Tag Archives: Greg Bell

Utah Legislature Watch: “Lawyers should be good lobbyists…”

“..but really, they’re pretty lousy.”

Ironic, I know. But that’s the word from Doug Foxley.

Last week I attended a Utah Bar CLE entitled “Utah State Bar Day at the Legislature.” Except, we really didn’t get over to the legislature itself. We sat in an auditorium over in the Capitol Office Building, and the closest we got to a legislator was several lobbyists and the Lieutenant Governor, Greg Bell, who is a former legislator.

So, not quite at the legislature. More near the legislature.

Details aside, however, they morning CLE was geared towards how to better influence and affect Utah’s legislators when we actually got over to see them. (Presumably, this is a “do it yourself” project, or a “do it on behalf of your client” project, perhaps.) But if we do get over there, don’t tell them you’re a lawyer. Or at least, don’t introduce yourself as a lawyer.

Yep. That’s what Doug Foxley said.

But, wait, you say, doesn’t that establish credibility? Not exactly.

You see, chances are, the legislator does not have as much education as you, the lawyer-lobbyist, has obtained. In fact, a recent study bears this out. Adam Brown found that of the 99 legislatures in America, the Utah House ranks #90 in education after high school with only 32% carrying an MA, 4% a JD, and 7% a doctoral degree of some sort.

With that in mind, remember that when you tell the legislator you’ve got some feedback on his legislation “because I’m a lawyer,” he’s not likely to take it so well. After all, who likes to be told what to do by someone who thinks they are smarter than you?

How do you get around this problem? Inadvertent or not, lawyers, intending to establish their credibility by stating their credentials, are actually hurting their efforts. Chris Kyler, who shared the stage with Foxley and Pignanelli, had some common sense advice:

At some point, it is important to let them know you’re a lawyer. Just not right off the bat when you shake their hand.

That said, here are a few other tips for communicating your message to legislators:

  • Remember that the legislature can be an emotional place. Frank Pignanelli called it an “emotional body.” Further, he said, “[l]ogic and reason have no place in the legislature.” Act accordingly.
  • There are hundreds of bills in the legislature, and it’s a really fast session–just six weeks! Legislators have a short attention span; get your presentation down to a two-minute elevator speech.
  • Don’t categorize legislators. Remember that politics makes strange bedfellows. Don’t get sidetracked by a legislator’s apparent ideology.
  • Last: make time to talk to the legislators. If email is your only way to contact them, likely you’re just educating a 20-year old intern, not the legislator.

Utah takes up a cause we can all agree on

It is always a pleasant surprise when I find myself sitting next to someone doing something significant for little reward, applause, recognition, if any at all.

Today, I sat next to a fellow attorney in a meeting as our general counsel announced that this attorney, a man with many decades of legal experience more  than myself and something of a living legend around here, would be spending some significant time on a project to promote increased civility in Utah. It was not the first I had heard about the Utah Civility and Community 2011, but it was the first time I had heard anything specific about it. I was impressed that an exemplary and skilled attorney would take significant time away from his very lucrative career to lend his skills, reputation, and efforts to an unpaid, but very important, cause.

What is the Utah Civility and Community 2011 project?

The Utah Civility and Community 2011 site states that “In Utah we are committed to respectful discourse and behavior toward all people. Further we are committed to being a welcoming, inclusive and caring community. Now is a great time to pass it on and start the five steps to a more caring Utah.” It is co-chaired by Lt. Governor Greg Bell, and individual I know and have a high degree of respect for, and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who I do not know, but who has impressed me (more about his tenure here).

A short brochure about the project details four parts of the campaign to increase civility this year:

Part 1: Touch Of Civility – Pass It On Campaign. This is a campaign to pass along “civility cards” when you see someone acting in a civil manner.

Part 2: Five Steps to a More Civil and Caring Utah. Reflect, Share, Engage, Act, Contribute.

Part 3: A Series of Regional Summits Throughout the State

Part 4: Statewide Community Participation and Celebrations

Participation is expected to include public schools, civic centers, places of worship, public meetings and “any other place Utahns can generate a renewal of respectful and caring discourse and behavior.” (I can’t help but wonder if this will include the state legislature…) In November, the campaign intends to organize community gatherings to celebrate both the efforts and successes of the project, as well as to “pledge a continuing effort to pursue a higher ‘civil-ization’ in Utah.”

For more information, check your local news tonight. A press conference was held this morning, and I understand that all local news stations were in attendance. Also, visit the site on the web at http://utahcivility.org. It’s still fairly undeveloped but the rudiments are there, and I am sure the content will grow as the campaign gets rolling.

As pleasant a surprise my experience was, I think it is a gift  we can pass on more often by acting with civility ourselves.

Civility. Pass it on.