WCL has extensive curricular offerings in administrative and regulatory law. This field prepares government lawyers and their private sector and public interest counterparts who practice in local, state, and federal agencies as well as in various courts. While federal regulatory activity is centered in Washington, aspects of federal regulation are present throughout the country. Lawyers involved in state and local regulation are located in every state. This field also involves many attorneys in international practice whether located in the U.S. or beyond the borders. The rules and regulations articulated, implemented, or contested in all these areas divide roughly into two domains: economic regulation and health and safety regulation.
Antitrust law governs the way businesses interact in the marketplace. It seeks to protect competition. It encourages firms to pursue success by developing and selling better and cheaper products and services, not by working with their competitors (collusion) or by harming rivals (exclusion) in order to raise prices, lessen product quality, suppress innovation rates, or otherwise harm consumers and other buyers. Most antitrust cases are civil matters, but some (mainly cartel cases brought by the Justice Department) are criminal violations.
“Business law” means many things. It is not a term generally used by practicing lawyers, at least not among themselves. And when they say “corporate law,” they don’t use that as a substitute for business law; it means something more specific. You need to be more specific too. Thinking about the typical areas of practice will probably help. Lawyers whom laypeople might call “business lawyers” or “corporate lawyers” tend to distinguish a few types, some of which overlap, such as: (a) corporate, or corporate and securities; (b) M&A (i.e., mergers and acquisitions); (c) commercial; (d) bankruptcy; (e) real estate; and (f) tax. Outside of transactional practice, there is a large world of commercial litigation and arbitration, where lawyers deal with many of these same issues but from a litigation standpoint. Sometimes, practice is more regulatory, especially (but not exclusively) in Washington: bank regulation is among the most obvious, but in very real ways you would probably consider as business lawyers many people who practice in health law, communications law, energy law, and intellectual property. Of course employment law and labor law are crucial to businesses as well, and antitrust issues arise in a variety of ways. On top of all of that, almost all of these subjects exist in international practice too, whether in transactions, finance, or litigation and arbitration. Indeed, AU WCL has a Center on International Commercial Arbitration that is among the most prominent in the world, and the curriculum covers both commercial and investment disputes.
Attorneys who seek to protect civil rights and liberties can be found in a variety of arenas. Some focus on direct legal services or class action litigation to enforce existing civil rights laws in areas such as employment, education, housing, criminal justice, disability, first amendment, immigrant’s rights, LGBT rights, prisoner’s rights, public accommodations, religious rights, voting rights, and women’s rights, or to set new precedents in emerging areas like international human rights or technology and civil liberties.
The law school’s criminal law offerings are abundant and diverse, with many different options depending on one’s specific interests. All students are, of course, required to take the first-year criminal law course, along with criminal procedure and legal ethics.
Disability Law is a growing area of practice that can include elements of education law (especially special education law), civil rights/anti-discrimination law (in a broad range of areas including employment, housing transportation and institutionalization), health law, family law, public benefits law (especially Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)), and estate planning (especially guardianship and its alternatives). It is a technically complex area of law that also can be very rewarding personally and professionally, especially because so many people with disabilities lack adequate (or any) legal representation. There also is an important role for well-trained lawyers to represent in a knowledgeable and responsible fashion government institutions and private entities that come into contact with people with disabilities.
A legal career involving education law and policy offers a diverse set of opportunities. A student with the broad objective of helping the next generation of children to succeed will find there are a variety of ways to do this with a general education policy background. Some lawyers assist educational leaders in navigating complex bureaucratic and legal regimes. Some work with disadvantaged communities and children in improving educational opportunities. Some seek opportunities to develop and advocate cutting-edge policies that will improve America’s schools. Still others engage in impact litigation advocating for improved educational opportunities. And still others represent children with special needs in special education proceedings.
Employment and labor relations are heavily regulated areas of human interaction in the United States; as a consequence, a great many lawyers are employed in these practice fields. The laws surrounding the employment relationship are becoming increasingly numerous and complex, making this a practice area in which job opportunities are growing. Many lawyers in the field work for the government, mainly in federal agencies including the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and the Department of Justice. Others work for state agencies including state labor departments and equal opportunity commissions. Substantial numbers of lawyers advise businesses on complia
Environmental and energy law and related fields are dynamic and complex areas of the law that encompass a wide range of practice areas and approaches. Much of the field addresses public administrative and regulatory law, but the field (particularly energy and real estate law) also includes complex business transactions and financial instruments. There are thus many different ways to practice (and prepare to practice) in this area.
Family Law concerns all legal needs and problems that people have related to their family relationships. The private practice of family law typically takes place in small law firms or by solo practitioners. These lawyers handle matters such as divorce, property division, spousal support, custody and child support. They can also assist clients in becoming parents through adoption and the use of assisted reproduction. In addition, they counsel clients about legal remedies available to deal with domestic violence. Family law practitioners must be able to meet the needs of all types of family relationships, such as unmarried couples and children being raised by grandparents or others who are not their biological parents.
WCL offers a wide variety of courses related to civil litigation, which cover both the substantive law that is involved in various kinds of conflicts, and the processes and theories that litigators need to master in order to practice. Required courses such as civil procedure, constitutional law, and professional responsibility and many course electives, such as evidence, administrative law and more, form the background knowledge base. In addition, WCL offers a number of experiential courses and clinics that give students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in interviewing and counseling clients, developing case theories, conducting fact investigations and using formal discovery, presenting persuasive arguments both orally and in writing, negotiating, engaging in motions practice, and representing a client at trial.
As evidenced by the current transformation of the U.S. health care landscape, health law and policy is a rapidly evolving and extremely complex field of study. The health care industry makes up nearly 20% of the U.S. economy and includes hospital systems, public and private insurers, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, and the individual practitioners who treat patients. Each of these actors operates within highly regulated spheres that often overlap with other fields of law, such as administrative, intellectual property, tort, and tax law. Moreover, health law extends beyond the health care system to encompass other areas of law that influence population health. Health law can also be examined through the lenses of international and comparative law.
Immigration law is a field that is growing in importance, given the large numbers of noncitizens in the U.S., the prominence of immigration-related issues in policy spheres, the nexus between immigration law and national security, and the intersections between immigration law and other practice areas. Practicing immigration lawyers find themselves in a broad range of positions, across the non-profit, private, and government sectors. The breadth of these positions reflects the many subspecialties under the rubric of immigration law, which includes asylum and refugee law.
Intellectual Property (“IP”) law and Information Policy underlies many of the most critical developments of contemporary law and society. IP has become more central to law and society as IP rights have grown increasingly paramount in our economy and international trade.
The international law pathway includes five major specializations aiming to guide students interested in pursuing a career devoted to the practice of international law. International law is a broad category that as such includes public and private law as well as legal questions involving state, non-state actors and international organizations or courts. In order to break down such a broad category the WCL faculty has created five pathways to help students specializing in a particular international law practice: 1) International Economic Law (including six additional specializations); 2) International Environmental Law; 3) International Human Rights; 4) International Criminal Law; and 5) International Organizations and Multinational Institutions.
WCL offers a rich selection of courses related to the law of democratic politics, elections and the legislative process. The courses in this field address the interplay between the way law is made in legislative and administrative bodies and the way law regulates the dynamics of the political system and the legislative process itself.
National security law as a field includes a host of related topics, ranging from war powers to surveillance authorities; from detention, treatment, and trial of terrorism suspects to domestic use of the military; and from intelligence gathering to the domestic enforceability of international humanitarian and human rights law. Simply put, national security law is an umbrella topic, looking at how distinct legal disciplines incorporate and/or accommodate special considerations when defense of the nation is at stake.
Lawyers who specialize in personal injury law may be involved in a wide range of matters. Many personal injury lawyers are involved in litigation. Some tend to specialize in representing individuals or groups of individuals who have suffered harm, while others tend to specialize in representing the defendants in such lawsuits, which are often (though not always) businesses and other large organizations. Some lawyers work in smaller practice settings while others work for larger firms. Another set of lawyers specializing in this area of the law work for public interest groups, government agencies, policy think tanks, and legal services organizations. Personal injury practice can involve lawyers in fascinating public policy issues and deep moral debates about who should bear the costs of harm in an inextricably interconnected society in which people are pursuing sometimes conflicting activity goals. Subjects encompassed under the scope of personal injury practice include toxic torts, class action litigation, product liability law, environmental harm, insurance reform, workplace accident law, medical malpractice, libel and defamation law, business torts, mass disasters. Personal injury lawyers must understand a wide array of legal issues, ranging from procedure, common and statutory law doctrines, administrative law, remedies, and insurance law, as must also be conversant in varied theoretical approaches to the law including law and economics, moral philosophy, and critical legal theory approaches.
“Perspectives” courses encourage reflection on the law, legal processes, and legal institutions from comparative, critical, historical, and/or jurisprudential viewpoints. Perspectives courses are helpful in developing critical perspectives on the law, which can then be brought to bear in any area of legal study and/or law practice. WCL offers a rich array of courses through which to explore critical perspectives on the law.
Poverty law cuts across many areas of law, which makes it a particularly rich area for study and allows a wide variety of classes to fit within the study of “poverty law.” It is, in brief, the law as it relates to poor people, which includes everything from community economic development to family law to immigration law to employment law and so on. There is no one career path associated with poverty law; work for a legal aid organization fits into this category, but so can work for the government or as a community organizer. Doing poverty law requires a solid grounding in the law as well as an understanding of, or empathy with, the struggles faced by poor people. Consequently, the study of poverty law might involve a mix of course work, a relevant clinic, and direct work with antipoverty organizations either in an externship or a summer internship.