you find opportunities to further your education. The career services office can do a lot in terms of finding you the right opportunity. Talk to the advisors there and let them know what you are thinking. Career services is also a great place to go over resumes and cover letters prior to sending them out, as well as to schedule mock interviews.

Consider contacting the career services office at a different law school if you are looking for summer internship opportunities in another part of the country, such as your hometown. The two career services offices can communicate and the should be able to help you identify opportunities or at least put you in touch with key contacts.

5. Keep a flexible and open mind.

Try to be flexible about when searching for a summer internship. For example, if you own a car, you can look for positions outside of large metropolitan areas.

You may also want to consider taking an unpaid position and then balancing it with paid work. You may be able to get work-study funding for some positions or receive a third-party grant to support your position.

Be sure to speak with the career services office about these options. When you are flexible about location and pay, you can open yourself up to a range of opportunities and potentially find that perfect fit.