Meet Professor Anna Williams Shavers, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Professor Shavers is also the Vice Chair of the Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice and Chair of the 9th Annual Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Institute on April 3-4, 2013 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C. Below she discusses her passion for administrative law and the critical issues facing the Section and legal profession.
1. Where do you work now and what led you to a career in law?
I am the Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law. After receiving a graduate degree in business, I began work at a federal agency and observed the work of my lawyer colleagues. Their work seemed more interesting and challenging. This led me to attend law school.
2. What experiences with administrative or regulatory law have you had?
Before law school, I worked at the Social Security Administration and the National Labor Relations Board. Since graduating from law school, my administrative law work has primarily been in immigration and nationality law. However, for a short time while I was in private practice, I also worked with banking regulations.
3. How did you become interested in studying and teaching administrative law?
My work before and after law school has always involved some aspect of administrative law and I found it exciting and challenging. I was one of those law students who truly enjoyed rules and statutory-based courses. Civil Procedure and Administrative Law were two of my favorites. My first law teaching job was as a clinical law professor at the University of Minnesota where I had the opportunity to start an immigration law clinic. When I joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska, the two courses I specifically requested to teach were Administrative Law and Immigration Law. My requests were granted.
4. How would you characterize the dialogue between academics and practitioners with regards to administrative law? Are there ways to improve how professors, agencies, and advocates work together to shape or change administrative law? Are there specific issues related to regulation development or review that you think warrant a greater degree of collaboration between academics and practitioners?
I have a quite favorable view of the dialogue between academics and practitioners primarily because of my involvement with the Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section. The discussion of issues that we tackle in Council meetings are ones that affect the practice of administrative law by government and private attorneys and that can also enhance the teaching and scholarship of administrative law academics. The discussions and positions taken on various issues benefit greatly from the perspectives of each of these groups. Practitioners can also benefit from the research and writing of the academics. Three general issues that are of great interest to me and that can benefit from more collaboration are (1) the use of technology in administrative law practice, (2) the impact of globalization and international trade on the rulemaking process, and (3) the future of the Chevron doctrine.
5. 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?
My advice for a best practice is to determine the best method for keeping current on agency practice. This usually means being aware of what an agency in a particular substantive area has done recently and is likely to do in the future. Although my students often thought I was joking when I advised them to read the Federal Register each day, I was serious – but I’m happy to say that I no longer have to give that advice. Most of the information needed to keep current is available electronically. Instead of pouring over the printed page of the Federal Register, an administrative law advocate can now quickly search such sites as GPO’s Federal Digital System at http://wwww.gpo.gov, Reginfo.gov for agency regulatory plans and agendas, and regulations.gov to comment on agency actions and participate in the rulemaking process. Many states now have similar sites that are helpful to advocates engaged in state administrative law practices.
There are also several helpful publications that the Section has published over the years. I would recommend as the basics for a federal administrative law practice the three Guide Books: A Guide to Federal Agency Adjudication, 2ndEdition; A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking, 5th Edition; and A Guide to Judicial and Political Review of Federal Agencies.
6. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing administrative law practitioners? How could the Section assist attorneys with these challenges?
Information overload presents a major challenge to administrative law practitioners. Because of advances in technology, we are constantly being bombarded with information and sometimes have questions regarding the reliability of that information. The Section is taking major steps to assist with this challenge. One of the best examples is this blog, Notice and Comment. It has great potential for keeping attorneys up to date with accurate information.
7. As Vice-Chair of the Section, what are your priorities or goals for the Section this year or in the long-term?
I want to be sure that the Section has an inclusive and expanding membership. This means that we have to determine how we can best serve administrative law practitioners, academics and students. Inclusiveness must address all types of diversity. Diversity in practice areas, geographic locations, and various demographic indicators will help the Section grow and ensure that relevant administrative law issues are considered and acted upon by the Section.
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?
For law students, the best advice is to take a basic administrative law class along with a substantive regulatory class. These two courses will give students a good idea of what administrative practice involves. This can be enhanced by taking advantage of the fact that agencies are creating more internship opportunities for students. Law schools are facilitating these opportunities by providing law school credit for these experiences if they are unpaid positions. Also, the Section sponsors programs that focus on advising law students about a career in administrative law.
Law students and new attorneys can both benefit from getting to know attorneys with an administrative law practice. The Section facilitates this in a number of ways, including (1) sponsoring CLE programs that have content for the experienced as well as the novice attorney, (2) hosting “mix and mingle” events where those involved and interested in an administrative practice can meet and get to know each other, and (3) sponsoring programs that are educational in a location that provides an opportunity for socializing.
9. Outside of the law, what are your favorite activities or hobbies?
Most of my friends would have no hesitation in offering traveling as my favorite activity and collecting and tinkering with electronic gadgets as my favorite hobby. I think in some ways my love for traveling developed from my work in immigration law. As I met people from various places around the world I developed a desire to see more of the world. I set a goal to visit every continent and each of the United States. I have now visited every continent except Antarctica and I’m still looking for a reason to go there. I have a few states left on my list, but since they are mostly clustered in one area of the country, I have hopes of checking them off my list in one extended trip. With all of the gadgets that I have accumulated, I should be able to plan a great trip. In my spare time, I can use my gadgets to check and see if my favorite agencies have proposed any new regulations.
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.