Policy Skills

Meagan Singer and Jena Shoaf speak at SeaGrant Conference in Connecticut
Meagan Singer (L) and Jena Shoaf speak at SeaGrant Conference

The role of policy lawyer is less scripted by rules of procedure than more traditional roles.  A policy lawyer crafts a new role for each project rather than take up the same role as would a courtroom litigator.  One client might ask you to draft a bill to amend existing law; the next might ask you to develop a strategy to create a new insurance system.

Our students develop their roles in one of our policy teams – trade, health or climate.  We must specialize to meet our clients’ needs.  But the skill set our students employ is common to any government, corporate or nonprofit setting.  Students learn directly from their own work, and they learn vicariously by observing and critiquing other students who are using the same skill sets on very different topics.

Skill setsStudents in the policy clinic earn 14 credits over the course of two semesters.  Our goal is for students to draw from core skill sets in order to adapt their policy role to any project or setting.  We organize our curriculum, supervision methods and evaluation criteria around these three skill sets:

Strategy & management
Whose needs does a policy serve?  Rarely is there a single public interest, and frequently, policy-making is a contest among many conflicting interests. Often, a policy lawyer is accountable to multiple clients or broader constituencies.  Usually, there are multiple policy choices in play that make choices difficult.  Our students learn to:

  • Manage supervision meetings.
  • Plan work for strategic outcomes.
  • Manage effort and deadlines.
  • Define and fill their role in groups.
  • Manage value conflicts and ethical obligations.

Strategy - Planning Backwards
Research & analysis
What problem are you solving?  How many ways are there to solve it?  Who has the legal authority?  How do you reach your conclusions?  To analyze in a way that empowers our clients to act, our students learn to:

  • Identify legal and policy questions.
  • Learn the legal and policy context efficiently.
  • Use diverse sources to avoid bias.
  • Explain analytic methodology.
  • Use a logical framework.
  • Draw conclusions or options that meet client needs.

Evaluating policy choices
Communication - writing and speaking

Who is your audience?  What do they need to learn about the problem or their legal options?  How will they use your analysis to make decisions?  To communicate in a way that empowers our clients to act, our students learn to:

  • Organize documents and presentations logically.
  • Meet audience needs for context in the introduction.
  • Relate the analysis through stories, examples, and slides to show what you mean.
  • Use appropriate language in terms of tone, objectivity and jargon.
  • Conclude actively to support client decision-making.
Writing Process

On The Web

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