The interaction between political executives and civil servants rests on a delicate balance between political responsiveness and the duty of civil servants and ministers to respect legal and other normative constraints on executive authority. In Danish central government, this balance is stressed by norms that define the correct behavior when the civil service provides ministers with political advice and assistance. Organizational factors strongly influence civil servants' behavior when they have to balance responsiveness against constraints on their role as political advisers. Moreover, civil servants working closely with ministers pay more attention to legal constraints than their peers among agency officials and specialists. Agency officials and specialists are much more prone to prioritize professional standards. We argue that this pattern can be generalized West European systems.