The NCSL Blog


By Kae Warnock

The RELACS/LRL Professional Development Seminar in Harrisburg, Penn., brought together legislative staff from around the country for two-and-a-half days of training and networking. Topics included in-depth editing and grammar, committee staffing, ethics and civility, gubernatorial activism, committee subpoena power and usage, and how to create an aspiring leaders program.

Pennsylvania capitolDuring the meeting, participants were invited to send shoutouts to their colleagues to thank them for great work in their respective legislatures. Would you like to send a shoutout? Click here to thank a colleague: shoutout.

Participants also learned a lot! See the comments below on what participants valued, what we can do better next time, and what topics we should consider for future meetings. In addition, participants were pleased that NCSL provided all handouts in the NCSL Event App and on the meeting website, and offered hyperlinks for longer research documents and court cases.

What Did Participants Value?

  • Loved being in the capitol and meeting other attorneys who share my practice. Both are very rare and appreciated.
  • The ethics guest speaker was phenomenal. I learned a lot and laughed a lot.
  • Knowledgeable leaders in the areas.
  • The panelists all provided extremely relevant information and the discussion was very beneficial in relation to the issues we are facing.
  • The speakers were excellent. They covered their topics thoroughly.
  • Everyone was well versed in their subject area and that came across in the presentations.
  • Ethics and Supreme Court Review both outstanding.
  • All panelists were knowledgeable and clear. Each session ran “short,” would have liked more time for questions.
  • The best sessions provided ideas and skills I can take back to my state.
  • All the lawyer-oriented sessions were good-relevant topics, knowledgeable speakers, good tips; second, the chance to interact with peers is always beneficial.
  • This was my first NCSL event—and my overall reaction is “wow”. Although the sessions were fascinating and informative, the most valuable aspect was the conversations with my counterparts from other states.
  • I really found the practical skills sessions wonderful.
  • Professional development opportunities were great, appreciated the variety of topics; networking opportunities good as well; Ability to serve as a panelist—professional growth/ public speaking practice.
  • As a relatively new legislative staffer I really appreciated learning about how other states do things.
  • This is the third I've attended and I’m glad the content was different from the first two.
  • I enjoyed meeting my colleagues from across the U.S.!

What Can We Do Better Next Time? 

  • Allow more time for questions and answers.
  • When we meet in state capitols, check the sound systems and try to have a backup plan.
  • Make sure presenters use larger fonts for their presentations.
  • Try to control the temperature in the rooms, if possible. (Sometimes it’s not.)
  • Create more panels where the information provided covers more states. (50-state survey data)
  • Strive for more racial diversity on your panels.
  • Ice breaker activities and sessions with group activities since so many of us are introverts.
  • More coffee breaks.
  • Make sure presenters deliver information in a nonpartisan way.

What Topics Should We Consider for Future Meetings?

  • Do a session on the mechanisms of writing policy reports and memos.
  • Maybe something like developing in-house reference materials?
  • Public speaking training.
  • A grammar or style workshop focused more toward attorneys.
  • More opportunities for formal discussion about different practices in staff offices.
  • Focus more on leadership development opportunities.
  • More information of archival practices—especially in regard to the move away from paper in bill files and legislative/agency products.
  • More management level session options and specific skills training (dealing with difficult people, implicit bias, etc.).
  • More on electronic drafting/editing approaches.
  • More comparative info about how different state legislatures do things differently.
  • Do more case studies of specific legal issues.
  • More on drafting principles and basics for attorneys.
  • Hold a showcase where staff bring their drafting manual and their editors’ checklist and answer questions about their drafting and editing process.
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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.