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The United States is in the midst of a massive restructuring of public-sector service delivery. Staffed by broadly interdisciplinary teams of accomplished and motivated professionals, the most successful of these new federal, state and local reforms are replacing outmoded public bureaucracies with “learning organizations” committed to using public problem-solving techniques to enhance the will and capacity of public organizations to improve the life chances of the nation’s most underserved populations. Nowhere are these changes more important and promising, yet also challenging and controversial, than in the governance, management and democratic accountability of the nation’s public schools.

The Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) is a partnership of top professional schools that prepares talented graduate students for leadership and professional positions in public education organizations committed to improving the life chances of all children. This full-semester Clinic brings together upper-level graduate students in law, business, education and policy from NYU, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fordham, Harvard, Michigan, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Yale and other universities to immerse themselves in emerging and competing strategies for P-12 reform; structured, team-based problem-solving skills that effective public organizations use to address their most difficult challenges; and high-priority consulting projects on behalf of government and social-sector organizations serving the educational needs of children. The Clinic is offered by CPRL, a partnership between Harvard Law School and professional schools at the universities listed above.

Clinic Description

Participants in this Clinic engage in:

  1. A comprehensive seminar in the design, governance, regulation, democratic accountability and transformation of P-12 school systems and allied public- and social-sector organizations.
  2. Skills training in a constellation of twenty-first century problem-solving competencies, including working in diverse teams to address multi-dimensional problems; design thinking; problem-oriented inquiry; quantitative and qualitative analysis and measurement; organizational macro- and micro-design; project and product management; client-centered and policy-focused interviewing; and the presentation of professional advice to government and social-sector clients.
  3. A high-priority, professionally guided consulting project on which an interdisciplinary team of professional students provides research, design, strategic planning, and/or counseling assistance on matters that interweave legal, regulatory, management, policy, and/or technological problems crucial to the mission of the client organization—typically, a state department of education, school district, charter school organization, social services agency or other non-profit serving children.

The classroom components of the Clinic are front-loaded in the semester to give student teams ample time to focus on their consulting projects, including periods of time on-site with their client organizations in the New York City area and throughout the U.S. (travel expenses are covered by the Clinic.) Team assignments are based on student preferences and skills as well as client needs.

James S. Liebman, Columbia Law professor and former senior official at the New York City Department of Education leads the course and conducts its academic seminar. Consulting projects are guided by a team of experienced managers employed by the Clinic who bring extensive experience in P-12 education, management consulting and other professional endeavors. Under Professor Liebman’s direction, these managers assure that the project work is both challenging and achievable by the student teams, and they provide students with intensive one-on-one feedback and personalized professional development and mentorship.

Read Full Clinic Description in Course Catalog


This clinic requires a semester away in New York City at Columbia University in NYC.

Program Components

Program Components

  • A load of 13 or 14 credits total (5 classroom credits + 8 clinical credits + option to register for 1 writing credit, in addition to the culminating paper, sponsored by an HLS faculty member);
  • Approximately 40 hours/week on average of seminar, preparation, and project work, including:
    • approximately 50 total seminar hours;
    • 27 hours in classroom-based skills training for 5 classroom credits over the course of the 14-week semester;
    • an average of 27.5+ clinical hours/week working on consulting teams for P-12 organizations under the guidance of experienced engagement managers for 8 clinical credits; and
    • a culminating paper reflecting on the work performed on behalf of the client and on the broader institutional context in which the work occurred, drawing on the critical and theoretical perspectives introduced in the seminar portion of the course.
  • Tuition support awards available for a limited number of students who demonstrate exceptional merit and need.
    • CPRL provides a small number of CPRL Scholar Awards to students who demonstrate exceptional merit and need. To be eligible for a CPRL Scholar Award, students must make a legally enforceable commitment to work three of the first five years after graduation in a full-time government or nonprofit job in or supporting the P-12 education sector. CPRL Scholar Awards are only available to cover tuition owed for the term in which the student participates in the CPRL program and cannot be used to supplant other scholarships. CPRL Scholar Awards are capped at $20,000, and most awards are below $15,000.
    • If you wish to apply for a CPRL Scholar Award, please fill out the optional Scholar Award Application.


Enrollment is by application and is limited to rising 2L and 3L students.


November 3, 2017 by 5:00 pm 

How to Apply

Students who are interested in this Clinic are asked to submit a résumé, transcript, and written responses to two application prompts via CPRL’s online application form. Notification of admission decisions will be sent via email the week of November 20th, 2017.

Feel free to contact CPRL at with any questions. Accepted students will be enrolled in the clinic and associated course component by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.


Faculty and Staff

James Liebman (Visiting Professor of Law)


Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs
Harvard Law School, WCC
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085
Cambridge, MA 02138