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4 Ways to Befriend Senators, Land a Federal Judgeship

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 17, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Want to land a cushy spot as a federal judge? It's simple, at least according to D.C. Circuit Judge David Sentelle. Sentelle recently doled out some simple advice at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention. (That's the annual gathering where libertarian and conservative lawyers get together to discuss the Federalist papers and the free market while wringing their hands over Donald Trump.) Just get to know a senator or at least someone who knows a senator.

Don't worry, it's not as hard as it looks. Here's out to find your own senatorial BFF.

Why Senators?

It makes sense. Federal judges are appointed by the President with the approval of the U.S. Senate. Since there's a fair amount of wheeling and dealing behind the appointments of 179 appellate judges and 678 district court judicial positions, having a powerful senator backing you gives you a serious leg up on the competition. (Knowing the President doesn't hurt either, but POTUS pals are more likely to end up as ambassadors than judges.)

But we're not here to discuss why you need senator friends, we're here to discuss how to befriend them. Admittedly, we don't have too many friends in the Senate here, but if we wanted them, here's how we'd do it:

Approach 1: Buy Them

Consider it the traditional method. Get rich and start handing over briefcases full of cash to your favorite senator's reelection campaign -- or better yet, their uncoordinated Super PAC. A few big donations and you can demand face time with your senator. It's your right as a patron. From there, all you have to do is charm. (Don't demand an appointment, however. That would be illegal.)

You'll have some competition though. Lawyers are some of the most prolific political donors, giving over $300,000 a year to senators and tens of millions to presidential campaigns. You can try to get more bang for your buck by foregoing expensive incumbents and dolling cash out to challengers. They'll owe you some friendship in return.

Approach 2: Have Your Company Buy Them

Consider this the in-house approach. If you can't afford your own senator, consider a working in-house for a company that already owns a few. As GC, you'll have plenty of opportunities to interact with legislators. (If in-house isn't sexy enough, consider working for a lobbying firm.)

Approach 3: Work for Them

If you're ambitious and a glutton for punishment, a stint on the Hill might be in order. There are plenty of legal jobs in Senate offices, from being the guy who keeps anyone from talking to Dianne Feinstein, to doing legislative analysis for the freshman senator from Arkansas. Once your foot's in the door, you and Tom Cotton will be barhopping through Georgetown in no time.

Approach 4: Wait on the Corner

Bump into a senator as they head to Congress in the morning, as they leave their Capitol Hill home, and as they visit constituents in their home states. If a senator sees your pleading face everywhere they go, they'll have to become your friend. If not, you'll at least have a fun story about the Secret Service to tell your worthless, non-senator friends.

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