Notice & Comment

Meet Joe Whitley, 2013-2014 Section Chair, by Nina Hart

Meet Joe Whitley, the incoming Chair of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.  Below, he shares his goals for the Section, insight into his experience with administrative law, and thoughts on challenges facing the legal profession.

1. Where do you work now and what led you to a career in law?

I am currently working at Greenberg Traurig (GT) law firm.  I have two offices – one in Atlanta, Georgia and the other in Washington, DC.  I serve as Chair of GT’s Atlanta White Collar Practice and work as a shareholder in GT’s White Collar Practice in the Washington, DC office.

I have always wanted to be an attorney since I can remember.  The legal profession has always been a passion of mine and I am proud to have been given the privilege and opportunity to serve both in the public and now private sectors.

2. What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?  What interested you in administrative law?

My experiences in administrative and regulatory law occurred mostly in the interpretation of regulations in criminal settings earlier in my career as a U.S. Attorney and a DOJ official in Washington, DC.  Regulations play a substantial role in the enforcement arena in health care, environmental cases and securities cases among others.

Later, when I defended the practices of my clients, a strong knowledge of regulations gave me an advantage in my casework.  For example, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations played a crucial role in one case I defended after returning to private practice.

Finally, most recently when I served as first General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), my office had the overwhelming responsibility of coordinating the regulatory startup of DHS.  Fortunately, we had the great privilege of working with regulatory experts throughout the legacy agencies that made up the new Department.

3. Do you have any advice about “best practices” for attorneys who are preparing to handle administrative law cases or who are participating in the rulemaking process?  Or, for attorneys representing government agencies?

My counsel is to keep all of your options open early in your career, to consider practice areas outside of your comfort zone.  Sometimes success is defined as traveling in different directions.  Hopefully, more law firms and the government appreciate the need for younger lawyers to have a diversity of experience early in their career.

I would advise attorneys who are preparing to handle administrative law cases or who are participating in the rulemaking process to join and be active in the Administrative Law Section, together with building a group of peers who practice administrative law.  There is no better way to get a grip on “best practices” than to have a group of colleagues to help you set the approach/tone for your casework.

4. As someone who has spent significant amounts of time in government and also in private practice, do you have any advice for attorneys who similarly hope to work in both the public and private sectors?

I know I may sound like a broken record on the American Bar Association’s Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice Section blog, but I believe we are the right place to start for young lawyers, both in the public and private sectors, who are looking for mentors in the practice of Administrative Law.

5. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing administrative law practitioners? How could the Section assist attorneys with these challenges?

I believe the challenges that AdLaw practitioners face may not be unique to them, but perhaps apply across the board to the practice of law in the United States.  Our still shaky economy is impacting the practice of law and the economics of law practice.  All of this is happening at a time when the relevance of administrative law has never been greater.

6. As incoming Chair of the Section, what are your priorities or goals for the Section this year?  Are there ways the Section members may be able to help you achieve these goals?

I want the AdLaw Section to continue its outstanding programs in my year as Chair, together with its many publications.  Also, I will be utilizing the various Committees of the Section to help grow our membership.  I will be giving a special emphasis to the private sectors and their concerns about overregulation.  Plus, I plan to build a stronger regional presence for the Section through the help of our Committees, Subcommittees and Liaisons.  Finally, I will be adapting and adjusting the Section’s web page and blog to make them more user-friendly.

7. What advice might you give to lawyers or law students interested in being more involved with the Section?  Perhaps you could explain how and why you became involved with the ABA and this Section.

The AdLaw Section’s motto, “Administrative Law – Everybody Does It!” can’t be any clearer.  I’d encourage lawyers and law students to sign up with the Section today.  The cost is minimal compared to other Sections and trust me, they won’t regret it.  The AdLaw Section is relevant to lawyers and law students in a number of ways.  For me, regulatory law was central to my time at DHS as the first General Counsel.  The startup of the Department required intense involvement by me in the regulatory process.  After my tenure at DHS, it was important to me to find the right home for a seminar on Homeland Security Law.  For the last eight years, the AdLaw Section has been home to the Homeland Security Law Institute.  We have started plans for the conference in March of 2014.  Don’t forget to “Save the Date!”

8. 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?

The best way to start the familiarization process would be to take a course on Administrative Law while still in law school.  Outside of coursework, there are a number of outstanding publications by the Section that are worth mentioning: 

  • Developments in Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice 2012
  • Veterans Appeals Guidebook: Representing Veterans in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
  • Federal Agency Adjudication
  • Federal Agency Rulemaking
  • Federal Tort Claims Act
  • The Complete Guide to Lobbying Law and Practice, 4th Edition
  • Blackletter Administrative Law
  • Judicial and Political Review
  • Federal Preemption of State Law
  • Federal Administrative Procedure Sourcebook
  • Homeland Security: Legal and Policy Issue
  • Realists Guide to Redistricting
  • International Election Principles
  • Government in the Sunshine Act
  • Lawyers in Your Living Room
  • The Cost-Benefit State: The Future of Regulatory Protection, Cass R. Sunstein
  • Evolving Use and the Changing Role of Interstate Compacts
  • Careers in Administrative Law
  • Law of Counterterrorism
  • Supreme Court Takings: A First Look at Koontz and Horne
  • Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure
  • Manipulation or Arbitrage: Energy Traders, FERC, and the RTOs
  • Administrative Law of the European Union

I would also encourage law students and young lawyers to attend the annual Administrative Law Institute in the Spring of 2014.  The conference provides a pre-program workshop on “Administrative Law 101” which gives a crash course in Administrative Law.  Many of our attendees have found it to be useful.

9. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?

I enjoy sports – mostly watching these days.  I used to play basketball in high school and college.  I have a small garden that I get to toil in every once in a while.  I also enjoy American history.  And of course, there is my love of books – I’ve purchased many more than I will ever read.

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.

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