This Article addresses the paradox that change is nothing new for those who teach aspiring lawyers how to effectively engage in the reality of the complex public policy arena. It rejects the notion that money buys results, and success is merely a matter of quick-fix influence peddling and personal relationships. Instead, to teach students how to provide public policy analysis, advice, and advocacy, teachers must help them understand and be prepared for a relentlessly dynamic, continuously evolving professional ecosystem where the very object of the work is to either advance or forestall legal change, often involving issues contested on multiple fronts and levels of government, over the long term where outcomes are constantly challenged and rarely, if ever, permanent. The players, institutions, venues, techniques, procedural rules, and compliance requirements are in a perpetual state of flux, usually operating under the light of public scrutiny and often in headlines. Pursuing the question of what the law or rule should be is challenging work at the intersection of law, government administration and regulation, politics, business, science, technology, and the public interest. For lawyers who have an appetite for change and who can tolerate a degree of fluidity, uncertainty, and the need to adapt to new circumstances, public policy is an exciting, honorable, and meaningful way to put the investment of time, effort, and money in one’s legal education to good use in a worthwhile career of making a difference. The need to rethink and adapt how to teach public policy to law students after Trump or any administration change is not in itself new. However, the fundamental nature and degree of the recent tectonic shifts in the landscape of rules and norms governing the public policy process are unprecedented, and profoundly so.
This Article identifies the need for teachers to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and contemporary academic literature about the nature of the public policy process in the United States. It refers to an impressive amount of academic work available for course reading lists, which can be instructive and worked into a policy course syllabus. The role that lawyers and the public can and should play to sustain democracy, justice, and equality also can be studied by examining contemporary controversies concerning structural issues about our constitutional form of government. Teaching what is needed for good and better government can help students learn a great deal about public policy while involving them in thinking about theoretically and practically how to go about resolving very difficult policy issues. The Article highlights five possible topics and case studies about the future of democracy arising from the harrowing 2020 political slugfest. Four involve structural issues in the field of election law. The fifth is the latest iteration of a perpetual concern about inequity in the access to communications technology that is essential for participating in governance and access to economic opportunity. Each of these five examples are among the many possible topics a teacher might choose from to provide fertile, new ground for critical intellectual analysis and creative approaches teaching public policy. The Article also reviews various techniques for teaching policy, this author’s view of the most significant external changes on the horizon for the policy process, and what law schools can and should do to teach students and to educate the public about how our government is supposed to work. The Article concludes that public policy is an integral part of teaching and studying subjects across the law school curriculum. It is also a substantial part of what lawyers do in private practice, government, public service, and public interest work. That is because the public policy process touches everything that matters to us as individuals and members of a diverse community living under the same constitutional rulebook. So, teaching public policy is a worthwhile calling whether as part of another doctrinal subject, experiential educational training, or as the central theme in its own course.
Nicholas W. Allard,
Change is Nothing New Teaching Public Policy,
St. Louis U. L.J.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.slu.edu/lj/vol66/iss3/6