This article is written by Jahnavi Bhatt features an interview with a law school graduate who shares their perspective on public policy analysis as a potential career path. The interviewee discusses their motivations for pursuing this field, the lack of emphasis on public policy in law schools, and the value of a law degree in policy analysis. The article also delves into the current state of public policy in India and offers advice for those interested in pursuing a career in policy analysis.
As someone on the cusp of starting their career, what do you think is your main source of motivation?
The law always presents you with new opportunities. Public policy analysis, which is an applied field of law, is what I am interested in. Public policy analysis has its own set of challenges and tackling these challenges require creative planning. This creative freedom to come up with new plans and ideas to bring about tangible change, is what motivates me to work in this field. Additionally, the fact that I will be able to serve the people through the policies that I contribute to, also motivates me.
Do you think we indulge in enough discussions on public policy in law schools?
No, I don’t think we indulge in enough discussions on public policy in law schools. In fact, there is very little awareness regarding public policy analysis in law schools. In an environment in which nurturing a “corporate mindset” takes priority over anything else, discussions on public policy, much less on careers in public policy, are few and hard to come by. This needs to change. As lawyers, we have the necessary skills to contribute effectively to policy analysis and bring about change.
What got you interested in public policy?
One of the things I was firm about right from my first year at law school was that I did not want to be a specialist right away. Although I do intend to specialise later-on in my career, right now I intend to focus on developing a panoramic understanding of things and not read law in isolation from the socio-economic reality of today. It was in my third year of law school that I became fascinated with public policy; because not only did it involve analysis of various aspects of the law, it also involved making use of plenty of other skills, like being able to effectively engage with diverse groups of people to understand and solve grassroot level problems. I am not keen on a desk job that would limit me to an office. I want to engage with different people, travel to different places and do something meaningful with my knowledge. A career in public policy would enable me to do this, and that is why I am keen on pursuing it.
How can law school help someone interested in public policy?
Law, as a field of study, is very vast. Over the course of a five-year integrated BA LLB degree, you study close to 60 courses on topics ranging from human rights to environmental law to political science and economics. You deal with regulation, fintech, and tribal law as you would Constitutional law. When you study these subjects, you not only read the laws associated with them, but you also learn what the emerging problems in these fields are. This gives you a well-rounded understanding of many seemingly unrelated fields of study, which will be very helpful if you choose to pursue a career in public policy.
What are your thoughts on the global and Indian public policy landscape?
Public policy making varies drastically from one country to another. In India, public policy analysis was not even considered to be an actual career twenty or thirty years ago. Policy was seen merely as an engine that political leaders used as tokens to increase their political prowess, and not as a field of genuine and sincere study. Public policy analysis in India today is still a developing field, when compared to many countries around the world where policy analysis has existed as a full-fledged profession for years. Another major problem in India’s public policy is a distinct lack of regular assessment. It is often seen that policies are not periodically assessed for their impact and effectiveness, and this hampers their implementation. But there is good news; the policy analysis in India is developing rapidly. Major strides have been made in both drafting and implementation in recent times.