Meet Elisabeth Ulmer, a student at Villanova University School of Law and Notice and Comment contributor. Below, she shares her administrative law experience and tips for law students interested in learning more about the field.
1. What led you to pursue a career in law?
My interest in attending law school evolved as the result of several college experiences. One experience in particular sparked my passion by demonstrating how different facets of law, government, and society interact. During college, I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in Hawaii. I was fortunate to meet Judge Steven Alm, of the First District Court in Honolulu, who launched Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE). This program provides “swift and certain” punishment for each probation violation, rather than allowing probation violations to pile up until probation is revoked and the probationer is sent to prison. HOPE’s core principle is that enforcing an immediate and consistent consequence, such as a short-term jail stay, results in lower recidivism rates. Exploring this unique program and its differences from the current probationary process fueled my interest in how, in order to effect change, we must understand the status quo. Hearing about HOPE’s obstacles in expanding to other states further cemented my realization that law and policy are deeply intertwined. Learning about HOPE was one of several experiences that prompted me to analyze, ask questions, and realize how much satisfaction a career in law and policy would bring.
2. How did you become interested in practicing administrative law? What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?
My interest in government and administrative functions took root in my high school AP American Government class, where I gained an understanding of how laws, courts, government, and interest groups intersect. Taking AP Comparative Government in high school as well widened my horizons to include international forms of government and inspired my pursuit of classes relating to international law and politics when I minored in political science in college. During the fall of my 3L year at Villanova Law School, I took Administrative Practice, a course in which each student learned about the administrative regulation process and wrote a comment on the FCC’s proposed regulation regarding “Misuse of Internet Protocol (IP) Captioned Telephone Service.” Taking this course and writing my comment allowed me to network with different public advocacy groups and deepened my understanding of the intricacies of how government agencies operate. It also strengthened my desire to explore possible careers with government agencies and motivated me to become a contributor to the ABA’s Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog.
3. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing administrative law practitioners?
A major challenge facing administrative law practitioners is financial. Administrative agencies, for example, do not have the budget, staff, or resources to carry out the immense number of tasks that they handle every day. They are receiving an increasing number of items for their agendas, but their budgets are decreasing. At the same time, agencies and the administrative law practitioners that work for them face backlash from the public for perceived inefficiency.
4. For law students considering a career in administrative law, what do you think would help them become familiar with the field?
One of the best ways to become familiar with a field of interest is to speak with practitioners in the field. Students can meet practitioners at events, such as those held by bar associations, or by tapping into their law school or undergraduate institution alumni networks. Emailing alumni to ask for informational interviews or a quick chat over a cup of coffee is another excellent way to learn about the work they do and about other resources and contacts in the field. Furthermore, listening to bar association webcasts, such as the ABA’s Careers in Administrative Law, and reading blogs relating to administrative law can also provide students with a great deal of information not only about the type of work available in this field but also about the issues with which administrative law practitioners deal.
5. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?
I enjoy reading (historical non-fiction/classics), horseback riding, skiing, and traveling (when possible).
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.