Learning the Law and Setting Public Policy Without Law School

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

I had the chance to speak to my high school alma matter on career day. The opportunity came out of a conversation I had with a faculty member. We were catching up, and she asked me what I do for a living.  When I mentioned Government Relations and Lobbying, she perked up saying, “you aren’t a lawyer, are you?”  I said no, and that began a deeper conversation about what lobbyists do, what government relations entail, and how that fits in with the legal world.

While some attorneys provide lobbying work and some people who begin their careers working in the capitol go on to law school, the majority of people working in government relations and lobbying do not have a formal legal background.

The good news is that anyone can be interested in law but not necessarily required to go to law school. (And this is why the faculty member at my old high school wanted me to speak on career day to the law session). Working in a capitol as staff to a representative or senator, as part of a legislative council, or in other supportive roles to the legislative process allows one to be a part of creating law.

Maybe you know someone who would be a great attorney, but now is not the right time, student loans aren’t an option, or more formal education doesn’t sound enjoyable. Encourage them to look for a job in a capitol (state or federal). Conversely, one can begin working in a government relations firm or joining a corporation or trade association to concentrate on GR.  However, the best experience comes from working within a capitol.

And, let me add, working in a capitol is a great deal of fun. The hours can be long, but the relationships built and experiences gathered are hard to beat in any other job or graduate school program.  Some of my fondest memories and friends were made from The Hill in D.C. and the Texas Capitol.  Additionally, no book or documentary can teach what one can learn working in a capitol.

If you know someone looking to law school, suggest they intern one summer or semester in DC or their state capitol. They might find a new direction for their career or supplemental knowledge as they approach law school.