Sunday, October 28, 2012
This fall, for the first time, I'm teaching a legislation and administrative law course to 1Ls. This isn't a new innovation--some schools have been doing this for years--but it is still a minority approach, and an approach with a mixed reputation. One professor at another school, hearing of our experiment, recently said to me something along the lines of, "everyone who's tried that has regretted it, haven't they?"
Two months in, we have no regrets, and I'm starting to wonder why everyone doesn't do this. There are several reasons why a 1L legislation/administration course makes a lot of sense. First, the material provides a foundation for so many other law school courses. The relationship to environmental law is obvious, but other subjects from immigration law to securities regulation to clinical practice all will make a lot more sense if students arrive with some background in statutory interpretation and administrative law. Second, we're finding that there is a strong synergy between the legislation/administration course and an introductury constitutional law course. Multiple students have commented on how learning statutory interpretation theories helps them understand theories of constitutional interpretation, and vice versa, and the separation of powers questions that form the core of most 1L con law courses are also centrally at issue in administrative law.
Of course, another reason the course is valuable is the importance of the material to modern legal practice, but on its own that's just a reason for students to cover this material at some point in their legal careers, not necessarily in the first year (though first-year coverage does ensure that they don't skip the course, which some students otherwise probably do).
Two months is too soon to have a thoroughly informed judgment, of course. The real test will play out over the next three years, as the students revisit (and hopefully remember) concepts learned in this course in a wide variety of other contexts. But even at this early stage, I'd happily,if somewhat tentatively, recommend teaching administrative law to 1Ls.