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After the Bar

Practice Areas & Settings

What Is a Lobbyist and How Can You Become One?

Erin Ann Appel


  • Lobbyists are professional advocates who represent clients, causes, interests, or issues to influence ideas or opinions and elicit specific action that favors the interests they represent.
  • Lobbyists prepare and deliver accurate and persuasive information, build and maintain a network of supporters and political decision-makers, and stay up to date on political and policy movements.
  • Successful lobbyists are effective communicators, who have strong interpersonal skills, and a strong work ethic.
  • Registration requirements vary by state and at the federal level, but there are no specific educational or licensing requirements to become a lobbyist.
What Is a Lobbyist and How Can You Become One?
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Do you enjoy advocating for a certain interest or cause? Are you personable and an effective communicator? If so, you might consider a career in lobbying. Many people with personalities drawn to the law can also find themselves with traits that could lead to success in lobbying.

What Is a Lobbyist?

A lobbyist is a professional advocate for a client, cause, interest, or issue. While the title of lobbyist is broad, every lobbyist’s objective is to influence ideas or opinions and elicit specific action that favors the interests or clients they represent. Most often, this involves articulating and communicating the client’s views and positions to lawmakers and other governmental decision-makers, with the goal of influencing a particular decision, such as voting a certain way or establishing (or resolving) certain policies. To do this, a lobbyist must be well-informed and have a deep understanding of many things, including their client’s interests, industry, and issues; the legislative and administrative process and players; and the policy and political initiatives of the relevant legislators and decision-makers.

A lobbyist may work for a public or private corporation, a single individual, or a trade or industry association, sometimes alongside advocacy groups, organizations, and other interested stakeholders. Although each organization may be distinctly different, each entity shares a common goal: to inspire ideas, incite change, and influence the opinions of relevant decision-makers.

What Does a Lobbyist Do?

A day in the life of a lobbyist will vary, but in general, a lobbyist is often responsible for:

  • preparing and delivering to relevant decision-makers accurate and persuasive information that advances their client’s interests and goals;
  • building and maintaining a network of supporters, political decision-makers, and other professionals;
  • meeting with lawmakers and other political figures;
  • developing creative strategies that display and advance the interests of the client or cause they represent;
  • staying up to date on political and policy movements, both with respect to relevant legislation and changes in administration;
  • attending and testifying at legislative and committee meetings; and
  • responding to regulatory or media inquiries on behalf of the client.

What Skills Make a Successful Lobbyist?

If lobbying is something you are interested in pursuing, it is important to think about whether you are a good fit for the job. While there are no defined criteria, there are several characteristics that often help lobbyists succeed.

Successful Lobbyists Are Effective Communicators

This means having the ability to both listen to and articulate your client’s positions clearly, professionally, and with confidence. This is especially important when, for example, a lobbyist is responsible for advocating on behalf of an interest or issue that a key legislator may not be familiar with. Often, lobbyists serve as the first source of information for a legislator, so to succeed, it is imperative that the lobbyist explains the issues clearly and credibly so that the legislator fully understands the issues and the client’s position.

Successful Lobbyists Have Strong Interpersonal Skills

They are good at networking, socializing, and building connections. Lobbyists frequently are retained by clients because of their personal connections to specific decision-makers, so personal and professional networks are extremely important. Moreover, because advocating for something is often most effective when individuals and organizations band together for a single purpose or cause, a lobbyist’s ability to build and sustain coalitions and relationships is important.

Successful Lobbyists Have a Strong Work Ethic

Depending on the client or cause and the status or posture of the legislation for which the lobbyist is advocating, a lobbyist’s schedule can be grueling and demanding. During the legislative session, lobbyists often work late hours and are expected to be on call around the clock to field questions and respond to quick or unexpected changes or events. Successful lobbyists are dedicated and driven to work persistently for their cause and client.

Successful Lobbyists Can Design Creative, Well-Tailored Strategies

Without a doubt, lawmakers want to see objective data and reliable authority before they commit to supporting a cause, but many times they are first captivated by a compelling story. Being able to lead with empathy and do a bit of storytelling can be powerful tools to advocate and get your message across successfully. In the same vein, so too is being able to tailor your message and appeal to the emotions of your audience.

How Do I Become a Lobbyist?

There are no specific educational or licensing requirements to become a lobbyist, although all professional lobbyists are subject to registration requirements in every US jurisdiction. Who exactly must register and what information needs to be disclosed varies substantially by state, as well as at the federal level 

Many lobbyists hold degrees in political science, economics, communications, or public relations, but not all do. In addition, lobbyists often have diverse backgrounds and varied career experiences. For example, former legislators and politicians commonly take up lobbying, as do lawyers and educators. Frequently, members of a particular industry transition into lobbying on behalf of that industry. Some of the most successful lobbyists pivot to a lobbying career after years elsewhere, as you never know where your experience, connections, and influence can lead.

Lobbying is all about spreading a message to incite change. To be successful at this, a lobbyist must be well-informed, persuasive, and confident. Affability and passion for the cause for which you are advocating don’t hurt either.