More Regulations Mean Attorney Job Security

February 15th, 2013

At the conclusion of the State of the Union address, President Obama made a promise or threat depending on your point of view.

He said that if Congress doesn’t move to enact his policies, he’d issue Executive Orders and instruct his Administration to act where possible to achieve his objectives.

For a brief moment, I knew what Chris Matthews meant when he said that a tingle went up his leg just hearing Obama speak.

In my former life, I was an administrative attorney specializing in environmental and immigration law. Regulations, which these Executive Orders and administrative policies lead to, are the lifeblood of these attorneys.

Who says Obama isn’t implementing a jobs program?  His promise for even more regulation can be translated as the Full Attorney Employment Act of 2013.

Here’s how it works.  Either Congress passes a law which requires regulations in order to implement or the president via Executive Order issues some command which also calls for promulgation of rules and regulations.  Next, the agency responsible for determining how to implement the policy or law spends what feels like forever writing a draft proposal of the required rule.

While all that is going on, attorneys’ clients frantically call trying to figure out what might happen and how they can position themselves in the midst of the great unknown.  As an attorney, you tell them that they’ll have to wait for the rule, but if they’d like to comment on the proposal when the draft comes out, you’d be happy to help them with that.  You might also make a joke showing empathy towards their plight by saying something like, “Yeah, call the doctor, we’ll probably both need lots of Xanax to get through this.” You then charge them for the phone call and charge them when you draft their comments.

After submitting comments, you wait a little longer.  Eventually, a Final Rule will be issued. That’s a big legal money maker because everyone wants to know what is in the rule and what it means for them.  They may ask you to draft a summary of the rule or come over to their company and make a presentation explaining the rule to them.

Most companies have to adjust for whatever the new rule says.  Obviously, that costs money in addition to all the legal bills the company incurs just getting to the rules’ existence in the first place and then figuring out exactly what’s in it.

After that, there are years of living with the implementation of the rule.  That might mean spending more money to put some new policy into effect or fighting some claim by the government that the rule has been violated.

Truly, it’s an attorney’s dream.

There are so many pages of federal rules and regulations in existence today that it all makes Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace look like an easy reader.

So when I say that a “tingle runs up my leg” hearing President Obama say that he wants more of this, that’s the attorney side of me speaking.

The citizen part of me is shocked and enraged.  Sure, we need regulations.  We can’t have everyone running amuck out there.  However, one of the reasons you have so many regulations is that after you’ve spent months and perhaps years commenting on and thinking about every imaginable angle to an issue, inevitably you discover you’ve created a new problem you hadn’t even thought of before. Oops!

So what do you have to do when that happens?

That’s right.  You write another regulation.

The amount of waste that goes into all of this is breathtaking.  As an attorney, it gets even better.  There are also state and local regulations and ordinances to deal with as well.

The fact that most of the people writing all these laws and regulations are mostly lawyers really shouldn’t surprise anyone if you think about it.  If nothing else, it’s the perfect way to perpetuate the profession.

Sadly, it’s not the most effective way to do business.  Eventually, the overall cost of implementing all of this gets passed on to the citizen consumer.

Too much regulation does hurt economic growth.  Not to worry for all my friends practicing administrative law, and don’t get me wrong, I do commend them because things really would be a mess if they didn’t participate in this ridiculous system.

For them, President Obama promises one thing he can’t guarantee the rest of the country—a job.