TO: Prospective Legal Division Employees
FROM: Mike Marshall, Legal Division Director
SUBJECT: Information on Legal Division Employment
This information is intended only to acquaint prospective employees of the legal division of the Texas Legislative Council with the council and to provide an idea of council employees' duties and working environment.
Texas Legislative Council
The Texas Legislative Council was established by the Texas Legislature in 1949 and is composed of 14 members: the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house, six senators, and six representatives. Its activities are governed by Chapter 323, Government Code. The council has a staff of employees organized in administrative functions and four divisions: legal, research, information systems, and document production.
Composition of Legal Division
The legal division has positions for 73 staff members. Of those positions, 50 are for attorneys, 2 for legal assistants, 15 for legal editors, 4 for administrative assistants, and 2 for receptionists. The legal staff is under the direction of Mike Marshall, assisted by four deputy directors.
Attorneys are hired for long-term employment. Of the attorneys on the legal division's staff:
- 71 percent have been employed by the division for more than five years;
- 45 percent for more than 10 years;
- 39 percent for more than 15 years; and
- 18 percent for more than 20 years.
Duties of Attorneys
The staff of the legislative council serves all members of the legislature and the lieutenant governor. The legislature is composed of 150 members of the house of representatives and 31 senators. The legislature meets in 140-day regular sessions, beginning in January of each odd-numbered year, and in special sessions, the beginning dates and subjects of which are determined by the governor. The duration of a special session may not exceed 30 days.
During, and for the two- to three-month period before, a legislative session, the primary duty of the legal division is to work directly with the lieutenant governor and members of the legislature and their staffs to draft legislative documents and to furnish other legal assistance to the lieutenant governor and members. Attorneys specialize in one or more of approximately 50 areas of law. In addition to drafting bills and resolutions, an attorney in the legal division is required to analyze bills and amendments throughout a legislative session and may be required to do legislative research, draft legal memoranda, and answer questions involving parliamentary rules or other procedures. While attorneys generally work independently in drafting legislation, they are encouraged to seek information from and share information with other members of the staff, and it is common for a team approach to be used to complete large, complex, or special projects.
Under the direction of the council or special advisory committees, the legal division is responsible for drafting nonsubstantive revisions of the state statutes that clarify, consolidate, and reorganize the statutes into codes on a topical basis. A few examples of completed codes drafted by the council staff are the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Estates Code, Health and Safety Code, Labor Code, Local Government Code, and Occupations Code. In addition, the staff provides the drafting necessary for substantive revision projects, such as the state bar's Family Code and Penal Code revisions.
In addition, the legal staff is called on for legal research and special assistance for unusual legislative activities. In the past those activities have included the 1974 constitutional convention, impeachment and address proceedings, legislative election contests, and legislative redistricting.
Council offices are in the Robert E. Johnson Building (at 15th and Congress), with a separate office for each attorney. Each attorney has access to the council's searchable databases, including statutory databases. The council has basic library materials available to all legal staff members. For more extensive research, the Legislative Reference Library is located in the Capitol and the State Law Library and the state archives are in buildings adjacent to the Capitol.
Because of the heavy workload during and for several weeks before a legislative session, an attorney must expect to work on holidays during that period, to work more than 40 hours a week, and to have his or her social life disrupted. Staff attorneys are required to be at the office at any time when one or both houses of the legislature are in session. Generally, vacation or compensatory leave may not be taken when the legislature is convened in a regular or special session. These factors result in some long workdays and workweeks during the periods of and around sessions. For example, during the period beginning six weeks before the first day of a regular legislative session and ending on the 60th day of the session (the deadline by which most bills must be filed), attorneys on the legal staff can expect to work an average of 60 to 65 hours a week.
During nonsession periods, members of the legal staff generally work eight-hour days Monday through Friday.
When an employee works more than 40 hours a week, the employee accrues an equivalent amount of compensatory time for the amount of overtime worked. While an employee is not guaranteed that the employee will be allowed to use all of the employee's compensatory leave, the council's practice permits liberal use of leave time during nonsession periods subject to prior administrative approval.