Adlaw Is Fun. Really.

The Blog Formerly Known as “Random Acts of Meanness” discusses course selection in law school:

Registration went OK. Now I'm in 8 a.m. admin law but I think I'm near the top of the waitlist for B.A. at 6:30 p.m. I think both classes will be immensely dull but I will probably take both eventually.


Administrative Law is not dull. Don't let this atypical incident fool you. Adlaw is complex, and confusing, perhaps frustrating, but endlessly fascinating. It's the only class I've taught continuously since I entered teaching and the only one that never gets boring. Well, Internet Law never gets boring either, but that's because it's a whole new subject every three years.

Administrative Law is applied constitutional law. It's the instantiation of our shared commitment to the almost impossible project of having an executive that both effective and yet controlled. That does what past Congresses commanded, yet adjusts to the times. That has the discretion to act, but not the ability to tyrannize. Nothing this difficult and important could be boring.

Every law student should take Adlaw — even if you have to take it from me. (For more course selection advice see my unofficial advice about course selection in law school.)

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9 Responses to Adlaw Is Fun. Really.

  1. Max says:

    He’s right about B.A., though, if you know anything about corporations then it’s like eating dozens of cucumbers. Can you eat another cucumber? Sure. Do you want one? No.

    Admin law is like a Philip Glass box set, it’s all very beautiful, and you’re sure it’s really worth all six hours but, please, stop beeping.

  2. Michael says:

    Hmmm. I confess I don’t find that the analogy at all reflects my feelings.

    On the other hand, I have to admit that I am very fond of Philip Glass. One of my happy memories is seeing the first revival of Einstein on the Beach at BAM (from the next to last row of the highest balcony). I play a lot of Glass when I’m writing. If no one else is around, anyway.

  3. Max says:

    What I poorly conveyed is that, in order to like Admin Law / Philip Glass, you have to really appreciate structure, and that, even if you do, the repetition of certain themes or elements can cause mental fatigue.

    I haven’t taken Admin Law (I’m a 2L at another school), but I plan to and I think I’d probably love it, much like how I loved ConLaw and Fed Courts. But I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority, and that, to the extent law students intellectually enjoy their material, they tend to enjoy material that effectuates justice (however defined; avoiding tort liability can fit) on individual clients. As in, they love how habeas corpus may set the guilty free, but struggle with and are annoyed by how habeas is not appellate review, but collateral review, and that it is a civil, not criminal, matter.

    I can’t comment on how it compares to your generation, but my generation doesn’t seem to care too much about legal structure in general and the Constitution in particular. Even if they agree with what the Constitution means and what it provides, they tend to view it as a scrap of paper that typically acts as a cover for whatever politicians or judges feel like doing. I TA a ConLaw class, and yesterday I did an informal poll while teaching the intermediate standard for gender classifications: 3/4ths of the class agreed that the holdings of cases reflected the Supreme Court’s personal policy preferences and not any real attempt at applying the standard. It’s quite possible my generation is just reflecting our times in the era of Schiavo’s Jurisdiction and Torture-as-Executive-Privilege. Whatever the cause, I think it bears some responsibiliy for Admin Law’s poor reputation.

  4. michael says:

    Ah, but while adlaw is about structure, they’re structures that encourage the effectuation of justice…

    The larger problem to which you refer is what I call “Vulgar Legal Realism” and there’s a lot of it about. Some day I’ll transcribe my annual in-class rant about that. Or perhaps a student will.

  5. Max says:

    All law is about the effectuation of justice; the problem is, if you subscribe to Vulgar Legal Realism, then the farther the law is from the justice on the individual, the less important it is because it’s easier for a judge/administrative/etc to bend the law to avoid justice.

    I’m a quasi-vulgar legal realist (I guess an “impolite legal realist?”) but I also don’t have a binary view of justice. A lot of law students divide the law into “just/fair” and “unjust/unfair;” either an outcome effectuated justice or it didn’t. Admin Law and Fed Courts both deal with procedural structure, where rulings move the likelihood of justice being effectuated in any individual case from, say, one-in-five to one-in-three. That’s still “unjust” in the minds of many since some evil judge or administrator can, in their view, still bend the law to deny justice, so the students find quibbling over those comparative likelihoods pointless. They’ll of course accept that one-in-three beats one-in-five, but they won’t consider it worth contemplating and will want to find the “real” solution.

    I think we vulgar legal realists are going to win the day, as the political attacks on the judiciary and the appointment of inappropriate candidates chips away at the judiciary’s sense of institutional responsibility, which so far has kept many a judge in line.

  6. Barsk says:

    I put in a good word for the class.

  7. Pat says:

    A boring note on bordem:

    Is BA dull? Yes. BA is supposed to introduce students to the legal materials — mostly statutes, common law, administrative regulation, and fictional material (uniform and model acts, etc.) — that encode the forms, substantive premises, and corollaries of some of the principal methods of business money-raising or money-making. The encoding is complex and not always obvious. That may be because money-raising and money-making are risky, conflict-provoking exercises in which participants are most of the time mostly just greedy, and thus there are no (or not many) easy equities. Encoding may also be complex because money-raising and money-making are exercises we want to regulate but not eliminate — thus the materials show off a lot of ambivalence. One way to make law complex is to make it look banal — to use ideas like fiduciary responsibility and duty of care and duty of loyalty that look like ideas we would all endorse, but which (when we look at them closely) turn into complicated, unresolved accumulations. Another way to make law complex is to make use of several sets of materials at the same time. BA takes both of these tacks. Banality and severality readily induce the sense of boredom. But — and this is the basic point of the course — corporate law (especially) is thought by many people to be the body of American law that matters most in American history (and in world history insofar as the United States matters). (Others argue for US constitutional law, of course, or (as it turns out) Florida constitutional law.) It is the job of the BA course to teach students how not to be bored by what is so obviously important. “Job of the course”: better — “job of the person teaching the course.”

  8. Pat says:

    “Bordem” ?????? “Bordumb” ????? “Boredom” !!!!!

  9. Katherine says:

    It is very IMPORTANT. But it has a high potential to be totally mindnumbing, on account of the factual situations in the cases:
    –cannot be summed up in a few short sentences
    –are very boring

    I loved Con Law, and liberal students had better learn to care about it if we don’t our courts taken over by the originalist cult.

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