Have you ever felt like your day flew by in the blink of an eye? Multiply that feeling by ten and you have the life of a lobbyist. Through my internship at NASW-Michigan, I was granted the experience of job shadowing the chapter lobbyist for a day. I can’t even count how many hands I shook and people I met: lobbyists, analysts, state senators, state representatives, reporters, and some leaders in huge organizations. I was in the House of Representatives Building, the offices of three Representatives, the lobbyist’s office for conference calls, the capitol building, the office of the minority leader, the House of Representatives Chamber, the senate office building, the office of a senator, and the office of our governor’s staff, all in a 7 hour day. Even lunch was a meeting with the director of a large organization. After constantly running from here to there, I was exhausted by the end of the day and our lobbyist started 2 hours before I joined him!
I witnessed the Criminal Justice Committee, the Health Policy Committee, the House of Representatives session, a few roundtable discussions, and various meetings with legislators, clients of the lobbyist firm, and stakeholders in active legislation. I was really impressed with our lobbyist. He stopped and spoke briefly on a personal and professional level with nearly every person we passed by, and we passed by A LOT of people. I saw firsthand the importance of making and maintaining relationships with legislators, legislative staff, organization representatives, and the list goes on.
The lobbyist I shadowed is a partner in a lobbyist firm. He has 12 clients, one of which is the NASW-Michigan Chapter. It was fascinating to see how well he juggled representing all of these clients and it was especially fascinating to see him representing NASW-Michigan throughout the day by supporting legislation, setting up meetings, and keeping us in the conversation. He explained to me how every time he participates in conversation around legislative efforts or actions he has to be thinking of all clients and any conflicts of interest that could occur between clients, which he jokingly said resulted in him “arguing with himself”.
The life of a lobbyist is fast paced. It involves going (very quickly) from meeting, to hearing, to session, to offices, to phone conferences, etc. It involves knowing what legislation is introduced, knowing what people are talking about introducing, knowing who supports what, etc. It involved knowing hundreds of people and making sure they know you. This was an incredible experience of an inside look into the legislature and the world of a lobbyist. I am grateful to NASW-Michigan and our lobbyist for the experience.