Another Satisfied Customer

A former student writes,

I am happy to report that I landed a new job with the [federal agency name deleted] and so far everything is great. As part of my duties I am reviewing the entire [agency] rulemaking process and ensuring we follow the proper administrative procedures. I also provided rulemaking guidance and explained the feasibility of creating interim final rules to the [agency's] Under Secretary on a few issues and my recommendations actually led to a change in US negotiating policy [in something big and international]. So it's looking like your admin law class easily ended up being one of the most useful and practical and I often find myself looking at my class notes for guidance.

Of all the things I have ever taught, it is the Administrative Law course that students most often come back — several years later — and thank me for. While I'm happy to take some of the credit, I think most of it belongs to the intrinsic importance of the subject.

Why more students don't take Administrative Law law school remains something of a puzzle. After years of chewing it over, I've come down to thinking there are three reasons are that AdLaw is not a more popular course:

  • It's very hard
  • It's not on the bar exam
  • No one makes TV shows about administrative law or administrative lawyers.

But law students take note: you should take Administrative Law before you graduate — ideally in your second year of law school, because it's a foundational course that will help you with many other subjects.

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15 Responses to Another Satisfied Customer

  1. Add to this the theoretical orientation of many Ad Law teachers. My sense is that it attracts a disproportionate portion of professors who are interested in teaching the academic debates over issues of structural constitutionalism and textual interpretation (which converge, with a vengeance, in places like the Chevron doctrine). Not that this alone drives students away, but my sense is that the combination of a professor who is visibly into the theory with a subject that’s hard in its own right is unusually scary. It’s nerve-wracking to debate, say, the wisdom role that the courts play in facilitating or thwarting legislative control of the executive by defining their own attitude of deference towards an agency’s interpretation of statutory text, if you’re not even sure you have a handle on the doctrine in the first place.

    And, yes, I agree with you. Students, take Admin!

  2. Matt Lister says:

    Let me second this. Admin law is very useful for many areas of legal practice, but it’s especially useful if one is going to work in immigration (or international trade, though that’s of course a smaller group of people.) It’s also interesting because it’s, in many ways, applied constitutional law. It seems to me that you can’t know what due process is, for example, without studying admin law, as it’s in admin law that the details of what sort of process is due in various situations is really worked out. So, it has the virtues of being both very useful and theoretically interesting.

  3. vic says:

    I agree that Adlaw is extremely important. (and depending on your field, if you know it reasonably well, you will be the only one who does, so you have that advantage)

    A large portion of law students either take or don’t take a particular class largely because of the professor’s reputation of being difficult or even a jerk in class, and his historic grade curve, if available. They also particularly look at what getting the final grade entails, i.e. a short open book final or short paper class will attract students, while long or closed book finals will repell them. Also having a course that is also a bar exam course will attract students.

    For all but a few students, that’s the criteria for selecting classes in a nutshell. Rightly or wrongly, classes which seem like hard work, or which are taught by big meanies, get actively avoided and left for the less proactive to get suckered into. Every good law student has a mental list of professors and classes to be avoided at all costs.

    I have no idea how you are in a classroom, or whether you make it like a dental visit or not, but since Adlaw is not on the main bar exam, and is likely not on any (or many) state ones, if you (you and whoever teaches Adlaw at Miami) want to attract more students to your class(es), you need to work on lightening up your reputations, relax your grade curves, and not have descriptions of class work and the final that sound like a salt mine sentence. It’s just that simple.

  4. michael says:

    So, in order to make sure students benefit from a rigorous understanding of Administrative Law, I should…not offer a rigorous course in Administrative Law? No thanks.

    I agree class shouldn’t be unpleasant. (But see On Being Mean).

    I don’t agree that it should not “seem like hard work”. It is hard work. There may be no way to disguise that.

  5. Keith says:

    My only regret is that I took Ad Law in my first year. I find the area both highly relevant and extremely interesting, but I feel I would’ve gotten a lot more out of the course if I’d waited until my second or third year.

    Any recommendations for additional Ad Law courses I can take down the road?

  6. cathy says:

    AdLaw was certainly considered important when I was in law school. So much so that Foundations of the Regulatory State was a mandatory first year course. I also took Administrative Law second year. It helped that the professor was not boring.

  7. whizzer_white says:

    the title line is appropriate. miami law treats students as just that—as customers.

  8. Brian says:

    Collect millions in tuition, churn out 400 graduates a year, then brag about the handful that get jobs. Stay classy law schools.

  9. michael says:

    I shouldn’t be happy that students find my course useful?

  10. Deion says:

    It’s probably not useful for the majority of them, since they are living in their parents’ basements.

  11. michael says:

    Are you suggesting that the students smart enough to take Administrative Law have better outcomes than their peers? An interesting thought. I have no data, however.

  12. Deion says:

    How did you turn living in their parents’ basements into a better outcome? Better than what, begging underneath an overpass somewhere? I’m really anxious to see how law schools twist their employment statistics this year. Wonder if they will count as employed all those who are working as waiters, because a law degree clearly helps land those jobs.

    If anyone pays attention to the ABA, Allan Tannenbaum, the Chair of the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs, pretty much laid out what’s going on right now:

  13. Deion says:

    How did you turn living in their parents’ basements into a better outcome? Better than what, begging underneath an overpass somewhere? I’m really anxious to see how law schools twist their employment statistics this year. Wonder if they will count as employed all those who are working as waiters, because a law degree clearly helps land those jobs.

    If anyone pays attention to the ABA, Allan Tannenbaum, the Chair of the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs, pretty much laid out what’s going on right now:

  14. michael says:

    That is quite obviously not what I meant. I am done feeding the trolls.

  15. kcr211 says:

    I have observed from my participation in the review of the 1000+ application packages that we receive for my agency’s Honors program each year that students who have not taken admin are at a heavy disadvantage in getting the nod for an initial telephone interview. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it serves to emphasize the point that there are only benefits to taking admin: they’ll almost certainly use it no matter what they do. And as I indicated, it serves an important signaling function that you are actually interested in the job that you are applying for– perhaps even competent for it.

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