Meet Brigitte Collier, the outgoing Student Representative to the Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice. Below she discusses her commitment to the law, her experience as a student representative, and gives advice for law students interested in administrative law.
1. Where do you attend law school and what led you to a career in law? What are your plans for after law school?
I am a 3L at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, IN. Being from Haiti, I naturally wanted to help people and give back to my community both where I live and in Haiti. The best way I felt that I could do this was by being the voice in court for those who are not able to speak for themselves. I have 10 years of experience working in the legal industry, which validated my passion for practicing law. I learned that lawyers need to be active in their community, giving back whenever possible, with no expectations of returns. My experiences have helped me to discover my gifts of compassion for others, empathy, and understanding as well as my passion for public interest, human rights, and family law. I also want to assist people with resolving their conflicts in a cordial manner and in ways that benefit the interests of all parties involved.
After law school, I plan to take the Indiana Bar and, hopefully, practice in the areas of family law and trusts & estates, regulatory practice, or another area of public interest law. I am also open to practicing business law.
2. What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?
My experiences that led to a career in regulatory law happened by chance after I graduated from college. My first job was doing pension administration, which is regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Shortly after that, I worked for a hydroelectric power generation corporation working in a variety of areas including human resources, litigation and real estate. Most recently, I worked for the largest family-owned winery in the world, regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Some of my responsibilities were to interpret alcohol regulations, help ensure that the direct-to-consumer events complied with state and federal regulations, evaluate each state’s marketing requirements, and provide regulatory training for representatives in each state.
3. How did you become interested in pursuing a career in administrative law?
My interest in administrative law stems from my work experiences at the Winery, talking with administrative law professionals, and my administrative law class. All of these experiences led me to want to learn more about the field. My work experiences also helped me realize how essential administrative law is – almost everything in our daily lives is affected in some way or another by administrative law.
4. Based on your experiences thus far, what do you perceive to be challenges facing administrative law practitioners?
One obstacle is a lack of interest by young lawyers, which is perpetuated by a lack of knowledge regarding how many areas of practice involve administrative law. Also, the salaries can be an issue because most law students accrue over 100K in student loans; therefore, they need a reasonable salary to pay back the loans and have enough to live.
5. For law students or new attorneys considering a career in administrative law, what do you think would be a good way of familiarizing themselves with the field?
I believe some of the best ways of introducing law students and new attorneys to the administrative law field are through internships, job shadows and networking events at the law schools. Local administrative law professionals should be invited to these networking events to speak about what they do, how they acquired their current position, advice on what students and young lawyers should do if they are interested in a career in administrative law, and allow time for questions and answers as well as additional time for one-on-one networking between the speakers and the attendees.
6. From a law student’s perspective, how would you characterize the dialogue between academics, students, and practitioners in the area of administrative law?
From my perspective as a student, my academic experience was different from my work experience and my conversations with current practitioners. My academic experience was heavily focused on learning the case law and not practical experience. Speaking with current practitioners gave me a much better perspective on practicing in the area of administrative law. Most students that I speak to, including myself, would prefer balancing academic work with more practical experience. For example, I would have benefited a lot more from my administrative law class if I were required to sit in on a hearing and write about what I learned or had several practitioners come in from different areas of practice and talk to the class about their roles and responsibilities.
7. As the Law Student Division representative to the Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice Section, what were your goals for the year? What do you think could be done in future years to foster interest in administrative law or joining the Section? What have you enjoyed most and found to be most challenging in your role?
My goals were to contribute to the monthly e-newsletter; hold a minimum of two teleconferences with a panel of lawyers from the 40+ section committee members; write at least one article to be published in the Student Lawyer magazine; and launch monthly articles from interviews with lawyers and judges throughout the country who practice in different areas of administrative law and regulatory affairs. The purpose of these articles is to educate law students about the broad range of practices that are available within administrative law. The articles were distributed via the student bar listserv, posted in the student law section of the Administrative Law website, and the monthly e-newsletter.
I have enjoyed being part of the council meetings and interacting with members from throughout the country. The most challenging thing for me was getting a clear understanding of exactly what my role was and getting students involved. I believe that if I had had a better understanding of my role when I first started, I could have planned my goals and execution earlier and been more organized. Thus, I think greater communication between incoming and outgoing student representatives is key to furthering our goals and being the best possible representatives to the Section.
8. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling, running, and reading non-law school related books.
This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.