Myron McClees, '10
McClees is a Policy Analyst at the Virginia State Board of Elections where he grapples with election-related disputes such as recounts, policy questions involving regulations and petitions, and where he writes legislation that aims to increase access to the ballot throughout the Commonwealth. Though he describes his work as "heading feet first into the fire," he gathered as much experienceas he could while a law student at William and Mary.
After his 1L year, McClees interned at the Board of Elections, trained as a poll worker for the 2008 election, and served at Election Protection in Hampton. After graduation, he accepted a post-graduate fellowship at the International Foundation for Electoral Systemswhere he worked on international elections. McClees also assisted members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe in their efforts to analyze the transparency of elections here in the United States.
McClees comments that "The atmosphere at the law school is astounding" for assisting students in getting their ideas off the ground. He added, "every legal position I have had since I began the study of law has come directly through networkingwith my W&M classmates."
Jeff Palmore, '09
Palmore came to William & Mary with a strong interest and background in elections. Palmore spent six years working in politics before he entered law school, including positions as Deputy Policy Director to Jerry Kilgore's 2005 gubernatorial campaign and as Campaign Manager to former Congresswoman Thelma Drake's 2004 congressional campaign. Jeff now works for Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell as both Deputy Counselor to the Governor and Director of Policy Development. In these roles, he works on a wide range of issues (including election law) and is involved with setting the Governor's legislative agenda, crafting polices, assisting with the legislative redistricting process, and serving as in-house counsel to the Governor, the Cabinet, and the staff.
During his time in lawschool, he proudly served as the President of the Election Law Society in his 2L year. He notes that the club's success was "a combined effort between many students, faculty, and the administration." The group helped create a vibrant election law avenue within the law school's curriculum, proposing new courseson a variety of subjects that helped provide a foundation for his professional path.
Liz Howard, ‘09
Beginning her studies at William and Mary, Liz brought a passion for politics and elections. Howard worked as the Chief Financial Officer for the Tennessee Democratic National Committee before law school, so began law school with a first-hand understanding of campaign finance compliance standards and the work that law firms do to help clients in this area. Seeking more opportunities to engage those issues on campus and in her studies, Howard co-founded a new student organization, the Election Law Society, which has since served as the vehicle for many students to become involved in election law issues. Through her involvement with the Election Law Society, Howard took classes on campus and in Washington, D.C. where she interacted with election law experts and practitioners. "The opportunity to learn from practitioners in DC was truly phenomenal," she says, adding, "In essence, real-time learning using real-life scenarios."
Liz is now General Counsel for "Rock The Vote" and formerly an associate at Sandler Reiff Young & Lamb, specializing in election law. Her practice includes advising federal, state and local political committees and candidates; state and national parties; section 527 organizations; nonprofit organizations and for-profit corporations. She counsels clients on complying with state and federal campaign finance and election laws; House and Senate ethics and gift rules; and lobbying and ethics compliance; and represents them before state and regulatory agencies. Ms. Howard also advises non-profit organizations on charitable solicitations, corporate governance issues, securing tax-exempt status with the IRS, and the scope of permissible political activities.
Chris DeLacey, '99
DeLacey is the leader of the Political Law group at Holland & Knight in Washington D.C. A political law practice touches on a wide-variety of legal issues including campaign finance, government ethics, lobbying compliance, pay-to-play, white collar, non-profit, and tax. It also involves a fair amount of non-legal advice related to politics and plain old common sense. He has handled cases that involve the Federal Election Commission, the Senate Ethics Committee, the Office of Congressional Ethics, Inspector General Investigations, Department of Justice investigations, the Maryland Board of Ethics, and the Texas Board of Ethics. However, the vast majority of his work involves advice related to political law compliance, which is intended to prevent issues from ever progressing to the investigation or enforcement stage.
“I have always been interested in politics and I was working in the U.S. Senate during the 2000 Florida recount and passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. During this time I learned election law issues from a policy perspective. Once I entered private practice, I learned election law issues from the perspective of the regulated community. I discovered pretty quickly that the way Congress thinks things work is usually different from how they really work,” he says.
Most new laws in the area of political law are enacted in response to a scandal or major event. The Federal Election Campaign Act and Ethics in Government Act were passed in response to the Watergate scandal. The Help America Vote Act was passed in response to the 2000 Florida recount. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was passed in response to the Abramoff scandal. DeLacey explains, “So the next major piece of legislation in this area will likely be dictated by the next scandal or major event. One current issue is the future of the public financing system. However, there appears to be zero appetite in Congress to address this issue.”
For students interested in pursuing a similar path, DeLacey has a number of pieces of advice: “I would recommend students take accounting for lawyers, administrative law, advocacy regulation, campaign finance, corporations, election law, law & politics, law of presidential elections, law of presidential public financing, legislative redistricting, post-election litigation, presidential public financing, tax, and anything else that speaks to the intersection of law and government. I would also recommend an externship at a government agency and volunteering for a political campaign or as a election day poll worker or observer.”
Courtney Mills ‘11
Courtney Mills is a staff attorney at the Fair Elections Legal Network, where she works on a variety of projects mainly in the area of registration and voting. She notes that they “do a lot of work with non-partisan non-profit groups who do grassroots voter work, providing guidance and expertise on voter registration, GOTV [get out the vote], and election administration” Some of her work takes her to college campuses to ensure students know their registration and voting rights and to get students involved in the elections process. Mills is passionate about getting people to vote, no matter who they vote for. Mills feels lucky to be able to work on an issue she b
elieves in, but notes her work can be challenging. Especially given the furor over registration and voter ID rules this cycle, her group “is often engaged in intense debates with strong emotions on each side.: . She also reports that it can be difficult to work for an organization with a national reach—so much to do, so little time!
Mills interest in the election law field began during her work on registration drives in her undergraduate years, and continued when she worked in a 2006 nationwide GOTV (get out the vote) campaign. Mills notes that this campaign work led her to pursue law school and, specifically, to the field of election law. She believes that “on the ground experience” is one of the most important things a student interested in election law can have—whether its registration drives, campaigns or other political activities. This experience not only helps in the job search, but gives students an understanding of the application of laws and regulations. Mills suggests that students interested in election law get involved in the William & Mary Election Law Society, emphasizing that it helped her get to know people who helped guide her career. She emphasized that students should take as many election law classes as they can. She also suggests that writing classes are very important because of the amount of writing in her job. Mills believes that William & Mary students have “a leg up” in election law, because of the available classes, discussions, and guest speakers—opportunities that provide William & Mary students broad exposure to the field and the people in it.
Nick Mueller, ‘12
Mueller currently serves as legal fellow in the Office of General Counsel for National Education Association (NEA). His work focuses on several election law matters, including preparing for litigation challenging state ballot issues and providing counsel for the NEA and its affiliates on campaign finance matters. He emphasized the political nature of the job, explaining that the NEA often advocates for legal positions and political causes at the same time. Mueller explained that one of the most exciting and challenging aspects of his job is working with the often murky and ambiguous nature of election law.
A political person by nature, Mueller got involved in politics before entering law school. A few years after college, he worked on the Obama campaign in both Nevada and Ohio and the summer after his first year of law school, he worked on Capitol Hill. For those interested in pursuing careers that involve election law, Mueller strongly recommends getting involved in campaigns because they are both a great way to make contacts and gain valuable experience.
Mueller also found his experience as an Election Law Society member to be very useful. In his second year of law school, Mueller had the opportunity to join ELS’s Redistricting Team, which used software to draw redistricting maps for Virginia (editor’s note: Mueller’s map won the statewide contest as the best U.S. Congressional Map). He recommends that students interested in the field take election law classes but he also notes that students should think broadly about what other classes relate to election law. For example, Mueller wishes he had taken a tax law class because of its relevance to campaign finance issues. Finally, Mueller strongly suggested that students get involved on campus and, since election law is a niche specialty, he thinks it is important to try and get a summer position that offers experience in the field.