Meet Eric D. Holden, a post-graduate fellow at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. Below he describes how his experience in the military led him to a career in law, offers advice to young attorneys, and discusses the benefits of pro bono service.
1. What led you to a career in law?
While serving in the Marine Corps, I had the opportunity to work with the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. I really enjoyed researching the Uniform Code of Military Justice and preparing legal documents for the JAG lawyers. After leaving the military, I committed myself to the goal of attending law school.
2. What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?
As a young lawyer, much of my experience has come from internships and fellowships. I first interned with the Louisiana Department of Labor, working with an administrative law judge in a workers’ compensation court. Next, I interned full-time with the Attorney General for the District of Columbia in the Personal and Labor Relations Section. Most recently, I have been serving in a post-graduate fellowship position with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. From all of these opportunities, I have gained a diverse knowledge of administrative and regulatory law in both the state and federal context.
3. How did you become interested in practicing administrative law?
As a veteran, serving my country is very important to me. I view practicing administrative law as a way to protect our country’s most valuable asset, our rule of law. I also enjoy the challenge of analyzing administrative laws and trying to determine their meanings by researching legislative history and precedential cases.
4. As someone with several experiences with administrative law in the employment context, do you have any advice for attorneys preparing to appear before ALJs?
In my experience, ALJ’s appreciate straightforward, well-researched arguments. They are not influenced by emotional pleas to the court. Most importantly, everything argued must be supported by the appropriate administrative code and case law.
5. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing administrative law practitioners?
Administrative law can be a complex field of law. As time passes and government leadership shifts, judicial interpretation of the codes can change. Additionally, new laws and amendments are always coming into existence. I feel administrative law is an area where lawyers must continuously keep themselves abreast of judicial and legislative activity.
6. 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?
For law students, I believe internships are necessary for gaining an understanding of administrative law. Law schools do a great job of teaching legal theory; however, the practical application of the law cannot be learned in a classroom. There is no substitute for actually attending hearings and working with experienced lawyers.
For new attorneys, there are many opportunities to work on pro bono cases before administrative courts, at least in the District of Columbia. Administrative courts can be very different from trial courts, particularly in regards to evidence rules. If someone is interested in administrative law, I believe it is imperative they seek out opportunities to try cases before ALJs to get a feel for the unique nuances.
7. As someone with a number of experiences in government, do you have any advice for attorneys looking to transition from the private to public sectors?
From what I have learned from other young lawyers, serving as a pro bono lawyer is a great way to get one’s foot in the door. Government positions typically have strict experience requirements. In today’s challenging legal job market, it seems that working as a pro bono lawyer is the best way to acquire the necessary experience.
8. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?
In my free time, I enjoy cooking for friends and family. I also love spending time in the District of Columbia’s amazing museums.
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.