Two top California law schools have launched a D.C. internship program to expose future lawyers to the intricacies of law- and policy-making. Called UCDC Law, the for-credit program brings students to D.C. from the University of California Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law and places them in congressional offices on Capitol Hill, in the Department of Justice, and in various nonprofit institutions and regulatory agencies.
“They get the opportunity to see their law degree as something that would help them be involved with policymaking, not simply litigation, not simply advocacy,” says professor and founder of the program Howard Shelanski of U.C. Berkeley School of Law. Both an attorney and economist, Shelanski practiced law with Kellogg Huber Hansen Todd & Evans and served as a top economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under then President Bill Clinton.
The hands-on program, which started Jan. 12 and runs through early May, shows students how lawyers in Washington forge statutes, policies and regulations. That first-hand experience is indispensable, Shelanski says. “It’s hard to do in any other way.”
Along with U.C. Berkeley School of Law dean Chris Edley Jr., Shelanski observed that not enough Berkeley graduates were making their way to Washington. They also figured such a program would attract more “Washington-oriented” students interested in influencing public policy to attend Berkeley Law.
This semester, seven students from Berkeley and three from UCLA came out for the program, and almost 20 have already applied for the fall. U.C. Irvine plans to join the program and will likely begin sending students to Washington beginning in spring 2011.
Students participating in this semester’s program work in offices including the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser.