Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

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GeePee
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Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby GeePee » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:44 am

After speaking with two of my professors, I apparently blew all of the ground that I gained on the rest of the class from issue spotters on the policy questions. I didn't actually think that this was possible going in. My overall approach was to attempt to tie the prompts closely to the most discussed general themes of the course, but it turns out that this wasn't what they were looking for.

I'm wondering what has worked for all of you in your approach to policy questions, and how that mindset differs from issue spotters.

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Vronsky
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby Vronsky » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:56 am

There's a whole chapter in Getting to Maybe about "Policy Czars," and I highly recommend it. It provides a useful framework to consider policy questions on multiple levels. I read the chapter carefully, and then actually outlined its sections into a 3 page doc that I reviewed for finals. The basic idea is to consider potential changes to the Administration of laws, and Fairness to different classes of litigants, and a third concern that escapes me at the moment. I was able to land the highest grade in my torts class last fall by doing this, because it was fairly obvious from the beginning that my Prof. had a strong policy lean.

There are two basic types of policy questions: (1) those that are open ended, such as "Should tort law be reformed?" and (2) issue spotters with policy issues embedded. It sounds like you are dealing with the second. Towards the end of the GTM chapter, there is a section that focuses on the 'Spotting the Paradox'... this may be what you are looking for. The basic concept encourages you to identify when a policy paradox actually implies the opposite of what it says. For example, if tort law reform aimed at reducing costs could actually increase costs to certain subsets of litigants.

GTM FTW.

phonepro
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby phonepro » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:07 am

Vronsky wrote:There's a whole chapter in Getting to Maybe about "Policy Czars," and I highly recommend it. It provides a useful framework to consider policy questions on multiple levels. I read the chapter carefully, and then actually outlined its sections into a 3 page doc that I reviewed for finals. The basic idea is to consider potential changes to the Administration of laws, and Fairness to different classes of litigants, and a third concern that escapes me at the moment. I was able to land the highest grade in my torts class last fall by doing this, because it was fairly obvious from the beginning that my Prof. had a strong policy lean.

There are two basic types of policy questions: (1) those that are open ended, such as "Should tort law be reformed?" and (2) issue spotters with policy issues embedded. It sounds like you are dealing with the second. Towards the end of the GTM chapter, there is a section that focuses on the 'Spotting the Paradox'... this may be what you are looking for. The basic concept encourages you to identify when a policy paradox actually implies the opposite of what it says. For example, if tort law reform aimed at reducing costs could actually increase costs to certain subsets of litigants.

GTM FTW.


I'd love to see that 3 page doc! :)

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Vronsky
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby Vronsky » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:17 am

Not only is my doc full of typos and ignores some parts I didn't feel were relevant to my prof, but the whole point of outlining is to synthesize material, not to read what someone else already learned.

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GeePee
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby GeePee » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:03 pm

I've read Getting to Maybe several times in great detail, and following it sort of got me into the mess I'm in now.

Perhaps these professors were outliers, but I was looking for any good advice/information outside GTM as far as approach goes.

keg411
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby keg411 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:01 pm

BTW, I did the same thing as Vronsky as my CivPro professor told us there might be a policy question on our exam. However, the policy question never happened so I didn't use it. Just read the chapter and use it to make your own checklist for policy questions.

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edcrane
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby edcrane » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:30 pm

I think it's important to take policy seriously in the preparation process if you've been told that it is going to be tested in some way. As you discovered, it's a bad idea to try to bullshit policy questions using general notions of fairness, etc.

My preparation strategy usually entails (1) flagging all of the areas in which policy was discussed by the professor in class, (2) producing a rough outline of policy points for each area based on class notes and assigned readings, (3) Skimming LR articles written by authors mentioned in class or in the casebook for 2-4 hrs, adding points to my outline where appropriate, and (4) taking a position and drafting some canned analysis. By the end of the process I have thought through all the policy aspects of the class and have a bunch of analysis ready to go.

This has worked out very well for me in the past.

lawloser22
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby lawloser22 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:43 pm

edcrane wrote:I think it's important to take policy seriously in the preparation process if you've been told that it is going to be tested in some way. As you discovered, it's a bad idea to try to bullshit policy questions using general notions of fairness, etc.

My preparation strategy usually entails (1) flagging all of the areas in which policy was discussed by the professor in class, (2) producing a rough outline of policy points for each area based on class notes and assigned readings, (3) Skimming LR articles written by authors mentioned in class or in the casebook for 2-4 hrs, adding points to my outline where appropriate, and (4) taking a position and drafting some canned analysis. By the end of the process I have thought through all the policy aspects of the class and have a bunch of analysis ready to go.

This has worked out very well for me in the past.


TCR. Policy questions can be answered in lots of different ways. While some profs may have loved your approach, others won't. In general, I recommend taking an extremely professor-specific approach and treating them as modified issue spotters, only spotting the key issues and giving heavier analysis. If you know there's going to be a policy question and don't know what your prof wants, start going to office hours.

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GeePee
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby GeePee » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:15 am

lawloser22 wrote:
edcrane wrote:I think it's important to take policy seriously in the preparation process if you've been told that it is going to be tested in some way. As you discovered, it's a bad idea to try to bullshit policy questions using general notions of fairness, etc.

My preparation strategy usually entails (1) flagging all of the areas in which policy was discussed by the professor in class, (2) producing a rough outline of policy points for each area based on class notes and assigned readings, (3) Skimming LR articles written by authors mentioned in class or in the casebook for 2-4 hrs, adding points to my outline where appropriate, and (4) taking a position and drafting some canned analysis. By the end of the process I have thought through all the policy aspects of the class and have a bunch of analysis ready to go.

This has worked out very well for me in the past.


TCR. Policy questions can be answered in lots of different ways. While some profs may have loved your approach, others won't. In general, I recommend taking an extremely professor-specific approach and treating them as modified issue spotters, only spotting the key issues and giving heavier analysis. If you know there's going to be a policy question and don't know what your prof wants, start going to office hours.

Thanks guys. I guess office hours are perhaps more important than I originally realized (I did great on the policy questions last year for the professors whose office hours I regularly visited).

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soaponarope
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby soaponarope » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:39 pm

Rule #1. Don't over think policy. use your common sense.

Three tiers to policy: Fairness, process/institutional concerns, and preventing future harm.

Fairness: Can the person control whatever it is the issue is related to? i.e. incapacities or incompetence? (example: Incapacity is blindness, handicapped, etc... incompetence is a drunk, or reckless, etc...)

Institutional concern: will establishing liability flood the courts/can the courts ascertain whatever issue it is you're trying to resolve?

Preventing future harm: will deciding one way or the other prevent future harm?

Tying this all together in a concise example... take a dog bite for example. Lets say hypothetically, a state were to have strict liability for dog bite. What are the policy implications for holding a person strictly liable for their dog biting someone else?

Answer: Holding dog owners strictly liable if their dog bit another would prevent future harm because dog owners would be more careful in how they restrained said dogs to avoid lawsuits. For example, dog owners would be more likely to have their dogs on a leash, or fenced in their back yards. As a matter of fairness, a dog owner chooses to have a dog, it's not an immutable trait in which they're born with... and if they chose to have a dog they ought to ensure the public (the public that relies on dog owners to ensure their pets are restrained) will not be bit. On the other hand, as an institutional concern, establishing strict liability on dog owners could create a tremendous burden on dog owners because such liability may raise home owners insurance to a level in which no dog owner could afford.

Disclaimer: I've been drinking. forgive any grammatical errors or conclusory statements. the gist for policy is (fairness, preventing future harm, and institutional concerns, and using your common sense in applying all three.)

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soaponarope
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby soaponarope » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:49 pm

And one more thing... EVERY SINGLE EXAM, LAW, CASE, DECISION, (sorry for yelling) is based on policy. A judge does not decide a case without policy in mind, i.e. what will my decision affect, what will my ruling affirm, etc... These "policies" (as mentioned prior) are based on three tiers: preventing future harm, institutional concerns, and fairness You can argue policy implications on any exam question... and you ought to... but, when you do use your common sense (which for some reason, all of us 1Ls seem to lose).

Green Crayons
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby Green Crayons » Sun Mar 13, 2011 5:00 pm

My torts professor last semester was all the fuck about policy. We had several readings regarding successful use of policy in legal arguments (including GTM, as it just so happens). Here is the list of policy arguments I drew up from those readings. These are the ones which frequently pop up and which you should use. I think they fit under soap's three broad categories, but these are specific types of arguments so that may be a bit more illuminating.

General Policy Arguments
• Firm rule v. flexible standard
• Shaping society (general consequences)
• Deterrence (promotes good, deters bad v. promotes bad, deters good)
• Appropriateness of judicial forum (can appropriately decide v. cannot)
• Appropriateness of legal intervention
• Competency of judiciary (can competently determine v. cannot)
• Administration within judiciary (deluge of claims v. can sift through unworthy claims)
• Administration of law in real world
• Moral arguments (think shifting of paradigm)
○ Unfairness of change - consistency over time
○ Like cases treated alike - consistency between jurisdictions; across social categories; across economic class
• Paradox:
○ Time Frames (short v. long run)
○ Intent v. Effects
○ Law on the books v. Law in action
○ Category ambiguity

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helloperson
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Re: Writing Better Answers to Policy Questions

Postby helloperson » Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:45 am

soaponarope wrote:Rule #1. Don't over think policy. use your common sense.

Three tiers to policy: Fairness, process/institutional concerns, and preventing future harm.

Fairness: Can the person control whatever it is the issue is related to? i.e. incapacities or incompetence? (example: Incapacity is blindness, handicapped, etc... incompetence is a drunk, or reckless, etc...)

Institutional concern: will establishing liability flood the courts/can the courts ascertain whatever issue it is you're trying to resolve?

Preventing future harm: will deciding one way or the other prevent future harm?

Tying this all together in a concise example... take a dog bite for example. Lets say hypothetically, a state were to have strict liability for dog bite. What are the policy implications for holding a person strictly liable for their dog biting someone else?

Answer: Holding dog owners strictly liable if their dog bit another would prevent future harm because dog owners would be more careful in how they restrained said dogs to avoid lawsuits. For example, dog owners would be more likely to have their dogs on a leash, or fenced in their back yards. As a matter of fairness, a dog owner chooses to have a dog, it's not an immutable trait in which they're born with... and if they chose to have a dog they ought to ensure the public (the public that relies on dog owners to ensure their pets are restrained) will not be bit. On the other hand, as an institutional concern, establishing strict liability on dog owners could create a tremendous burden on dog owners because such liability may raise home owners insurance to a level in which no dog owner could afford.

Disclaimer: I've been drinking. forgive any grammatical errors or conclusory statements. the gist for policy is (fairness, preventing future harm, and institutional concerns, and using your common sense in applying all three.)


That's all well and good until homeless people start punching dogs in the face to collect settlement money from the owners.




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