Legislation and Regulation and Reform of the First Year
65 J. Legal Educ. 45 (2015)
25 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2016
Date Written: August 2015
This essay discusses the development of a Legislation and Regulation course (or Leg-Reg) as part of a 1L curriculum reform that the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously adopted in 2006. The reform was adopted following three years of work by a Committee on Educational Innovations appointed by then-Dean Elena Kagan and chaired by future Dean Martha Minow. The Leg-Reg piece of the new curriculum aims to broaden the 1L program's perspective from the essential, but by today's standards incomplete, focus on private law topics and common law reasoning that had dominated the 1L curriculum since 1873. Leg-Reg instead focuses on statutes and the regulations that implement them. The course emphasizes not only the interpretation of those materials, but also the lawmaking process, institutional context, and political dynamics that shape the production and interpretation of statutes and regulations.
This essay discusses several aspects of the Harvard experience with Legislation and Regulation. First, because reforming the 1L curriculum is such a daunting process, the paper provides a brief account of the extensive curricular reform process that successfully produced this and two other new 1L courses. Second, the essay discusses the course's strategy for fitting novel and somewhat different techniques, materials, and concepts into a 1L course. In particular, it will discuss the fact that, while the Leg-Reg incorporates many topics and methods that are touched on only tangentially, if at all, in other 1L courses (such as textual exegesis, legislative procedure, and public choice theory), it does so primarily by asking students (a) to learn and assess concrete, real-world legal decisions and then (b) to build out, through note material, to the broader concepts implicated by the cases. In addition, the version of the Leg-Reg course developed at Harvard is consciously transsubstantive, rather than focused on a particular policy area. Third, this essay elaborates on this pedagogical approach by giving some detail about the way Leg-Reg presents certain key cases on statutory interpretation. Fourth, the essay examines the administrative law (“Reg”) component of the course. In particular, the essay explains how starting with statutory interpretation addresses the often-voiced concern that administrative law is simply too complicated for 1Ls. This part of the essay also discusses the impact of 1L Leg-Reg course on enrollments in Administrative Law and related public law offerings
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