GrassrootsLobbying

Grassroots Lobbying, The Trial Lawyer Way
(Or “How to Save the Civil Justice System”)

Every day of our lives we, as trial lawyers, attempt to persuade or influence someone else’s opinion on an issue. Only when a government official is the target of our interest is the term lobbying appropriately used.

PaTLA actively represents the interest of its membership before the General Assembly and state agencies. The leaders of our association encourage members to become directly involved in the political process by communicating PaTLA’s positions and concerns with their elected officials. This is grassroots lobbying.

Attorneys are in an excellent position to inform, influence & educate legislators as to the ultimate effect of their actions. Our understanding and experiences as to how laws impact the daily lives of our clients provide us with a unique perspective legislators want and need to know.

KEEP PaTLA’S LEGISLATIVE OFFICE INFORMED

Sometimes legislators will develop a split personality. A commitment they give to a constituent in the home district is forgotten once they arrive in Harrisburg.

An effective lobbying campaign will hinge on whether your lobbyists & officers have precise and correct political intelligence coming from the overall membership. Whenever a PaTLA member contacts a legislator, they should keep the association informed of the legislator’s comments or commitments. Communicate with PaTLA's legislative office.

Prior to your contact with legislators, call on PaTLA’s professional staff in Harrisburg for current information about legislation, amendments, bill numbers, PaTLA’s position or to address any question you may have.

By following these guidelines, you will help build an efficient communication network between PaTLA leadership, membership and staff, and you will help preserve the civil justice system in Pennsylvania.

LOBBYING BY PERSONAL VISIT

One of the most effective ways to lobby a legislator is in a face to face visit in the legislator’s district office. Usually the visit “back home” is preferable to any other lobbying technique. You will have more quality time to discuss the details of an issue and easily organize a group meeting where you can be accompanied by a handful of clients affected by the legislation.

Furthermore, a visit in the district will reinforce the image of you as an active, voting constituent, and not only a member of PaTLA.

To maximize the impact of these meetings (see also "Do's & Don'ts of Lobbying"):

  • Make an appointment in advance and try to get adequate time blocked out for your meeting.
  • Contact your legislative staff to inform them about your meeting, and to receive up-to-date info about legislation & your legislator.
  • Get to your point quickly and keep discussion focused on the issue. Don’t waste time on small talk or allow the legislator to wander away from the purpose of the meeting.
  • Be clear on what your position is and what you want the legislator to do.
  • Never lie or exaggerate. As a member of PaTLA, you must be credible.
  • Give specific examples of how the legislation affects your clients.
  • If possible, describe the opposition’s position and then provide concise counter arguments. This approach strengthens your credibility through your superior knowledge and prepares the legislator to question the other side.
  • ASK FOR YOUR LEGISLATOR’S VIEW ON THE BILL AND HOW HE OR SHE WILL VOTE.
  • Follow-up your visit with a thank-you note to the legislator and to those who helped you.
  • Communicate with PaTLA’s Legislative Office.

LOBBYING BY LETTER

Contacting a legislator by letter is a powerful lobbying technique.

A legislator seriously considers every hand written, thoughtful, well-documented and individually prepared letter. Our elected officials understand an issue’s importance if a sizeable number of constituents make an effort to communicate to them in a personal letter.

As you prepare your letter, there are a few important guidelines to follow:

  • Confirm the name and correct spelling of the legislator representing your district.
  • Include your home address (if you are a constituent)
  • Write the letter in a polite, personal style. Never use a threatening or insulting tone.
  • Make the point of your argument from your client’s perspective. Presenting real life examples of how proposed legislation will impact the law enhances your credibility.
  • Be brief and to the point. Try to limit your letter to one page.
  • Be sure you know the correct Bill Number and accompanying Printer Number. A bill number never changes. A printer number changes every time the bill is amended. If you do not have this information, call PaTLA.
  • ASK FOR A RESPONSE AS TO HOW YOUR LEGISLATOR MAY VOTE ON THE LEGISLATION.
  • Communicate with PaTLA’s Legislative Office.

LOBBYING BY TELEPHONE

Making a telephone call to your legislator is effective when an issue is moving quickly. Here are some tips for lobbying by telephone:

  • Think about what you want to say before placing the call. Be knowledgeable as to the correct bill number, status of the bill, PaTLA’s position and the major points you want to make to support your position.
  • Identify yourself by name, position & home address (if you are a constituent).
  • Briefly state your purpose, explain your position and be prepared to provide information if asked.
  • ASK FOR YOUR LEGISLATOR’S VIEW ON THE BILL AND HOW HE OR SHE WILL VOTE.
  • Be prepared to provide written background by fax.
  • Communicate with PaTLA’s Legislative Office.

 

By following these guidelines, you will help build an efficient communication network between PaTLA leadership, membership and staff, and you will help preserve the civil justice system in Pennsylvania.

How else can you make an impact?
Join PaTLA's Legislative Network.
Contribute to LAWPAC.