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EJC Conference Presentation on Legislative Advocacy, May 6, 2008

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Equal Justice Conference Presentation on Legislative Advocacy, May 6, 2008

This page was originally created for participants at my presentation at the 2008 Equal Justice Conference and for others who could not attend. The presentation was part of the pre-conference workshop "Self Represented Litigants: Effective Strategies for Meeting Their Needs and Realizing Your Organization's Goals" given at the Minneapolis Hilton on May 6, 2008. These materials are also available on, at However, that version does not have my explanatory notes, and the items are mixed in with other presentation materials in an alphabetical arrangement.

A direct link to this page is sometimes found at other websites. Please note that, since this page is not listed on the navigation bar on the left, if you use the navigation bar, you will not be able to return to the page except by re-entering the full URL:, or by clicking to the page on "Legislative Advocacy." If you wish to keep this window open and go also to other parts on this website, click Home on the breadcrumb line at the top of the page, to the left of the logo. That will open the home page in a separate window. From there you can use the navigation bar to reach other pages on the website.

Legislative Advocacy: A Cognitive Approach

This presentation was a part of several on a panel. As such, it is not intended to be a full workshop, but instead to cover a specific narrow, but difficult, aspect of legislative advocacy: How to change the mind of a legislator during a short office visit. The essential components are (1) how to make a strong case in such a short time, (2) how to employ the elements of storytelling, (3) how to frame the argument, and (4) how to understand and work with the core values of the legislator.

Although the principles used in the presentation are employable in other aspects of legislative advocacy, such as speaking before a group of people you hope to support your cause, it is simply too short to cover all the things that should be considered in a full-scale legislative advocacy plan. There is no really good source for such coverage with respect to justice system agencies, so I am working on curing that. In the meantime, I highly recommend this resource from the Independent Sector, an organization of non-profits: The Non-Profit Lobbying Guide, 2nd ed., 1999, by Bob Smucker. (Click on the title to link to a downloadable version.) The book does not use findings from cognitive science, psychology, and linguistics as I have done, but the examples in the book come from years of valuable experience and contain many of the same elements.

Power Point

Here is the Power Point computer slide show presentation used in the program. My prepared commentary on the individual slides is included in the slide show as Notes. These notes are best read using a full version of MS Power Point, rather than the Power Point Reader version. The slide show contains considerably more information than can be obtained by simply reading the bullet points on some of the slides and should be used if possible.

If you click on the title of the presentation, it will open in a separate window. If you have MS Power Point, your operating system may ask whether you wish to open the file in Power Point, whereupon the file would be retained on your computer in your temporary Internet file storage folder. Your browser or operating system may ask you where you would prefer to save it before opening it with Power Point.

“Legislative Advocacy: A Cognitive Approach” This version is slightly longer than the original presentation (longer notes), but it should load in less than half an MB There are 19 slides. If you have difficulties obtaining this slide show or would like a copy of the original show, then send me an email through "Contact Us.".



The four handouts were alluded to during the presentation at the EJC, but only the "Meeting Your Legislator: A Pretend Office Visit" was passed out at the session to curtail expense. If you click on the title of a handout, it will open an MS Word file in a separate window.

“Meeting Your Legislator: A Pretend Office Visit” For purposes of the presentation, I chose to use an office visit by two people advocating on behalf of a bill to expand self help centers at courthouses from a pilot project to a full-blown statewide funded program. The legislator, for purposes of the exercise, is a conservative Republican generally opposed to expansion of governmental programs. The document records a scene showing the presentation principles enunciated in the Power Point. Use the Track Changes view in MS Word in order to see the comments I have placed in the document to show where certain techniques are employed.

"Some Sources Helpful for Legislative Advocacy" This is a short bibliography of resources used to prepare the presentation. These four books would be extremely valuable in the collection of anyone considering working in legislative advocacy. MS Word Version.

“Lakoff’s Moral Politics in a Nutshell, Part 1” Framing arguments to match the values held by a legislator is a necessary ingredient if one hopes to be persuasive. This document and Part 2 together are my attempt to give you a quick understanding of core values in both conservative and liberal legislators, based on George Lakoff's book Moral Politics (2002 ed.), listed in the "Sources" document. Lakoff wrote about framing arguments to the electorate in order to influence elections. I am using his theory in reverse, in other words, framing arguments to legislators who have the core values they represent they have when they are elected. MS Word Version.

“Lakoff’s Moral Politics in a Nutshell, Part 2” This table presents the second half of the information. It is formatted in Landscape, so I made it a separate document so that it would transmit more easily. MS Word Version.


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