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American Bar Association


We're always looking for better ways to serve our members and the public. We appreciate your comments.

The Chair's Message

Back From The Brink

1996-97 will be a "back from the brink" year for America's administrative agencies, just as it may be for American politics. Effects of the strong revolution against the powers enjoyed by mega-federal agencies sent their managers reeling in 1995-96, battered by a 58-vote majority in the Senate and by an aggressive House majority that had favored omnibus regulatory reform of the rulemaking process. England's Dr. Johnson once noted that the prospect of a hanging concentrated the mind wonderfully. We leave it to history to assess how the 1995-96 prospect of radical reforms focused the minds of today's agency managers upon the survival benefits of flexibility, innovation, and cooperation.

The 1996-97 climate change does not mean the challenge to agencies is less; rather, agency managers must now learn new skills. Instead of lobbying hard to defend every program against cuts, agency managers must become more friendly ambassadors to the skeptical state agencies that are receiving new downward delegations of once-federal authority. Agencies must be community-sensitive in ways oft overlooked before. Technical bases for regulation have never been as widely subject to comment, criticism, and rebuttal by the Internet-informed citizenry. Perhaps courts still defer to administrators, but neighbors, nongovernmental organizations, and legislative appropriations committees have stopped doing so. Administrators have to re-earn the public's trust that past performance has jeopardized in some areas.

The agency leadership's struggles with dynamic and fast-paced change are mirrored in the regulatory practice problems of American lawyers. Problems felt by younger and solo practice lawyers, in particular those distant from the Potomac, are complex and difficult to confidently resolve as the agencies and their policies are under constant pressures to change. Success for the 1996-97 administrative lawyer is about client service, and accurate answers about administrative agency problems have never been more difficult to discern. The "glory" days of an elite professional clique with all the access, and hence all the answers, are no more.

Our Section will reach into the needs of the average person in this year of change, as we address client service, advocacy for the smaller entity, state relationships with federal programs, and the uses of new technologies to level the playing fields. We will bring ideas for more efficient practice to those who want to be part of a dynamic period of change. We will be visible, frank and yet concerned for the societal effects of agency decisions on the "little people" whose lives EPA, NLRB, FDA, FTC, etc. can touch.

You have a role to play; if you're not already a Section member, please call the ABA staff (312-988-5000) and join us. If you're a member who has not yet participated, please make some time available to bring your valuable ideas into our work. You have the ideas and resources that the ABA needs to adequately and competently represent the legal profession in the field of regulatory practice.

During 1996-97, I and the leadership team of the Section want to hear ideas and suggestions from you, and we especially want to meet you in San Antonio, Washington, San Francisco and at our numerous CLE opportunities. I welcome your ideas by e-mail or phone (, 513-983-4225). Thanks in advance for giving us your best in this important year ahead!

At the Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice we are always looking for new and better ways to serve our members, the bar and the public. If you have any comments, ideas or features you would like us to incorporate, or if you have difficulties with any of the links in these pages, please contact the Section's Webmaster.
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For additional information on the Section, please contact Leanne Pfautz at:
Phone: (202) 662-1665
Fax: (202) 662-15299

ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice,
10th Floor, 740 15th Street, NW Washington,
DC 20005-1009