Do's & Don'ts When Dealing with Legislators

DO

  • Visit your elected legislator’s office or bring a constituent(s) who is represented by the specific legislator.
  • Know your legislative issue or prospective legislation.
  • Be polite and respectful to everyone in the office, including both staff and legislators.
  • Be flexible with the meeting location — sometimes legislators or staff only have a moment to meet in a hallway rather than an office. This is common and the best recommendation is to adapt.
  • Be brief and provide your strongest points or arguments at the beginning of the meeting. Be clear, concise, and honest.
  • Assume your listener knows nothing about court reporting, captioning, or legal videography and simplify complex issues.
  • Describe the impact the legislation will have on you personally if enacted.
  • Describe the benefit of supporting or opposing the proposed legislation.
  • Anticipate questions and the opposing side’s argument.
  • Leave or send written material.
  • Dress appropriately, usually in business attire.
  • Leave your business card.
  • Always request support or opposition from the legislator or staff person at the end of your meeting.
  • Follow up with a thank-you email or letter. 

DON'T

  • Be rude or disrespectful to any staff person.
  • Talk loudly or unprofessionally in the legislator’s office lobby — remember, there is always someone listening.
  • Dress unprofessionally.
  • Confuse the legislative issue by discussing multiple issues — you should focus solely on one legislative issue during your meeting as meetings usually run short (about ten or fifteen minutes).
  • Lack brevity – the goal is to keep the meeting concise and convey your strongest points or arguments.
  • Be afraid to say "I don't know. I'll get back to you." It’s better not to know an answer and follow up later after conducting research than to provide false information.
  • Use words that are terms of art, cliches, or acronyms – remember, assume that your audience knows nothing about the subject
  • Become confrontational or argumentative.
  • Threaten.
  • Use inappropriate language.
  • Provide false information.
  • Fail to follow up with the staff person or legislator and thank them for their time.