How to Get Hands-On Experience in Law & Public Policy

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J.D. LaRock, professor of the practice in Northeastern’s Doctor of Law and Policy Program, shares how the DLP program promotes opportunities for experiential learning and project-based learning that addresses real-world problems.

Northeastern’s Doctor of Law and Policy Program (DLP) is focused on developing scholar-practitioners who wish to advance their field of practice and improve the world around them. As such, many of the students who join the program are keenly interested in opportunities to connect with real-world issues and solve actual problems of professional practice while they’re enrolled in our program.

By examining the intersection of three key themes—law, research, and policy—within their professional fields, the program prepares leaders to do this with a multidisciplinary approach. Here are some examples of experiential learning and real-world problem-solving opportunities we provide through two specific courses in the curriculum.

Experiential Learning in Northeastern’s DLP Program

Current Law and Policy Debates

“Current Law and Policy Debates” is a first-year DLP course that examines U.S. constitutional law issues that perennially emerge in public policy debates. For example, topics might include the power of the U.S. President, the Electoral College, foreign affairs, and issues like mass incarceration, freedom of speech, and immigration. This course is coupled with a two-day residency where students have the opportunity to discuss and debate these issues directly with some of Washington’s top political, appointed, and media leaders.

In recent years, our students have had the opportunity to meet and talk with:

  • S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • S. Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III
  • Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell
  • Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai
  • New York Times national security correspondent Julian Barnes

Law and Legal Reasoning (4)

In this course—the last in the “Law and Legal Reasoning” curriculum—students apply the law and policy knowledge they’ve acquired in their previous coursework in an innovative experiential format. Students try current cases that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear but has not decided on yet, using online and in-person mock trial settings.

In recent years, this course has covered some of the most important and provocative courses the Supreme Court has heard, including cases dealing with terrorism, border security, federal funding for religious organizations, and offensive speech. Students have the opportunity to play the roles of lawyers on each side of a case and as members of the Supreme Court. They learn how to write modified legal briefs and issue decisions like those the Supreme Court might issue. Then, at the end of the course, students have the opportunity to see how the actual Supreme Court ruled on these same cases.

Public Policy Theory and Practice (1)

In this course, taken midway through the DLP program, students have the opportunity to delve deeply into a sensitive and important issue at the forefront of the U.S. right now: racism and the law. Through the study of historical texts, as well as contemporary studies of racism and public policy, students learn how race—explicitly and implicitly—has been deeply embedded into the policymaking framework of U.S. institutions.

Toward the end of the course, DLP students then participate in the second of the DLP program’s residencies. There, students have the opportunity to hear from scholars, policymakers, and elected officials on the topics studied in the course, as well as contemporary policy issues.

Public Policy Theory and Practice (2)

Finally, in this course—the second of the DLP’s three Public Policy Theory and Practice courses—students have the opportunity to work on a real-world problem that a legislature is grappling with. In recent years, this course has focused on the impact of technology, automation, and artificial intelligence on jobs, the economy, and the future of work, and the associated impacts on education, workforce development, and economic policy.

In a recent iteration of this course, students worked in teams to prepare a research brief, policy analysis, and set of legislative policy reforms on this topic, which was then presented to the Massachusetts state legislature.

Advance Your Law and Policy Career

Enrolling in a law and policy program that focuses on real-world learning opportunities is a great way to set yourself apart from other professionals, network with key contacts, and advance your career. To learn more about Northeastern’s Doctor of Law and Policy program, explore our program page or get in touch with an enrollment counselor to get your questions answered.