Government Relations: The Intersection of Regulation, Public Policy, and Business

Yellin-Harold-OPTBy Harold B. Yellin, HunterMaclean

Special to Business In Savannah

Government relations attorneys advise their clients and help them navigate through complex regulatory, legislative, and public policy concerns. When a client’s business matters come before city and county governments or governmental agencies or commissions, an attorney can present the matter clearly and with full knowledge of the law.

For example, new developments must meet a wide range of city, county, and agency regulations, and an attorney can provide knowledgeable guidance on what zoning and land use regulations must be met, and how to move the project through the intricate process of approvals, including presenting before city councils or county commissions, zoning boards of appeal and historic review boards.

Complex licensing matters such as liquor licensing can often benefit from an experienced attorney’s involvement to ensure that all required materials are submitted correctly and regulations are met.

Business can evolve faster than the laws that regulate it, and at times a new business must navigate regulation that has not been examined in relation to its particular enterprise. A government relations attorney can work with the business and the regulating agency or agencies to find a way for the business to pursue growth and the regulation agency to maintain oversight.

Initiatives fostering positive civic changes such as economic development or education must likewise be presented to regulatory agencies, and attorneys experienced in both the business and regulatory sides of the issue can assist in navigating the required approval processes.

Laws and regulations change every year, often growing more complex. These changes can have a material impact on businesses and individuals, and although all attorneys must keep up with the changes in law relating to their practice area, government relations attorneys often take leadership roles in keeping an organization or client abreast of any changes in a particular area of the law. For example, some HunterMaclean attorneys take part in a Georgia delegation that travels to Washington, D.C. once a year to meet with federal legislators. HunterMaclean attorneys regularly provide the community with seminars, articles, and legislative reports on topics as varied as health care law, estate planning, and employment law.

City and county governments are employers, and when governmental officials have a specialized question about their employees, an attorney can advise officials on their position and represent them if the need arises.

If an attorney’s practice grows to include working on behalf of clients to oppose or promote legislation or any rule or regulation of a state or federal agency, then the attorney must register as a lobbyist. Lobbying is highly regulated, and many firms with lobbyist-attorneys create a separate lobbying arm to ensure that the line is clearly defined. At HunterMaclean, a separate lobbying firm is brought into the process if it becomes clear that lobbying efforts would further a client’s business.

Government relations lawyers are a source of experienced advice and strategy on complex matters that involve regulatory and legislative issues. If your business launch, expansion, or ongoing plans involve working with governmental agencies, consider consulting with an experienced government relations attorney.