Meeting with your elected official can be one of the most effective ways to shape policy that is favorable for attorneys and members of the legal profession. Below are a few suggestions to help you make the most out of your next meeting.
Prepare for your visit: Before your appointment, be sure to go over current information about the issues you would like to speak on, as well as the information regarding your congressional leader or the staff member with whom you are meeting. Know what committees the elected official is on, and if they have made any recent actions for or against something. All of this can be found on their website. If you do not know who your elected officials are, find out here <link>.
Schedule your meeting: When you decide an in-person visit is in order, contact the elected official's scheduler or legislative assistant. Briefly explain that you are a lawyer or member of the legal profession in the community, and specify the issues you would like to address. Clearly stating that you are an interested constituent with a specific topic in mind will help the scheduler brief the person you will speak with.
Always be punctual and ready for anything: The life of an elected official can be hectic. Sometimes they need to change the location of the meeting or even speak with you on the way to another appointment. This is perfectly fine, but a clear reason you should be prepared.
Be respectful of everyone with whom you communicate: The elected official is not always available to meet with you in person and may have a staff member act as their liaison. This is perfectly normal. The elected official depends on these professionals to stay on top of their assigned subjects and advise them when necessary. Treat these individuals with the utmost respect and stick to the plan. The staffer will brief the elected official directly the next chance they get.
Frame the issues precisely: An elected official's main objective is to best represent their district or state, so phrase your issues in terms of how the policy will affect their constituents. Also, whenever possible, describe how you and your colleagues can be of assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask what they would like to see from you. Having them ask you to do something makes an issue come to life and adds an added connection to the relationship.
Follow up after the visit: Make sure to send a quick email following your meeting. Thank whoever you met with for their time and attention. If you said you would gather information for them, remember to do so. This is how you cement the relationship and move to an ongoing dialogue, as opposed to a one-off briefing. Also, update the ABA on issues of national interest or information gained as part of a coordinated ABA advocacy effort. Sharing your experience bolsters our future lobbying efforts and professional relationships and helps us better understand our policy decision makers.