Administrative Law and the Paralegal’s Role

During the time of the pandemic, we have become familiar with our federal health agencies, the Food and Drug Administrative (FDA), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). When we take off our shoes at airports, we are adhering to rules issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). These administrative agencies and others have a direct and dramatic effect on our daily lives.

Paralegals need to be versed in many areas of law. This includes tort law, products liability, contracts, wills and estates, family law, corporate law, criminal law, Constitutional law, and environmental law. However, one area of law that touches on and is intertwined with all of the above is administrative law.

The Paralegal’s Role in Administrative Law

A paralegal must have the ability to work in this area of law as administrative law will no doubt impact almost any law practice. For example, if a paralegal works in tort/products law and personal injury, the Consumer Product Safety Commission can be used to track products that have been recalled.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA deals with safety in the workplace. The Internal Revenue Service Corporate IRS and state and local tax authorities are the key agencies for paralegals working in tax law.


Other examples include the following:

For state unemployment compensation cases see:

For state worker compensation see this page:

For federal worker compensation look at the following:

What is Administrative Law?

Administrative law can be defined as the branch of law governing the creation and operation of administrative agencies. Of special importance are the powers granted to administrative agencies, the substantive rules that such agencies make, and the legal relationships between such agencies, other government bodies, and the public at large.


Federal Level of Administrative Law

At the federal level, agencies are created by the Congress to deal with issues that face the country and in which the Congress does not have the time or expertise to deal with. Congress creates agencies by passing a statute called an enabling act. State legislature do the same for state agencies. The enabling act delegates power to the agency so the agency can perform its functions. This power is in the form of legislative, judicial, and executive power. Agencies issue regulations also called rules, which is a legislative power and have the force of law. If an individual or business violates an agency regulation, the agency can use its executive power to investigate and issue citations and fines. The individual or business has a right to a hearing and that implicates judicial power. Agencies hold hearings, which are similar to trials where evidence can be presented. At the federal level, administrative law judges preside and decide on the issues presented. After a final decision at the agency level, a person or business had the right to appeal to a court. For example, if one files for Social Security Disability benefits and is denied inside the Social Security system, that person can file an appeal with the United States District Court.

Agencies perform many other functions such as licensing, application for government benefits, and inspections of businesses.


Resources for Federal Agencies

Federal agency regulations are first published in the Federal Register and then published in final form in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Agencies affect our lives on a daily basis. One cannot be a practicing paralegal and not encounter the multitude of agencies. Paralegals must be cognizant of the role that agencies play in almost all law practices. Paralegals should take advantage of opportunities in continuing legal education in administrative law to enhance their skill in this area of law.

To see the list of federal agencies click here.


Written by Dr. John Deleo, retired professor and chair of Legal Studies at Central Penn College, who has been educating students for over 30 years. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University (1976) and graduated with a J.D. degree from Loyola of New Orleans School of Law in 1984. Prior to teaching at Central Penn College, Mr. Deleo practiced law in New Orleans, Lancaster and Harrisburg. He began teaching at Central Penn College in the Legal Studies Department in 1989, where he taught a variety of classes including Business Law, Torts, Contracts, Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Civil Ligation and Constitutional Law. Mr. Deleo was previously a member of the Pennsylvania Senate legal staff and former counsel for the Banking and Insurance Committee. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, wife, Teresa and son Ben.