By Ian Zhang J.D. ’17

Prior to coming to law school, I worked as a math tutor/academic advisor at a Title I middle school in Texas through The Princeton Review program. The majority of my students came from low-income families and experienced a host of educational, social, and mental health challenges. I collaborated with colleagues and school officials and designed daily in-class materials as well as long-term lesson plans, and provided daily tutoring sessions to ensure students received necessary help to be successful in passing the state exam. While I was fortunate enough to achieve extraordinary results with my students, I was frustrated that many challenges my students faced in their community continued to overshadow the gains they experienced inside the classroom. It was this type of frustration that led me to apply to law school in the first place.

At the Public Education Policy and Consulting Clinic, I was able to collaborate with students from different educational backgrounds, ranging from former teachers to current MBA students, to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the education sector in the U.S. The goal of my project is to develop a targeted discussion of shared objectives and mutually attractive education-based litigation strategy that would create opportunities for effective collaboration across the civil rights activists and education reform advocates. At the same time, we are trying to explore opportunities to alleviate conflict and establish common ground between civil right activists and education reform advocates in support of a concerted nationwide effort to achieve increased access to high quality public schools by all students.

The clinic is as much as a legal clinic as it is a strategy-consulting clinic. In addition to honing my analytical skills in understanding and dissecting various legal issues and theories, the clinic also helped me to learn how to analyze and break down a problem in a structured manner. But the most important skill I developed here is to quickly and methodically identifying the core drivers to add value without boiling the ocean. The overall experience is something I had not experienced either in law school classes or previous clinics, it was amazing to think about how our research and collaboration had led us to develop, from scratch, a coherent strategy that the client was excited to implement.