Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic

Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic

Professor James Liebman
Spring 2017 clinic
8 clinical credits

Enrollment in this clinic will fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement.

Required Class Component: Public-Sector Structural Change in K-12 Education (5 spring classroom credits).

Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.

By Permission: Yes. Applications are due by 5pm on November 1, 2016. Students will be notified of acceptances by November 21, 2016.

LLM Students: LLM students are not eligible to enroll.

Placement Site: Columbia University in NYC.

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 agencies 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 nation’s public school systems.

This full-semester interdisciplinary Clinic brings together upper-level graduate students in law, business, education and policy from Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Yale and other universities to immerse themselves in (i) emerging strategies for K-12 and allied institutional reform; (ii) structured, team-based problem-solving skills that effective organizations use to address the most difficult challenges in public education and many other domains; and (iii) high-priority multi-dimensional consulting projects on behalf of public- and social-sector organizations serving the educational and related needs of children.

Clinic Description
Participants in this Clinic engage in:
1. A comprehensive seminar in the design, governance, regulation, democratic accountability and transformation of K-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; quantitative and qualitative analysis and measurement; organizational macro- and micro-design; project management; policy research and analysis; and presentation of professional advice to public- 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 later in the semester 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 program.) Students admitted to the clinic communicate their areas of project interest, and every effort is made to place them on projects that conform to their interests.

James S. Liebman, Columbia Law professor and former Chief Accountability Officer of the New York City Schools 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 K-12 education, management consulting and other professional endeavors. 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.

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 37 hours/week on average of course, preparation, and project work, including:
    approximately 50 seminar hours and 27 hours in classroom-based skills training for 5 classroom credits over the course of the 14-week semester;
    average of 27.5+ clinical hours/week working on consulting teams for K-12 organizations under the guidance of experienced engagement managers for 8 clinical credits;
  • 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.

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

Students who are interested in this Clinic should submit a resume, unofficial transcript, and brief statement of interest (500 word max.) to by 5pm on November 1, 2016. CPRL will notify students who have been invited for a video interview with Professor Liebman and the CPRL team. Notification of decisions will be sent via email by November 21, 2016.

CPRL offers a limited number of highly competitive Scholars Awards of up to $20,000 to students to apply to their tuition during their semester in the program in return for an enforceable commitment to spend three of their first five years after graduation and judicial clerkships in a public or nonprofit job in the education sector. Students interested in an Award should include an additional 400-word statement discussing their interest in public education policy, their career goals, and how this financial support would affect their ability to work in the education sector after graduation.

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.

Subject Areas: Procedure & Practice