Public Policy Advocacy allows students to work with clients, organizers and other advocates to devise and implement strategies for changing public policy in a selected area of importance to under-represented groups. Through this hands-on work and readings, students learn the basic approaches to changing law and policy, including litigation, lobbying and legislative work, organizing and building coalitions, and working with and through the media to inform and shape opinion. Past iterations of the course have focused on discrete policies affecting slum housing, lead poisoning of infants, the lack of gender and racial diversity in the private bar in Los Angeles, and educational inequality in the K-12 system in California.
In addition to learning about public policy advocacy, students in this clinical course learn lawyering skills applicable to other kinds of advocacy, including: collaborating with clients and client groups to develop effective strategies, interviewing clients and witnesses, conducting fact investigation and organizing factual information, developing and utilizing experts and expert witnesses, and evaluating the merits of both litigation and non-litigation strategies. Although the seminar includes some reading of relevant theory and case studies, most of the seminar involves learning the tools of advocacy by using them in a real world context. Throughout the course, we also pay close attention to the ethical and professional issues unique to such representation.
Public Policy Advocacy is taught by Gary Blasi, Scott Cummings and Jyoti Nanda
For more information about the clinic, unit credit, enrollment and any prerequisites, please review the 541 Problem Solving in the Public Interest course description.
Work performed by students in the course has contributed in important ways to reshaping public policy in many areas. For example,
*On behalf of a coalition of health care organizations concerned about the ability of homeless patients to obtain housing, coordinated effort to stop proposed Los Angeles County housing authority regulations that would have made it impossible for chronically homeless and disabled homeless people to qualify for housing assistance. Coordinated work of broad coalition, conducted 10 lobbying visits, helped generate 10,000 telephone calls, obtained favorable news coverage, resulting in final victory on issues on the last day of class.
* Working with a Blue Ribbon Committee on Slum Housing and a coalition of tenant groups, students in the course conducted an extensive investigation of housing code enforcement in the City of Los Angeles, leading to a front page story in the Los Angeles Times and legislation resulting the complete overhaul of code enforcement in the City, including a permanent, separate funding source for this work.
* Working with a coalition of civil rights and pro bono lawyers, students in the course conducted both factual and legal research that served as an important foundation of the largest educational justice class action ever filed in California, on behalf of one million children in California provided with woefully substandard educational opportunities by the public education system in the state.
To read past reports, please go to Public Policy Advocacy Reports.