There are many ways to become a legislative director, and the path to choose is largely dependent on the sort of work that you intend to do. In nearly all cases, however, you will need an undergraduate degree as well as several years of legislative drafting, researching and planning experience. Many legislative directors work directly for lawmakers. Others work for government officials who are involved in overseeing or influencing legislation or for private organizations that want to keep tabs on developing laws.
Like most positions with the word “director” in their titles, legislative directors are often highly advanced professionals. It usually is not possible to become a legislative director right out of school. You usually will need to spend several years gaining experience in the lawmaking process of your jurisdiction before you will be a viable candidate to become a legislative director.
Legislative director careers can encompass things such as setting up a legislative agenda or actually drafting the law’s wording. Some are primarily advocacy-based positions, and others are more grounded in research. A lot of what it takes to become a legislative director is figuring out the context in which you want to work.
Most legislative directors work on staff for lawmakers or other government officials. In this capacity, they propose drafts of legislation that the official supports, and keep track of promoting his or her legislative priorities. Similar positions also exist in most government agencies, where directors work to advance laws that favor their offices, as well as in the private sector, where directors keep tabs on pending and proposed laws that would affect their core industry.
Common legislative director duties in all capacities include researching both past and present laws, networking with influential parties, writing convincing memos and proposals and issuing briefs. To become a legislative director, you must be not only sharp but also outgoing, because much of the job entails winning people over to support you or your office’s position. You also must be well-versed in your employer’s main issues and areas of interest, as well as the main issues of key opponents.
There are many ways to gain the experience needed to become a legislative director. In most cases, there are no fixed legislative director requirements aside from familiarity with how laws are proposed, passed and implemented. Many directors get their starts in local politics as lawyers or lobbyists.
Many people become legislative directors through promotion from legislative assistant positions. In most government offices, elected officials hire teams of assistants to help draft legislation on a variety of issues. These assistants usually report to a single legislative director who, in turn, reports to the official. It is by no means essential to be an assistant before becoming a legislative director, although this is a common career trajectory.