Lobbying (also known as government relations) is generally defined as when an individual or organization attempts to persuade members of the government - often members of Congress or regulatory agencies - to make decisions that would benefit a particular group or special interest. Professional lobbyists are paid to try and influence legislation on behalf of a specific group or individual who hires them. Lobbyists often work for lobbying firms; trade associations; law firms; Political Action Committees (PACs); large corporations; political parties; or advocacy groups.
In addition to lobbying members of the government, lobbyists also monitor, research, and analyze legislation or regulatory proposals; attend congressional hearings; educate government officials and corporate officers on relevant issues; and attempt to change public opinion through the media and other information sources.
A successful lobbyist is knowledgeable, persuasive, and sociable (and a charming personality doesn’t hurt!). Lobbyists must have strong communication skills (both written and oral) and be able to thrive in very fast-paced, action-oriented environments. Additionally, it helps to have previous experience on Capitol Hill, which provides an opportunity to both learn the legislative process and make contacts (since lobbyists are often hired as much for who they know as for what they know). Lawyers often make good lobbyists, because law school helps to develop strong communication and analytical skills. Having attended law school is also helpful for reading and understanding proposed legislation. Common job titles for JDs include: legislative associate; research analyst; staff assistant; and research assistant.
Lobbying is a very competitive industry, and job openings are frequently filled through networking and referrals – and often by recruiting Hill staffers. Law students interested in lobbying careers should consider interning on the Hill, with a lobbying organization, or with a trade association; or volunteering on a political campaign. Trade associations often hire summer interns; the hiring timeline varies by organization but tends to occur around February or March. Additionally, members of Congress regularly hire interns for both their personal offices and committee staff. To apply for an internship with a member’s personal office, submit a resume and cover letter to the Chief of Staff or the Legislative Director. For internships with a committee, apply to the majority or minority staff director or the Chief of Staff.
If you are interested in a career in lobbying, also consider applying for our Spring Break in Public Affairs program.
Martindale (search for law firms with Government Relations practice)
Leadership Library (search for employees of lobbying and law firms)
Roll Call Jobs (includes trade association job postings and lobbying positions for non-profits)
Opportunities in Public Affairs (legislative, Capitol Hill, and public affairs job postings)
DC Public Affairs and Communications Jobs (DC area jobs in public affairs, communications, lobbying, media)
www.lobbyingjobs.com (a dedicated lobbying job board for local, state and federal lobbyists, advocacy, public policy, public affairs and government relations positions)