Monday, April 6, 2015

An Administrative Law Practicum

Over the last few years, many law schools have introduced a legislation and regulation course into the 1L curriculum.  This is a very positive trend, and one I’m glad to be part of.  But it does create some curricular challenges. 

A typical leg-reg (or leg-admin, as we call it here) curriculum mixes some statutory interpretation with a condensed version of an upper-level administrative law course.  That makes a traditional upper-level admin class partly redundant, but not completely redundant, because you just can’t cover as much in a two thirds of a semester.  Something has to go, and not something trivial; the traditional admin curriculum is filled with important stuff.  That then leads to a big question: what should schools that teach 1L leg-reg do about upper-level admin?

One of my colleagues has developed a great answer.  Last fall, Jeff Thaler, a visiting professor at Maine Law, piloted a course called the “Administrative Law Practicum.”  Over the course of the semester, Jeff took students through the processes of permitting wind energy developments.  They did this in a highly hands-on way, drafting documents, preparing and examining expert witnesses (who were real-life consultants to wind energy developers), and working up toward simulated administrative hearings at the end of the course.  The students who took the class already had received, in their 1L year, a general introduction to the roles of administrative agencies within our governance system.  This course built on that foundation by helping students start thinking of those agencies as people, and as people that a good lawyer can persuade.

Did it work?  Many of Jeff’s students left his class and walked, just a few minutes later, into my environmental law class, so I got a fresh, first-hand account of how the course was going.  They loved it. And they seemed to be doing a ton of learning.  Jeff also was doing a lot of work, but the results seemed to me to be completely worthwhile.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the course, Jeff has posted a short descriptive account here.  I think it’s a great concept, and one that could be reproduced, with some modification, for many other types of administrative proceedings.

- Dave Owen

April 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)