In support of a few different projects, I recently asked my summer research assistant to do a comprehensive review of Legislation and Regulation and Administrative Law course requirements at ABA accredited law schools in the United States. The completed list (download here) updates one most recently compiled by Professor Ed Richards at LSU Law School.
At this juncture, over 30 schools require JD students to take a Legislation and Regulation course (or a similarly titled course focused mainly on the role of statutes and regulations in contemporary law). At almost all of those schools the course is offered in the first year. A handful more require a course on just legislation, statutory interpretation, or the like. In addition, about ten schools impose an upper division requirement to take Administrative Law or a comparable course.
Now, perhaps more than ever, additional schools should seriously consider adding Legislation and Regulation or Administrative Law requirements. Each of the two big crises facing our country today provides yet another example of the centrality of the regulatory state—as opposed to the common law—in our legal system, thereby reinforcing the importance of exposing all law students to the fundamentals of legislation and regulation.
First, the varying government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic are acute illustrations of regulatory trade-offs—the kind that administrative agencies in numerous sectors of our society grapple with all the time: Benefits to the economy produce a cost in human life; benefits to human life produce a cost to the economy. Also, what authority do governors, health departments, and other relevant agencies have, many law students might wonder, and how did they get that authority?
Second, as to issues of police brutality and racial discrimination, the law’s response largely has come and will come in the form of legislation (or ordinances at the municipal level) and regulation. City councils consider fundamental changes to police departments, while state legislatures and Congress debate various other policing reforms. Police commissions and review boards, which are administrative agencies, are under scrutiny. Even the judicially-created doctrine of qualified immunity, which almost always insulates police officers from liability in civil suits, may very well endure in its present state unless Congress passes a statute modifying or eliminating it.
Fundamental concepts and processes of our regulatory state, several of them center stage in the issues of our day, are the focus of required courses at the various schools on the list. May that list grow each year moving forward.
Professor Ben Bratman teaches the required first-year courses Legal Analysis & Writing and Legislation & Regulation at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. This post was originally published on the Best Practices for Legal Education blog, where Professor Bratman is a regular contributor.