Summer Intern Experience

Adding to the Bob in the Summer Intern series, here is a summary of Nate’s experience over the summer with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  Nate is an MPA / JD dual-degree student and spent this past summer working on civil rights policy, especially healthcare disparities. The summer included plenty of legal research and analysis, but also a healthy mix of public policy concepts such as community development and program evaluation.  Below is a short summary of the internship:

This past summer I worked with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (CLC), one of eight lawyers’ committees that use law to promote civil rights.  Their mission is to maintain “a focus in a broad range of civil rights and economic justice matters.”  I found that reading the mission and history of CLC was a useful example for how civil rights lawyers have advocated for equality in the past.  Established in 1969, the group provides needed legal assistance to reducing urban poverty and racial disparities.  The primary work is connecting pro bono (volunteer) attorneys from major law firms to low-income individuals and community organizations.  The focus of this assistance is around the main project areas of housing discrimination, employment opportunity, hate crimes, and community development.

I assisted on a few projects added to CLC’s program this year: a new health disparities project, a federal tax credit program application, and organizing a voting rights initiative.  The work required application of many of the policy principles La Follette teaches well: interpreting economic data, analyzing industry markets and structures, and planning at program implementation.

For example, the New Markets Tax Credit applications highlighted a government intervention program in the low-income community lending market.  The program gave tax benefits to lenders to offset the potential risk of investing in areas developing their capital infrastructure.  The program is one of the most successful at drawing in new private investment into these communities.  From my perspective, the strength of the initiative is the use of private markets to identify of high-impact projects that have thoughtful and well-planned implementation strategies.  With public tax credit’s leverage, private investment can enter these markets and catalyze growth.  The implementation principles that are required combine public and private interests in growing new markets and supporting community participation.

The health disparities research was, and continues to be, especially fascinating.  Developed from the strong history of CLC, the project seeks to use legal tools–such as civil rights laws–to press for reductions in health disparities.  Historically, CLC pursued this goal through litigation aimed at reducing lead paint use in city apartment buildings, reducing barriers to children with disabilities, and improving health management organizations.  These past projects provided a framework for a new project: addressing Chicago’s health disparities with advocating for patient rights, analyzing and pushing for structural reform, and providing assistance to community organizations and providers that work with under-served communities.

As a dual-degree student, I was very interested in how law and public policy can interact.  This summer I enjoyed the opportunity to brainstorm with great lawyers regarding new ways of using law and legal frameworks to pursue equality in Chicago’s healthcare system and also build sustainable community development.  By combining legal tools to policy analysis, I found the experience inspiring in pursing new ways to promote positive change.


About Nate

Graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am studying public policy, administration, and law. More importantly, I am getting the La Follette School Student Association out and onto the blogosphere. Here we come!
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