Teaching Government Law & Policy in Law School: Reflections on Twenty-Five Years of Experience

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In January 2003, the Government Law Center (GLC or Center) of Albany Law School of Union University began a year-long celebration of its silver anniversary as a unique combination of a law school-based academic program and as a public policy institute and training resource for governments in New York and across the country. The GLC, created in 1978, was the product of a federal grant administered by New York State through the Department of State. The grant funds originated in the United States Office of Personnel Management and were allocated to New York State through the Federal Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970. (1) The GLC's inception was supported by Albany Law School of Union University not only by its matching funds but also by providing considerable educational and institutional resources. The then acting Dean John Welsh, along with Professors Sandra Stevenson, Robert Tymann, and Bernard Harvith, all contributed extensive amounts of time, effort, and expertise during the GLC's initial stages. (2) As the oldest law school-based government law center in the United States, (3) the GLC has become an integral part of the law school and has effectively served as a bridge between the traditional law school curriculum and government lawyering. (4) Since its creation, the GLC's mission has been to "promote interdisciplinary study and research in government and the problems facing government; [to] introduce law students to methods of policy analysis and to public service; and [to] serve as a resource to government at all levels...." (5) This objective was to be achieved by using the contributions of "'qualified academic personnel and highly motivated students ... to provide comprehensive, objective legal research with proposals for handling specific problem areas.'" (6)

A member of the Capital City Law Schools Consortium since its creation in 1996, (7) the GLC has been the recognized leader in law school-based government law programs. (8) Similar to other such programs in capital cities, it builds upon its geographic location with both curricular and co-curricular opportunities that bring the government experience into the classroom. (9) According to the current Albany Law School Dean Thomas Guernsey, the GLC's "'innovative programming focuses on the most pressing issues facing state and local government ... [and] [i]n doing so, the (Law Center) epitomizes what education at Albany Law School is about--excellent teaching, world-class research and service to the community.'" (10)

In celebrating the rich history of the GLC, this dedication describes the benefits of an innovative law school-based public policy center where government law and policy-makers meet advocates and academics in neutral forums to develop legally defensible, efficient, and appropriate statutory and regulatory solutions to some of our government's most pressing challenges. (11) This dedication also highlights some of the leadership roles that the Center has taken to promote quality government and governance, service learning, and a superior academic component for law students and law school faculty. (12)

II. THE GOVERNMENT LAW CENTER AS A CENTER FOR ACADEMIC STUDY AND EXPERIENCE

A. Interdisciplinary Service Learning

In 1994, the GLC was awarded a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) for the development and implementation of an intercollegiate, interdisciplinary service learning program to provide mediation training for law students, and for both undergraduate and graduate students at six area colleges and universities. (13) Upon completion of the New York State Office of Court Administration certified training and an additional mentoring component, students are certified as community mediators in New York and begin mediating disputes for residents of the Albany Public Housing Authority. (14) The many academic and skill-based successes of this program--documented in a Best Practices Manual prepared for FIPSE (15)--led to a second FIPSE grant in 1998. …