Administrative and Regulatory Law

WCL has 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.

Market Sector Regulation can focus on antirust, telecommunications including telephone, television, and some limited components of the Internet; mergers, monopolization, unfair trade practices, and other aspects of the competitive market; banking, finance, and securities; tax and matters pertaining to the Treasury; customs and international trade; intellectual property including trademarks, patents and copyright; and many other fields.

Health, Safety and Environmental Regulation is concerned with workplace health and safety; consumer product, food and drug, and transportation safety protection; environmental law, natural resources, and public lands.

Social Regulation and Benefits is concerned with national security, immigration, labor and union activity, attention to the needs of local communities, legal obligations pertaining to diversity, election and campaign finance, education law, and many other areas. It also covers administration of benefit programs including public assistance, pension, and health care benefits.

Lawyers specializing in this field work in a variety of settings, and almost all lawyers, in one way or another, find their practice includes consideration of administrative and regulatory process. Of course some areas, e.g., land use planning and zoning, customs, and labor law, involve a mix of economic and non-economic regulation and are practiced at the local, state, and federal level. Many attorneys work in government agencies developing and enforcing regulatory schemes. An equal or greater number work at law firms, domestic and international trade associations, or on behalf individuals, helping navigate the regulatory system, counseling clients, advocating modifications to rules and enforcement policies, and seeking judicial review of agency action. Still others work for regulated entities, e.g., public utilities, numerous non-governmental groups, government contractors, or a great range of public interest organizations, and advocate on behalf of the interests and individuals they represent.

Administrative Law is the foundational course for work in this area. It is offered every semester and is concerned with the legal bases for delegating rulemaking and adjudicative powers to regulatory agencies, the way those powers are exercised, and the standards for judicial review of agency actions. The course is mainly concerned with federal regulation and agencies, but similar principles underlie state and local regulation. In addition to Administrative Law, there is a first year elective, Introduction to Public Law: Legislation and the Regulatory State, which is a survey course that explores the sources and nature of regulation. Another survey course is Federal Regulatory Process, offered each summer, which includes an overview of the U.S. regulatory arena and focuses on a series of select federal agencies and regulatory topics.

The elective courses in this area are either advanced courses in public law practice, e.g., Federal Courts, or courses and seminars targeting different regulatory fields. As a starting point, students interested in this area of law should consider the three basic courses noted above and also a number of advanced courses.

The seminar, Contemporary Problems in Administrative Law, surveys a dozen important and timely issues of administrative law—regulation, adjudication, judicial review and openness, with students assigned to discuss those topics in a point-counterpoint format. Regulatory Law & Policy provides an introduction to the substance of regulatory decisions (as distinct from the administrative process by which they are made), emphasizing ways in which markets may fail to serve the public interest, strategies for correcting those failures, and why many regulatory schemes were eliminated or cut back during the past few decades. Other important courses include Federal Courts, seminars on Separation of Powers, Government Information Law & Policy, Election Law, Labor Law, Antitrust Law, Education Law, Presidential Strategies on Rights, and The Washington Lawyer Seminar (priority for LLM in Law and Government students).

This field provides many opportunities for experiential learning. About half of the WCL in-house clinical programs have heavy administrative components (e.g., the clinics focused on community and economic development, bankruptcy, women and the law, civil practice, and human rights and asylum). In addition, WCL has over 1000 externship sites that include all state, local, and federal agencies, numerous trade associations and public interest organizations, and other governmental advocacy groups. Many of the externship seminars (required when students do field work for credit) are designed for and well-suited to students in this field.

Of course there are many other substantive regulatory courses that are closely related to Administrative Law. Students interested in financial regulation should begin with Securities Regulation or Banking Law and Regulation (or both). Students with particular interest in one or more of those areas could follow them with Regulation of Derivatives, Problems in Advanced Securities Law, International Regulation of Securities Markets, and Regulatory Law and Policy: Financial Regulatory Reform.

Students interested in health law regulation or food and drug regulation should consider taking Food and Drug Law or Health Law: Legislative and Regulatory Process (or both). Courses in Health Law, Law and Drug Policy and the Public Health Law and Policy Seminar might follow the initial Health Law elective, and the course on Drug Products Liability might follow either Health Law or Food and Drug Law.

Students wishing to study environmental regulation should first take the class in Environmental Law, and then consider Comparative Environmental Law, International Business and Environment, International Environmental Law, the Environmental Litigation Seminar, and Regulation of Energy, or the environmental law externship seminar if they wish to go farther. Somewhat related is the study of energy regulation which should begin with Regulation of Energy, and could be followed by Oil and Gas Law and Environmental Law.

Students interested in communications regulation should consider Communications Law and Information Policy, which emphasizes legal and policy issues, Communications Law and Economic Regulation, which emphasizes economic regulatory issues, and Media Law, which addresses regulation of reporters and the media. The Space Law & Satellite Communications Seminar could be studied after Communications Law and Information Policy.

Students interested in aviation regulation should take the Aviation Law course and perhaps the Space Law & Satellite Communications Seminar. Students interested in regulation of science should consider Food and Drug Law, Environmental Law, and the course in Regulation of Science.

The following is a list of course related to Administrative and Regulatory Law. [Note While the law school strives to offer on a regular basis the foundational courses in this field, faculty availability, scheduling, and other resource allocation challenges make it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to offer specialized courses on an annual basis. We listed the full array of courses and seminar to give a sense of the overall field.]


Key Electives