Why should law students study policy? It’s a question I hear a lot when I discuss the Law & Public Policy Program at Temple Law. My answer is simple: Policy is what makes law come to life. It’s the “spirit of the law” that animates and guides it. We sometimes forget that law is meant to serve human values; it exists to help us achieve our highest potential, individually and collectively. Policy is what we use to ensure that our laws continue to serve us well and to change them when they don’t. It informs everything we do as lawyers.
The Law & Public Policy Program gives students - we call them Scholars - the opportunity to learn how policy is made and the tools to participate in that process. Scholars have used these tools to influence policy on a national and even international scale. Law and Public Policy Scholars have spoken at conferences, presented their papers, and published op-ed pieces. One Scholar has presented her work on human trafficking at a Criminology conference in Budapest; another has published his work with both Forbes.com and The Atlantic. Each spring, many Scholars travel with me to the annual Law & Society Meeting, where they present their papers on panels alongside professors of law, political science, and related fields. Through their work in the Law & Public Policy Program, these Scholars are not just learning how to practice law – they are learning how to make it.
The Law & Public Policy Program is like no other law school program today. At its heart is an immersive seven week summer experience living and working in Washington, D.C. While in D.C., Scholars spend their days in approved internships and their nights and weekends attending classes and leadership seminars. They receive career guidance from Professor Knauer and are paired with an alumni mentor who can offer advice and a point of contact in the D.C. legal community. Each Scholar produces a white paper on an issue of national significance and learns how to present it for academic and public discussion.
Scholars in the semester-long fall seminar explore policy-making at the municipal level. Working with the special assistant to the President of Philadelphia’s City Council, participants in the seminar identify policy issues of significance to the city. Through the seminar, previous Scholars have proposed new tax credits, revised the business privilege tax, proposed civil rights legislation, tackled the issue of vacant land, and outlined ways to better serve residents with limited English proficiency.
Upon completion of the summer program, Scholars may also apply to earn academic credit in approved externships while writing papers under the supervision of program director Professor Nancy J. Knauer. Externships are typically with government agencies or advocacy groups doing policy work in the Scholar’s field of interest, and represent extraordinary opportunities to contribute to work being done on issues of national and international significance. Each externship is unique and tailored to the Scholar’s specific policy concern. Examples include working on homelessness among veterans at the VA; international water conflict at The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy; slavery and human trafficking at The Nexus Institute; and immigration and economic mobility at The Heritage Foundation.
The Law & Public Policy program is an integrated learning community. What does this mean?
Integrated- class discussions seamlessly integrate theory, experience, and professionalism, giving Scholars extraordinary insight into the reciprocal relationship among these three critical elements of legal practice;
Learning– The Law & Public Policy Program is a rigorous, intense learning experience in which Scholars focus on the issues of the day by examining in depth pending legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and similar legal developments;
Community– Unlike traditional law school curricula, the Law & Public Policy program emphasizes collaboration over competition. Scholars are expected to support and encourage one another’s efforts. Discourse is preferred to debate, with the expectation that Scholars will learn to develop and discuss policy positions with clarity, eloquence, and professionalism. The program is designed to foster a sense of community among the Scholars that will support and encourage them as they pursue their professional goals. As Professor Knauer tells each incoming class, once a Scholar, always a Scholar.
The Law & Public Policy Program is an academic enrichment program that will help students move to the next level in their development as a professional, no matter where they’re starting from. Scholars are encouraged to identify and develop their interests and strengths; mentored and given great exposure; and taught how to transform ideas into impact. No matter what their goals are as lawyers - from big firm practice to working for the government or a non-profit - Law & Public Policy Scholars will develop the confidence they need to pursue those goals, the skills to back up that confidence, and the vision and voice to make change happen.
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