LW.12446 / LW.12447
Professor James S. Liebman
Open to 2L and 3L students
Maximum of 4 students per semester
Fall and Spring semesters
Held at Columbia University
14 credits*
No pre- or co-requisites


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 organizations 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 governance, management and democratic accountability of the nation’s public schools.

The Center for Public Research and Leadership (“CPRL”) is a partnership of top professional schools that prepares talented graduate students for leadership and professional positions in public education organizations committed to improving the life chances of all children. This full-semester Clinic brings together upper-level graduate students in law, business, education and policy from NYU, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fordham, Michigan, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Yale and other universities to immerse themselves in emerging and competing strategies for P-12 reform;  structured, team-based problem-solving skills that effective public organizations use to address their most difficult challenges; and high-priority consulting projects on behalf of government and social-sector organizations serving the educational needs of children. The Clinic is offered by the Center for Public Research and Leadership, a partnership between NYU Law School and professional schools at the universities listed above.

Course Description

Participants in this Clinic will engage in:

  1. A comprehensive seminar in the design, transformation and democratic accountability of P-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; design thinking; problem-oriented inquiry; quantitative and qualitative analysis and measurement; organizational macro- and micro-design; project and product management; client-centered and policy-focused interviewing; and the presentation of professional advice to government clients.
  3. A high-priority, professionally guided consulting project on which an interdisciplinary team of professional students will provide research, design, strategic planning, and/or counseling assistance on initiatives that interweave legal, regulatory, governance, management, policy, technological and/or operational problems and are central to the mission of the client organization—typically, a state department of education, school district, charter management organization, social-services agency or other non-profit serving children.

The classroom components of the course are front-loaded in the semester to give student teams and their team leaders ample time on-site at their client organizations in the New York City area and throughout the U.S. (travel expenses are covered by the Clinic). Team assignments are based on student preferences and skills as well as client needs.

James S. Liebman, Columbia Law professor and former senior official at the New York City Department of Education leads the course and conducts its academic seminar. Consulting projects are guided by a team of experienced managers employed full-time by the Clinic who bring extensive experience in P-12 education, management consulting and other professional endeavors. Under Professor Liebman’s direction, 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.

Course Components

  • Full semester course load of 14 credits, including        
        ○    Approximately 48 seminar hours over 14 weeks;
        ○    Approximately 28 hours of focused skills training over 14 weeks;
        ○    Average of 24 hours/week working on consulting teams for K-12 organizations under the guidance of experienced engagement managers;
  • 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;
  • CPRL placement support services to help interested students obtain attractive professional and management-level jobs in the education sector, along with mentorship and networking opportunities to enhance leadership skills.
  • Tuition support awards for a limited number of students who demonstrate exceptional merit and need.

Examples of Past Projects

  • America Achieves - Developed contractual and governance options for fostering inter-state and inter-district collaboration in the creation of new data-systems;
  • Camden City School District - Advised district leadership on legal and policy implications of various mechanisms for reorganizing the district’s schools and workforce;
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District - Designed (i) a comprehensive system of qualitative and quantitative measures of school effectiveness to provide schools with actionable improvement data and increase public accountability, and (ii) a process for annually identifying schools for improvement steps and restructuring, consistent with federal and state regulations;
  • Louisiana Department of Education - Created a system for assuring the legality of different distance-learning options for public school children statewide, and for evaluating the effectiveness of the distance-learning programs and their implementation;
  • New York Appleseed - Developed a plan for using the community-driven creation of new schools in areas of New York City undergoing rapid gentrification to expand and maintain social integration of schools without violating legal restrictions on race-based decisions making;
  • Raise Your Hand Texas - Proposed a framework and identified legislative and necessary regulatory changes for maximizing the equitable distribution of funds to, and the autonomy and accountability of, schools and districts undertaking comprehensive improvement efforts.

Application Procedure

Students who are interested in this Clinic should fill out and submit the standard application, resume and law school transcript using CAMS, the online application system. CPRL will notify selected applicants who will be invited for an in-person interview with Professor Liebman and the CPRL team. Interviews will take place at Columbia.

CPRL provides a small number of tuition support awards (CPRL Scholar Awards) to students who demonstrate exceptional merit and need.   To be eligible for a CPRL Scholar Award, students must make a legally enforceable commitment to work three of the first five years after graduation in a full-time government or nonprofit job in or supporting the P-12 education sector. CPRL Scholar Awards are only available to cover tuition owed for the term in which the student participates in the CPRL program and cannot be used to supplant other scholarships. CPRL Scholar Awards are capped at $20,000, and most awards are below $15,000. 

If you wish to apply for a CPRL Scholar Award, please answer question #4 and submit a separate statement in CAMS of up to 400 words and 1-page maximum, describing your merit and need.  As to merit, please explain your expected contribution to fulfilling CPRL’s mission to prepare talented graduate students for careers enhancing the education sector’s capacity for constant improvement on behalf of public school children.

Contact Information

Feel free to email CPRL with any questions regarding the clinic.

Student Contacts

Students interested in learning more about the course may contact the following NYU Law students and graduates, each of whom took a prior version of the Clinic in the indicated years:

Caitlin Millat (Current 3L)
Andrew Wong (Current 3L)
Allison Zimmer (Current 3L)
Harry Black (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in Fall 2016; TA in Spring 2017)
Ke Wu (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in Fall 2016; TA in Spring 2017)
Angela Wu (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in Spring 2016)
Jennifer De Jesus (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in Spring 2016)
Alexis Piazza (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in 2014-15)
Collin Moore (NYU Law graduate; in the Clinic in 2013-14)

* 14 credits comprised of 7 clinical credits and 7 academic seminar credits. Students may not take both of the 14-credit, semester-long clinics that cover aspects of education law (Education Advocacy Clinic and Education Sector Policy and Consulting Clinic). If you are interested in using the Clinic to satisfy a writing requirement, please consult the Clinic faculty.