Federal, state, and local agencies are granted their powers through the Constitution or statutes. These agencies promulgate complex rules and regulations to execute this delegated authority. Administrative and regulatory attorneys assist individuals or corporations in understanding and complying with these legal requirements. Or under more limited circumstances, administrative and regulatory attorneys may assist a client in challenging a government action. Therefore, the broad classification of administrative and regulatory law often encompasses government regulation, legislation, rulemaking, and adjudication.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer provided a concise definition of administrative law by segregating it into four parts, namely the legal rules and principles that define the: (1) authority and structure of administrative agencies; (2) procedural formalities employed by agencies; (3) validity of agency decisions; and (4) role of reviewing courts and other governmental entities. (Breyer, Stephen, et al., Administrative Law & Regulatory Policy, (2001)).
In practice, administrative and regulatory attorneys provide services to individual and corporate clients who require counsel regarding complex government laws, rules, regulations, procedures, permitting, applications, or enforcement matters. Attorneys in this specialized field will most often be called upon when a governmental action may impact an individual or business. This encompasses a wide range of legal matters, from assisting an individual obtaining a building permit from a local government agency to responding to a federal regulatory enforcement action against a large corporation.
Attorneys in this area may have general experience with government rules or specialize in a specific field. It is more likely that an attorney will have specialized expertise in highly regulated industries such as environmental protection, land use, trade, tax, immigration, and employment.
Administrative and regulatory attorneys also may specialize in a specific legal jurisdiction. State and local agency matters are typically handled by local attorneys who have experience with the applicable law and procedures. Attorneys throughout the U.S. maintain active practices representing clients in federal administrative and regulatory matters, with a high concentration of these practitioners in the Washington, D.C., area.