Notice & Comment

The Rise of the 1L Leg-Reg Course

There is a growing trend among law schools to add Legislation and Regulation (“Leg-Reg”) to the required first-year curriculum.  Professor Edward Richards keeps a running list of the schools that offer some sort of legislation or administrative law course in the 1L curriculum, and to date at least 27 schools require a 1L course in statutory interpretation that has a regulation or administrative law component. Another ten schools have an optional 1L Leg-Reg course. You can check out the full list here.
Teaching Leg-Reg in the first year is no easy feat — something I have experienced firsthand since joining the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law faculty in 2012. At the American Association of Law Schools Annual (AALS) Annual Meeting in January 2015, the AALS Section on Legislation and Law of the Political Process will be hosting a panel entitled “Legislation/Regulation and the Core Curriculum” with contributions from James Brudney, Abbe Gluck, John Manning, Kevin Stack, andDeborah Widiss. It should be a terrific event. And I’ll report back about the event with links to the papers once they are posted.
My colleagues Dakota Rudesill and Dan Tokaji  and I are also contributing to the panel discussion, and a draft of our essay is available on SSRN here. In that essay, I make the case for the Leg-Reg model for the 1L legislation course, while Dakota and Dan make the case for the Legislation and Political Process model. The three of us then make the larger case for an integrated program of instruction in legislation, including both an introductory course in the first year and experiential learning opportunities in the second and third years. As for the upper-division experiential offerings, we highlight four such programs that our law school has developed over the last decade or so: (1) the Moritz Legislation Clinic, which launched in 2000; (2) the Moritz Washington, D.C., Summer Program, which started in 2002; (3) the National Security Law and Process Simulation, which is in its second year; and (4) the Congressional Clerkship Initiative, which has been in the works since at least 2008.
As we conclude in our essay:
The program in legislation we have outlined in this Essay—and which our institution has implemented incrementally and effectively over the last two decades—underscores the need for lawyers to understand how to interpret statutes, navigate the legislative and political processes, and represent clients in the modern regulatory state. These skills can only be truly mastered when traditional doctrinal courses are coupled with advanced experiential-learning curricular offerings.
Moreover, in this difficult legal market, the focus of law schools has shifted to developing practical skills and to training lawyers for jobs that are in enduring demand. Law students who engage in a comprehensive, experiential-learning legislation program meet both of these objectives by obtaining critical practice-ready skills from real-world experiences and by receiving training in areas of high demand for law school graduates. There are also tremendous positive externalities created by experiential-learning legislative offerings such as the Legislation Clinic and D.C. Program: these programs build the law school’s professional networks; introduce law students to potential employers while being guided by experienced faculty mentors to produce high-quality work product; and channel graduates to work at governmental and public-interest organizations that often hire from their established networks of current employees—thus strengthening those hiring pipelines while providing excellent alumni mentorship for current students.
As law schools look to adapt their curricula in these challenging times, the Moritz approach offers an attractive model of comprehensive education in legislation.
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