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Issues of public policy pervade teaching and research at Stanford Law School, beginning in first-year courses, which explore the policies underlying basic legal doctrines, and continuing in advanced courses focusing on policy in areas ranging from intellectual property to criminal justice. A number of the clinics in the Mills Legal Clinic give students opportunities to counsel and advocate for clients on policy issues, for example, in environment, education, and intellectual property. Additionally, many of the Law School’s Centers allow students to engage in policy research. To these opportunities, we have now added the Law and Policy Lab.

The Policy Lab encourages and assists faculty in providing opportunities—interdisciplinary, when possible—for students to learn by doing policy analysis or regulatory drafting for policy makers and others seeking to improve public policy. Borrowing the term from schools of public policy, we refer to these opportunities as practicums.

The Policy Lab has three main functions:

  • a brokering function, helping to bring interested students, faculty, and policy makers together on practicums of mutual interest and benefit. 
  • an administrative support function, providing necessary assistance to student-faculty teams working on particular practicums—for example, providing funds for travel and other expenses, or providing teaching fellows to assist in administering practicums.
  • an academic support function, assessing students’ needs for skills needed to conduct policy analysis and finding ways of providing them, whether through existing courses or through the design of new courses or seminars. In 2013-14, we are piloting a two-unit, limited enrollment seminar, designed mainly for students engaged in Policy Lab practicums, which will teach skills including writing for policy audiences, research design, and polling.

The primary purpose of Policy Lab practicums is educational—to give students opportunities to develop knowledge about particular areas of public policy and the skills of policy analysis, including the ability to communicate policy findings.

Each Policy Lab practicum offers students an opportunity to work on a real public policy problem, for a real client, under the direction of a faculty member. Practicums are open to 2Ls, 3Ls and advanced degree students. Generally students will work in teams with other law students or students from other Schools in the University.