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Gift from Model Foundation expands Penn Law’s government service program

October 20, 2014

To help tackle the myriad challenges facing society today, a gift from the Leo Model Foundation to the University of Pennsylvania Law School will create a series of new programs designed to prepare students for fulfilling work in government and public policy. The Model Government and Public Affairs Initiative builds on Penn Law’s interdisciplinary academic program, which combines the legal training and critical thinking skills necessary to solve complex problems with the study of fields with which the law intersects — such as finance, health, immigration, and technology.

With the support of the Model Initiative, Penn Law students seeking to enter government or public policy roles — whether in their first job after graduation or later in their careers — will be well-positioned to be effective lawyers and leaders.

“Thanks to this generous gift from the Model Foundation, Penn Law will be able to expand upon our already significant efforts to prepare and support our students who seek to work in public service,” said Wendell Pritchett, Interim Dean of Penn Law and Presidential Term Professor. “Importantly, the Model Government Service Initiative will help direct more of the best and brightest minds to engage in policy across a range of fields and issues.”

“Our government needs lawyers who can engage with issues both broadly and deeply,” said Allen J. Model, chair of the Leo Model Foundation. “Making sure that students with exceptional legal training gain real-world experience and have the opportunity to serve in government is critical for the public good.”

The gift will formally establish the Model Government and Public Affairs Initiative, which will fund a number of new programs, including classes, research support, career fellowships, and externships. These programs will make certain that Penn Law’s graduates, with their strong background in cross-disciplinary study, are uniquely positioned for government service and prepared to succeed when confronted with the pressing issues of the day.

One of the key features of the initiative is the newly established Model Policy/Government Research Seminars, which enable students to research and analyze current legal issues from a legislative, regulatory, or public policy perspective. In addition to traditional classroom study, students will participate in field visits to conduct research and meet with policymakers and other experts.

The seminars begin this fall with a yearlong public policy seminar and workshop called “Regulating Private Health Exchanges,” taught by Tom Baker, the William Maul Measey Professor of Law and Health Sciences at Penn Law and a preeminent scholar of insurance law. In the fall, the course will begin with an overview of the Affordable Care Act and the legal issues involved in the creation of the new health insurance marketplaces, and in the spring, students will analyze the legal and business hurdles required to integrate private insurance exchanges with the new public exchanges created by the ACA.

They’ll also take day trips to Washington, D.C., and other state capitals to meet with business leaders, federal and state officials, and transactional and regulatory lawyers as part of their field research on the insurance exchanges. And by the end of the year, the students—working in groups—will gain real-world experience by producing a White Paper analyzing the pertinent legal issues and providing a draft of model legislation and regulation.

This fall, Interim Dean Pritchett will also be teaching a public policy seminar and workshop: “New Models for Post-Secondary Education.” In his course, students will study new models for higher education being proposed by institutional leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and activists. Through their research on innovations such as online education, competency based education, and Massively Open Online Courses—or MOOCs—students will develop methods for assessing these new models, as they look toward the future of education reform.

The Model gift will also enable Penn Law to attract senior government officials and policy practitioners to come to the Law School each year to teach seminars or short courses and engage with students as part of the Model Government & Public Affairs Fellow Program. The Fellows will encourage students to consider public service careers while affording them opportunities to learn from and network with leaders with outstanding practical knowledge and experience.

Through their experience with visiting fellows who are authorities in their fields and faculty experts right here at Penn Law, students will develop their sense of how the law intersects with nearly every aspect of government and public service. And for students who chose to pursue careers in the public interest, the Government and Public Affairs Initiative will help them make the transition from law school graduates to dedicated public servants.

Along with the seminars and visiting fellows, the Model gift will allow for new one-year fellowships that further expand Penn Law’s ongoing commitment to helping students pursue public interest careers. These Model Fellows will gain a year of experience at a government agency and begin their careers with a firm grounding in the work of public service.

In addition, the Model gift will allow us to expand our externship program.  Penn Law externs funded under the Model gift will spend a semester or academic year working on Capitol Hill, in federal government agencies, the White House, and in state and city government.

The gift also provides for support of summer internships for students interested in public service.  Under the program, students will receive funding from Penn Law to enable them to take advantage of opportunities to work in a variety of government positions over the summer.