This year, the Government Practice Section is producing a series called Take Ten: Q+A in an effort to learn more about each other and what each section member does. Check out this installment from executive committee member Sarah Burkman, and submit your own responses to be featured in the series to Rachel Beachy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name, firm, and position at firm:
Sarah Burkman, Senior Staff Attorney, Indiana Legislative Services Agency
What is the focus of your practice?
The Legislative Service Agency (LSA) is a nonpartisan agency that serves both the Indiana Senate and the Indiana House of Representatives. Within LSA, I work in the Office of Bill Drafting & Research, which is staffed by 24 attorneys who are responsible for drafting legislation and advising legislators of the legal ramifications of state law changes. During the legislative session, we serve as counsel to both chambers’ standing committees, and we draft amendments, floor motions, and committee reports for various bills. When the legislature is not in session, we staff and prepare final reports for interim study committees investigating specific issues and proposals. Bill drafting assignments and committee staffing are based on each attorney’s individual subject matter experience. I happen to deal with legislation in the areas of utility law, financial institutions and consumer credit.
How long have you been practicing?
I’ve been practicing for nearly 17 years, all of them at LSA.
How long have you been in Indy?
I moved here from Kalamazoo, Michigan, 20 years ago. Indianapolis suits me, so I’ve stayed.
What do you value most about the practice of law?
In working for the legislative branch of government, I’ve learned firsthand how laws and policy decisions affect various constituents and interest groups. The work is intellectually challenging, and the nonpartisan nature of LSA has enabled me to work with thoughtful and dedicated legislators from both parties. Within the agency, I’ve worked with great colleagues, including other attorneys, fiscal analysts, editors, IT experts and administrative staff.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
I enjoy my family, reading, sports, creative writing and volunteering.
What position do you hold on the Executive Committee?
At-Large Member and Scholarship Committee Chair.
What are your goals for the Section this year? What are you most excited about for the Section?
I would like to build on the strong schedule of CLEs that the Section has offered in recent years, particularly the debates on current policy issues. As Chair of the Scholarship Committee, I’m always excited to award a scholarship to a talented Indiana law student who’s interested in government practice.
What’s one piece of advice you’ve learned from your years of experience in the field?
I’ve learned the importance of collaborating with colleagues when faced with a project that seems overwhelming. By seeking input at the early stages of an assignment, I’ve learned I can save myself a lot of time and misguided effort by drawing on the expertise of others. In turn, I’ve tried to be a resource for my co-workers as well.
Anything else section members should know about you?
I’ve come to appreciate that government employees and officials (and legislators, in particular) often don’t get the credit they deserve. Despite the sometimes negative headlines, there are a lot of conscientious public servants who work hard for their constituents and communities!