Public Policy Concentration

You can earn the Public Policy Concentration by completing the Policy Track of the Semester in DC Program in the spring semester of your 2L or 3L year.

While law students learn many skills that are useful for policy-related work, they do not typically learn how to apply those skills in a policy context, for example by analyzing a government agency report, mapping the stakeholders on a particular issue, preparing questions for a Senate hearing, writing a short policy brief, or developing an advocacy campaign.

The Semester in DC Program Policy Track is designed to fill this gap by teaching you how to apply your legal advocacy, research, and writing skills in the policy context, so that you can successfully engage in policy-related work after graduation. The Policy Track is offered each spring semester jointly with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at Pitt’s Washington Center in downtown Washington, DC.

Highlights of the Semester in DC Program Policy Track include:

  • A policy-related externship with a government or nonprofit organization in Washington, DC
  • Classes that are focused on learning from policy experts who regularly visit as guest speakers and on attaining pragmatic policy advocacy, analysis, and writing skills
  • Joint classes with GSPIA students, so that both policy and law perspectives are represented in each class
  • An individual alumni mentor for each student, as well as connections with Law and GSPIA’s alumni network of hundreds of attorneys and policy practitioners in the Washington, DC area

Semester in DC Program alumni have gone on to do all kinds of policy work after graduation, including positions:

  • With the U.S. Departments of State and Health and Human Services
  • With U.S. Senate and House offices
  • In healthcare policy for Johnson & Johnson, the Maryland Department of Health, and the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy
  • In environmental policy for the Sierra Club, the Environmental Investigation Agency, and Voices for Progress
  • In child/family policy for the Children’s Law Center and First Focus
  • In labor policy for the AFL-CIO

By completing the Public Policy Concentration, students are expected to achieve the following Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand and be able to describe the processes by which law and policy are developed, contested, and implemented. They will be able to identify and explain factors and dynamics affecting these processes.
  • Students will learn how to apply their research, analysis, and writing skills in a policy context by regularly practicing their informal writing skills and by researching and writing a policy issue brief.
  • Students will improve their proficiency in policy skills, such as stakeholder mapping, preparing for and summarizing Congressional hearings, or designing advocacy campaigns.
  • Students will explore and be able to describe the professional roles of lawyers and policymakers in lawmaking and policy development.
  • Students will acquire the ability to apply their subject-matter expertise, legal knowledge, and professional skills in real life policy settings through policy-related externships and classroom simulations that will benefit them as they enter a policy career or another field in which knowledge of law and policy is important.

Required Classes

You can earn the Public Policy Concentration by completing the Policy Track of the Semester in DC Program after taking the required 1L Legislation and Regulation course.

The Public Policy Concentration requires students to earn 15 credits in the policy-related classes listed below. Students will have already completed the 3-credit foundational course in Legislation and Regulation in their 1L year. Students can complete the 12 remaining credits by participating in the Semester in DC Program Policy Track, which offers the listed courses. Only the courses listed below may be used to fulfill the requirements of this concentration; other courses may not be substituted.

Foundational Course (3 credits): Legislation and Regulation (3 credits) (required 1L course)

Electives (up to 7 credits):

  1. Public Policy Seminar (3 credits)
  2. Lobbying and Advocacy (2 credits)
  3. Policy Colloquium (1 credit) or DC Seminar. Students may apply up to 2 credits from the DC Seminar to the Public Policy Concentration if their seminar papers are approved in advance as policy-focused.

Skills (up to 6 credits): Policy Externship or DC Externship. Students may apply up to 6 credits from the Policy Externship or the DC Externship to the Public Policy Concentration, if the externship is approved in advance as policy-focused.


Faculty Advisor: Professor Elena Baylis
Faculty: Professor Elena Baylis and Professor Drew Roberts
Adjunct Faculty: Professor Nick Kolovos


Students who wish to earn the Public Policy Concentration by participating in the Semester in DC Program Policy Track should complete the Certificate/Area of Concentration Registration Form.

This form should be filled out by the first week of the semester that the student participates in the Semester in DC Program Policy Track, to enable effective oversight of the student’s completion of the requirements by Professor Baylis.

FAQs and Contact

Additional information and FAQs about the Semester in DC Program Policy Track that allows students to earn the Public Policy Concentration are available on our Semester in D.C. Program page. 

If you want to discuss participating in the Public Policy Concentration, contact Professor Baylis at For general information about the Semester in DC Program, contact Professor Drew Roberts at