Administrative law attorneys are legal professionals that specialize in handling matters involving the procedures, rules, and regulations of governmental administrative agencies. In 2020 alone, 6,356 appeals from administrative agency decisions were filed in the United States Courts of Appeals, representing a nine percent increase from the number of appeals filed in the previous year. Administrative law attorneys represent and advise the government agencies and public bodies that are involved in these matters. They also represent private individuals, companies, or organizations that seek to challenge the actions of an agency through administrative adjudication or court cases.
Some issues or matters that administrative law attorneys near you can help resolve include:
- Helping you challenge the passage of a regulation that affects your business
- Helping you claim any social security or workers compensation benefits that were unlawfully denied
- Appealing against unjustly denied business license applications
- Defending you in court when a government agency files a lawsuit against you for violating a regulation
- Challenging an unjustified license loss or suspension
- Helping you fight the denial of disability benefits when you are entitled to them.
If you think a local, state, or federal government agency has operated unlawfully in the creation or enforcement of its regulations, you should consider consulting with an administrative law attorney. Hiring an administrative law attorney increases the possibility of getting the remedies that you require from an administrative law case. However, this can only happen if you hire the right attorney nearby. Listed below are necessary inquiries that you should make before you hire an administrative attorney:
Where Are You Licensed to Practice Administrative Law in the State You Are?
It is important to be sure that your attorney of interest is eligible to practice law in the jurisdiction that your matter is being handled. Depending on the particular case, administrative law proceedings can be instituted either at the state or federal level. Bar admission requirements and standards vary depending on the particular state or federal jurisdiction. In most cases, a person is eligible to practice law in a state jurisdiction after being admitted to the bar of the highest court in the state jurisdiction. On the other hand, to practice in a federal court, such an attorney would need to be admitted by the particular court.
Attorneys seeking bar admission are typically required to pass an admission test and complete a Juris Doctor program in a law school approved by a state's bar admission agency. These attorneys must also pass a state-administered professional responsibility examination and character and fitness evaluation.
Attorneys that are admitted into one state bar are not automatically eligible to practice in another one. However, reciprocal provisions exist in some states that enable lawyers from other states to practice without having to take another full bar exam. Likewise, attorneys that wish to practice in federal courts must be admitted by the particular judicial district where the matter is to be heard. Each district has its own requirements for admission which may include the attorney being licensed either by the state's bar association or that of any other state. For example, the Southern District Court of Texas admits attorneys licensed by any bar association in the country, while jurisdictions like the Northern District Court of California admit only attorneys that are members of their state bar associations.
What Kind of Administrative Law Work Do You Handle?
Administrative law involves a very large area of practice that overlaps with several other areas including homeland security, environmental law, immigration, transportation law, taxation, election Law, international Law, and trade. As such, you should always be certain that the administrative law attorney near you you plan to hire is capable of handling the type of case that you are involved in. Some of the commonly practiced branches of administrative law are:
- Administrative Rulemaking: attorneys are usually heavily involved in the creation of regulations made by federal, state, and local agencies. This may include drafting regulations, counseling officials and agency personnel, commenting on the regulations, or organizing regulatory hearings.
- Investigation and Oversight: the role of attorneys under this branch of administrative law is typically advising agencies and ensuring that they interpret and execute administrative rules within the confines of the constitution.
- Agency Regulatory Litigation: this branch relates to instituting court actions against agencies when they overstep their legal boundaries when making rules or regulations.
- Administrative Adjudication: this refers to dispute resolution processes conducted by an agency over matters under its authority. The role of administrative law attorneys that specializes in this branch is to represent persons seeking relief via this form of adjudication.
How Long Have You Been in Practice?
While it is essential to choose an attorney near you that specializes in the aspect of administrative law you require, you should take this a step further by looking out for an attorney with experience in cases that are similar to yours. Attorneys with more experience can be more valuable to you, considering their familiarity with the applicable laws, procedures, and the leanings of the personalities that may be involved in your case. Per the American Bar Association's recommendation, you should inquire into your attorney's previous cases to decide how many of these are identical to your case. You can find out an attorney's level of experience and practice history by simply asking or checking out the attorney's professional website. You can also verify this with your state's bar association. However, you should note that an attorney with a higher level of experience would usually command a higher fee.
Do You Charge Fixed or Hourly Fees?
Make sure you ascertain the billing method that your attorney adopts. Many administrative law attorneys near you would prefer to bill based on the number of hours they spend on a client's case. You can generally expect to pay an administrative law attorney between $100 and $400 hourly depending on factors such as the experience of the attorney, the size of the firm, the complexity of your case, and the fees obtainable within the particular area. In certain cases, an attorney may instead charge either a contingency fee or a flat rate. Under a contingency arrangement, the attorney agrees to take a percentage of the settlement you receive if your case is successful. Contingency fee agreements are particularly common in social security or disability cases and these fees usually range between 33% and 40%. On the other hand, a flat rate is usually a fixed fee payment. Depending on the particular type of case, a flat fee for an administrative attorney can range from $300 to $1,200. This method of billing is typically used for straightforward matters like drafting and reviewing documents.
In addition to your basic attorney fee, you should also inquire about miscellaneous expenses such as filing fees, delivery charges, court costs, and any other administrative fee. In many cases, the clients are responsible for covering these expenses. However, per the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA, if you prevail in an adversary adjudication against a federal agency, the agency would award you your attorney and court fees unless the adjudicative officer of the agency finds that the position of the agency was substantially justified or that special circumstances make such an award unjust. Therefore, you should also discuss this possibility with your attorney to make the best out of this provision.
Do You Charge for an Initial Consultation?
Many administrative attorneys near you would typically offer an initial consultation for free, but this is not an absolute rule. Make sure you confirm whether or not you have to pay for an initial consultation. These consultations usually last between 30 minutes and 1 hour and they can be in person at the attorney's office or over the telephone. During this consultation, the attorney should be able to provide you with a preliminary analysis of your case and a plan for achieving your desired outcome. Note that an attorney may not always be able to provide this information immediately. This usually happens if you have an unusual or complicated administrative law matter that requires specific research or if there has been a recent change in the laws and regulations that involve your matter.
How Do You Keep Clients Informed about Their Case?
Communication between you and your attorney is very important. Your administrative law attorney has an ethical duty to update you on the situation of your case, and you should establish proactive communication from the start of your attorney-client relationship. Mention your preferred mode of communication and agree on hours that will work for you and the attorney while also making arrangements for emergency periods. You should also agree on the frequency of these updates. Finally, confirm whether your communications will be made directly with your attorney or through an assistant or secretary.
Who Will Actually Do the Work?
Make sure that you know who exactly will be working on your case. Many firms hire paralegals to assist attorneys in areas like document preparation, legal research, and legal support. Some administrative agencies also allow paralegals to represent individuals in certain administrative hearings. Nonetheless, paralegals are not licensed attorneys, hence they are not eligible to argue in court and their activities must be supervised by a licensed attorney. It is also a good idea to confirm whether the involvement of a paralegal in your case would affect your bill at the end of the case.
Can You Provide References from Former Clients?
It is important to ask your prospective attorneys for references from their past clients near you. A reputable attorney should be able to provide you with a list of references that you can contact to help you evaluate the attorney's performance and success rate. Having access to this information can help you avoid unwanted and costly issues down the line. Alternatively, you can check out the firm's website to access reviews from previous clients. You can also search online for reviews on the attorney's through websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Check.
What Is Your Success Rate?
Knowing the success rate of your prospective attorney increases your confidence in the attorney's ability to favourably resolve your case. Describe your desired outcome to the attorney from the get-go and make sure that the attorney has a track record of attaining this outcome. You can find out an attorney's success rate by querying past clients near you or examining the attorney's case history at the court where the majority of the cases handled by the attorney were decided. Note that the requirements for accessing copies of court records vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it usually involves the payment of fees.
When Should I Hire an Administrative Law Attorney?
Many preliminary processes of administrative law actions like negotiation, mediation, and administrative hearings do not mandatorily require an attorney. However, having legal representation at these stages before any courtroom litigation case is always in your best interest. A competent administrative law attorney can represent you during the preliminary processes, advise and protect you from self-incrimination, and advance the best possible arguments on your behalf in court. Also, if you are found guilty of a crime, your attorney can help you get a favorable plea bargain that reduces your penalties.
Note that while it is always best to hire an administrative law attorney near you as soon as you suspect that you may be affected by the activities of a government agency, you can also hire one after the culpable act has occurred.
What Are the Typical Qualifications Held by an Administrative Law Attorney?
Persons that wish to practice as an attorney must, first of all, obtain a bachelor's degree (LLB) from a recognized university or college and a Juris Doctor (J.D) degree from an ABA-accredited law school. Administrative law attorneys typically major in areas like business and economics, however, this is not a strict requirement. After obtaining these degrees, attorneys are required to pass state-administered bar exams before they can be licensed to practice in both state and federal courts.