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Monday, December 21, 2015

We're Requiring Administrative Law in the First Year, We're Requiring Administrative Law in the First Year!

As you might have surmised from the title of this post, we at Boston University School of Law are, as of this year, requiring all first year students to take a course in Administrative Law.  The course will be three credits (compared to the four credit courses we require in Property, Torts, etc.) and, just to reiterate, it will be called "Administrative Law."  Not Legislation or Leg-Reg or Reg-Leg or Regislation or Legulation or Fundamentals of the Regulatory State or Thinking About Public Law or anything like that, but Administrative Law.  Personally I'm excited to be teaching it (we teach it in the spring semester, so it starts in a few weeks) because, among other things, it signals the importance of understanding regulation and the other things that agencies do to being a practicing lawyer.  I also like to imagine that we are the first school to do this (require straight-up Administrative Law in the first year, that is), because it lets me walk around with a swagger bragging about how we're the first school to require Administrative Law in the first year, but at the same time I sort of doubt it's true.  But on the other hand, maybe it's true!!!  Is it true?  Or are there other schools out there that are doing it or have done it?  And if so, how is it going/did it go?

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 21, 2015 at 11:36 AM in Jay Wexler, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


When I was a first-year, lo some sixteen years ago, my school's 1L requirements included a course called "American Public Law Process," which was Admin Law in all but name. We even used an Admin Law casebook. It was probably not "pure" Admin Law, as your course is, but close.

In any event, my recollection is that it was a very hard class, especially for first-years who had not yet taken Con Law, and thus had little theoretical background in separation of powers, for example. I'm not sure if that's the case at your school as well.

I don't disagree that it's an important course (although I probably would not have taken it, if given the choice). But is there a reason you think it's well suited for 1L's, despite the knowledge deficits they have to overcome? Perhaps my memory of how difficult the course was are coloring my impression of how steep the learning curve is for the average 1L.

I also recall that the main reason we always heard for requiring it as a first-year course (in addition to the general importance of the administrative state) was that it gave our students a leg up in obtaining summer internships at federal agencies after their first years. So that's another reason you can tout your school's decision, if you need it.

Posted by: milbarge | Dec 21, 2015 12:55:28 PM

What a terrible idea. I cannot imagine the thinking behind this.

Posted by: anonprof | Dec 21, 2015 5:16:54 PM

What a great idea. I'm glad someone is doing this and hope to one day follow

Posted by: adifferentanonprof | Dec 21, 2015 6:01:32 PM


I'd also be interested to hear of schools that require Administrative Law in the first year (as well as to see how you might structure such a course differently a course taught to students in the 2L or 3L year). Students have the option of taking Administrative Law in their first year here--even though I only have taught it as an upper-division course--but I'm much more familiar with schools, like NYU, that offer "reg-leg" or some other hybrid statutory interpretation class.

Out of curiosity, are your students required to take Constitutional Law in their first year? Have you, or do you intend to coordinate with, professors teaching Con Law? What case book do you intend to use? (The main concerns I've heard from students who take the course in the first year is that many text books seem to be written with the assumption that students received some exposure to separation of powers and other structural concepts that might be covered in a Constitutional Law class.)

Kind regards,


Posted by: Adam Zimmerman | Dec 21, 2015 7:07:02 PM

Hi Adam. Our students are required to take Con Law in their first year. Personally I haven't yet coordinated with those who are teaching Con Law, but it would seem like a good idea. I'm using the Cass, Diver, Beermann, Freeman book, which is what I've used since I started teaching in 2001.

Posted by: Jay Wexler | Dec 21, 2015 8:03:28 PM

I've used the same book for years! I may give you a ring if I ever teach the course in the first year. I really like the structure and case selection in the Cass, Diver--more than many others. But I always thought that the quick treatment of some of the foundational constitutional cases assumed a background knowledge of constitutional law. I agree there may be some really nice opportunities by coordinating with a required Con Law course, however. I believe one school has even begun to experiment with a constitutional law I/administrative law class for first year students.

Posted by: Adam Zimmerman | Dec 22, 2015 1:17:17 AM

I am all for changing up the first year curriculum but, as noted above, Ad Law may be a difficult road without having completed Con Law. That is why I think schools have tended towards a Statutory course when they want to break away from tradition, but do report back at the end of the semester as I suspect many schools are reviewing their first-year curriculum these days with varying degrees of seriousness.

Posted by: MLS | Dec 22, 2015 4:12:13 PM

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