Lobbying Jobs – Careers For Lawyers in Government Relations

Lobbying Jobs – Careers For Lawyers in Government Relations

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Marc Luber: Hey everyone – wondering what
it’s like to be a lobbyist? That’s what we’re looking at today on
JD Careers Out There – where we get you career advice from fellow lawyers and non-practicing
lawyers – to help you achieve success and happiness in your career. In law school, you learn how to think, read
and write like a lawyer. We’re here to help you enjoy your career
– and a big part of that is finding a path that excites you – so let’s see if you’re
excited about today’s path of Government Relations. I’m Marc Luber – and we’re talking to
Martha Pellegrino, the Director of the Office of Government Relations for the City of Portland,
Oregon. I asked Martha to tell us what she does as
a Lobbyist in the public sector. You’ll notice that we had some CRAZY Skype
issues, so we actually show Martha’s photo so that the video feed doesn’t distract
from her great answers. Here’s a look at our talk: Martha Pellegrino: Essentially, as a lobbyist,
we are advocates in the legislative process for our client. In this case, it’s the city of Portland,
Portland city council, all of our different city departments. So any issues that come up that have some
sort of legislative consequence, or in many cases, administrative consequence at the state
or federal level, my office is involved. We help to identify what those issues are
and then work on strategies to get the kind of outcome that is good for the good people
of Portland. As the director, I oversee an office of 7
people, so we are an in-house lobbying shop. So that includes doing work at the federal
level, as I mentioned state level, and then some regional and statewide issues as well. As the biggest city in Oregon, we’ve got
a responsibility to the whole state. So we spend a lot of time travelling around
and also hearing about what issues are facing other communities. Luber: Interesting. So can you give us an example of some of those
issues, some examples of things you might be advocating for the city of Portland? Martha Pellegrino: Sure. Well, let me start with some broad issue areas
because the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many different things touch cities. So we deal with issues like transportation,
affordable housing, water infrastructure, sewer infrastructure and then we’ve got
all those issues that everybody else deals with – personnel, public contracting, we’ve
got police and fire, 911 responders and the list goes on. So in each of those issue areas, we have different
legislative items. Luber: I always thought that if people want
stuff done on their behalf, that they need to personally go or organize in groups and
go to their congresspeople. I never knew that there were lobbyists representing
public groups or cities that are doing that same work. How does that work? How do you interact with just the common folk,
like me and my neighbors who would maybe have an issue? How does that work? Martha Pellegrino: Well, first of all, there’s
enormous value to citizen activists and citizen advocates and non-profit organizations that
help and sort of organize people. In our experience, members of Congress love to
hear from people in their district and love it when people flag issues that are important
to them. How it differs a little bit and how we interact
with the public, is that we serve an elected body. And any person in Portland can actually lobby
or advocate to the city council saying, “This particular issue is something I want the city
to take a stance on or take a position on. Here’s this letter I want you guys to sign
on because I think it would actually mean a lot to have the city of Portland sign on.” But basically, with very few people, because
we are a government entity, we don’t have teams, dozens of lobbyists. We’re not like maybe a private national
industry group who can have armies of people in DC; we really serve a coordinating role,
we track all the pieces and then we help facilitate those communications. But a few times a year, we’ll hold open
forums for people to come and let us know what they care about at the state or federal
level. So, that’s one way the community can interact
directly in our process. Luber: Interesting. How else are you given the signal that this
is something you need to go advocate for? What else tells you? Is it the mayor? Who’s telling you, “This needs to be handled”? Martha Pellegrino: Well sometimes that does
happen. I mean, we work very closely with the Portland
mayor, Mayor Sam Adams, and all the Portland city council. And so there are some times when those issues
will be flagged at the elective level. They’ll also be flagged sometimes at our
city departments. In the Portland Water Bureau, or Bureau of
Environmental Services, or city attorney’s office. One of the interesting to think about, especially
for lawyers, is that, when you’re practicing in a traditional environment, you’re hired
by a client to help advise them on legal issues and sometimes that involves going to court. Well on the lobbying side, you’re also advising
a client about how to navigate issues, but in a decision-making body other than a court. So, at a city council or a state legislature
or the congressional level or the federal agency; it’s about learning the rules of
the game so that you understand how to effectively navigate that decision-making process. So you’ve got court and then, in my mind,
you’ve got everything else – and all the other places where your client’s interest
could be impacted. So anyway, that’s just another way of thinking
about it. Luber: In the Full Interview, Martha tells
us lots more about what it’s like to be a lobbyist, specifically in the public sector. She breaks down what it takes to accomplish
the job, what skills from law school are regularly used, how to break in to government relations
and how having a JD helps you to do that. You can find the full interview at JDCareersOutThere.com. And you can take a shortcut to the site by
going to JDCOT.com. If you’re already at the site, you can scroll
down to the full version – be sure to become a member so you can watch the full interview
and get access to lots more exclusive content filled with great advice. Thanks again for watching everyone – I’m
Marc Luber and look forward to seeing you again soon. Take care.

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