Career in Policy making: Know-How

One of the emerging fields of today is Public Policy. Being a field of need in developing countries, public policy can help you have a promising career. However, what is the know-how of this career path? What kind of work can you expect, what are it's impacts, prospects, and the likes?

 

If you are the kind of person interested in making a career out of betterment of the society then this might be the right path for you!

Guiding your way:

Jasdeep Randhawa

She is an international lawyer and public policy specialist with over a decade of development experience across five continents.


Today she works for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn supporting the implementation of the Warsaw International Mechanism and the Resilience Frontiers Initiative. Previously, she was the project manager supporting the inclusion of cities in the Sustainable Development Goals for the UN urban agency in Kenya.


She has consulted on climate change and water disputes for the Government of India, the OECD, the World Bank, Gates; and Harvard Water Security Initiative.

She has clerked in the Supreme Court of India; and High Court of Hong Kong


A recipient of several international scholarships and awards, she has a Master’s in Law from Yale Law School, a Bachelor’s in Civil Law from the Faculty of Law at University of Oxford, a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and a BLS LLB (high honors) from Government Law College, Mumbai.


Twitter handle: @jasdeeprandhwa

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What is Public Policy?

Public Policy is basically looking at the kind of choices that a decision maker will have to make in the face of different trade-offs. Private sector is one of the area with no interaction with the public sector and then there are different institutions such as the court, the government, and the parliament that are independent and neutral from each other’s influence.

 

Public Policy looks at all the kind of subtle interactions between these different institutions for understanding how the society can benefit the most from the choices that are made or the decisions that are taken in these institutions. So public policy focuses upon the needs of the society, the methods that society is adopting to communicate their needs to these institutions and the impact of such needs on the said institutions.

Public policy is not in itself a professional field. It is an avenue or a process related to decision making. In fact, there is no specialization in public policy. It means that one has a very strong grounding of using one’s expertise to the benefit of the society.

What working from the inside looks like?

There are a lot of influences in the making of the law. One such influence is comparative law, the law which is being made by other international courts. These institutions in interaction with the government branch have a very strong influence on the society, particularly the rights of the vulnerable people.

Having worked with Dr. Madhav Menon (who established the National Law School in India and was a member of the commission on centre-state relations in the ministry of home affairs) after completing my LL.M from Yale, my tasks majorly included looking at how should the Indian Constitution respond to the Global and Domestic changes taking place in the society and how can the judicial government institutions make a more harmonious relationship to ensure that the law is implemented at the national level. These are the aspects on which there’s a lot of influence of Public Policy.

The best way to start is to start applying relentlessly to such organisations which are working in the development sectors or in the policy making. Instead of applying to law firms, students should start working with the NGOs working in these areas, or research centres, or a think-tank. There are a lot of postings in government sector for students to start early as professionals in policy making such as Niti Ayog, or working for a particular ministry.

What students need to do is conduct rigorous research and start applying for various opportunities and be open to the possibility that the first job might not be the ideal job they had planned on but never give up on an opportunity which has the potential of helping them enter the desired field in the long run.

How to start?

Pursuing a Higher Degree: When & Why

There are people working in different fields of law who apply for LL.M in order to keep their career progressing. However, I believe one should be sure about the law school where they want to go and pursue their degree because that not only gives one a clarity of what he/she really wants but also gives them the confidence to work in that direction with everything they have.

 

While pursuing a higher degree, one gets to realize that law is very interdisciplinary in nature, it is the kind of field which requires understanding the relationship between the courts, the government, the people, the executive and the legislature and at the same time it’s upto the lawyers to set up certain standards and implement the law in a way that would benefit the society.

What one can learn at top tier law schools

At top tier law schools, particularly at Yale, there are professors working with the government, there are alumni who are judges of US courts, heads of their respective states while there are also a lot of such students who went on to pursue their careers in academia.

 

So when an individual goes to an institution like Yale, they have a responsibility on their shoulder which is not only limited to pursuing a self-centered path but pursuing a path in which you give back more to the society with the help of the skills you possess.

One of my other major tasks while working with the Indian government in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s office was to look at the problem of backlog of cases and understand why the problem existed while working with the courts and various bureaucrats.

 

My work also included figuring out how could we make access to justice easier to the public at large through reforms in the courts and various acts of the Indian legislation.

 

In order to make the most of my knowledge and understand how to apply my mind to all such reforms, I saw the need to apply at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. One of the major determining factors was to be clear about what I would do with the degree in regards to public policy and knowing that this degree would give me more value in places where people such experts were already working in the industrial sector.

How I figured out that I NEEDED to specialize

Other perks

Also, in order to be able to draft a law that would help the society, one first has to understand how the law was created and that’s one of the other reasons that a degree from Oxford helped me in my career in public service. My time at Oxford included studying a lot of Jurisprudence, philosophy, and environmental law.

As for the skills I developed at Harvard in public policy were negotiation, art of communication, statistics, economics and at the same time I got an opportunity to be mentored by a professor who had worked at the world bank of India, Pakistan and Latin America in the issues related to water which further helped me develop an interest in Environment Policy and therefore, this is the kind of value that a degree from these institutions holds.

One of the major lesson for students is to learn to be really patient and not choose the offers that come their way without a scholarship because most of the families cannot afford the tuition fees at law schools like Yale or Harvard which goes over to 100,000 US dollars a year.

 

Therefore, it is only through a certain profile that a student creates with their hard work, their work experience, their grades, and other efforts and a certain amount of decisiveness that can help a student become an irresistible candidate and once you become irresistible to these law schools, they will definitely offer you a scholarship.

Financial aspect

Are you the right fit?

The students need to see whether they will be a fit candidate in the law school they aspire to go to because if you don’t value your time at these institutions then it won’t help you in your career.

 

Another advantage of pursuing a higher degree is networking. Students need to realize that the batch-mates that will be joining them have been/going to be on the top of their fields and therefore can help them in the long run in various situations.

One of the values that the aspiring students should always live by is that they have to work hard because nothing comes easy in life and use their education for the betterment of the society, especially the poor.

Career Prospects

Opportunities in Public Policy are endless. There are law firms working towards policy making, there are NGOs working in this area because they are the civil society that voices the concerns on behalf of the people and represent the government. Then there are private companies working in public policy such as Facebook or Twitter because they are the platforms where the Presidents or other influencers put up posts which can harm or advantage the society at large.

 

Apart from that, there are entrepreneurs working in countries like Africa to help refugees get access to education by creating online digital platforms, and academia where they teach law and policy to future leaders in different countries.

Therefore, it's all about researching about the field you are interested in and it's just a matter of time before you get introduced to a plethora of opportunities in policy making especially in developing countries like India.

In Conclusion,

Always follow your own values and always be guided by your own intuition. However, it’s also very important to take advice from your alumnus, from seniors, professors and those working in the fields that interest you.

 

Just remember that while making a decision you are doing it for yourself so you cannot go back and blame anybody else for your decisions and at the same time it is important to know that there are going to be a lot of obstacles both personal and professional, so, its important to know that you cannot do everything by yourself. So, reach out to people as much as you can.

In the end, do not forget to have hobbies and enjoy your life.