The law is central to the making of public policy, both in the U.S. and in most other countries. This course looks specifically at how the law in its various forms shapes the administration of government agencies and the work of not-for-profit (and for-profit) entities that provide direct services or that advocate policy. Knowledge of legal frameworks and processes is essential to undertaking these activities effectively.
This course will equip students with an understanding of the multiple sources of law and how those sources are interpreted and applied in the context of public policy and administration. The course will use case studies to demonstrate how those sources of law--and the governmental and non-governmental policy actors who deploy them--operate to support or limit policy and
practice. Students will gain a clear understanding of the law’s role in influencing their work as
decision-makers in the public sector.
Major course themes include: 1) how the law and its interpretation affect, support, and limit
public policy and practice options; 2) conflict between legal precedent and official actions; and
3) how legal frameworks are most successfully navigated from a government or not-for-profit
(or private) vantage point. These issues will be treated from theoretical and practical viewpoints
and will be the basis for developing concrete skills in research, writing, and developing and
evaluating strategy in a legal context.
Each class will cover a general topic area and at least one specific sub-topic as a case study
that will involve consideration of one or more sources of law. Substantive law topics such as
administrative law, employment law, and ethics/lobbying will be integrated into the course
within the context of the above themes. Because topic areas and cases cannot be fully treated in
isolation, the class will revisit several issues and cases throughout the term. Some classes will
feature invited speakers who are or were involved with cases under study.