Associate Life

Robert Cobbs

Legal Issues

June 29, 2012 10:21 AM | Permalink | Print

I’m writing this at the end of my first month, having taken three projects through a couple of iterations. It’s been a pretty interesting mix so far, and I’ve been surprised by how much actual legal analysis I’ve been doing.

As I mentioned last week, my first assignment involved the relationship between Congress and the District of Columbia—two institutions I love dearly. As part of some pro bono work we’re doing for a nonprofit advocacy group, I was asked to look at the DC government’s authority to amend or repeal Acts of Congress. So right away, I was thrown into some fairly complicated legal territory, setting Congress’s constitutional authority over the District against the DC Council’s delegated powers under certain provisions. There wasn’t an easy answer, either—I felt like my analysis was doing real work in the case.

Most recently, I’ve spent a couple of weeks on a pro bono project for an NGO that does development work abroad. There's a chance that some of its subcontractors are behaving in an unprofessional manner, so I was asked to research what—if anything—the NGO is required to do about it. I’ve waded through the arcana of federal contracting law and just put the finishing touches on a ten-page memo. As byzantine and complicated as the contracting regulations are, there’s a certain satisfaction to unraveling the whole mess through to the end. I feel a little like I’ve been initiated into a secret society of government contracting wonks.