Our interviewer, Alex Sarsfield, is a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law with interest in legislation, government, lobbying, litigation, international affairs and business. Mark B. Seidenfeld is the Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean of Research. He is recognized as one of the country’s leading scholars on federal administrative law. Professor Seidenfeld teaches courses in administrative law, constitutional law, environmental law, law and economics and regulated industries. His prior legal experience includes clerking for the Honorable Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and serving as Assistant Counsel for the New York State Public Service Commission.
Alex Sarsfield: What is your favorite thing about teaching at Florida State University College of Law?
Professor Seidenfeld: I think the academic community is unique and wonderful. My feeling, and I sense it is the feeling of others, is that the students, faculty and staff at the College of Law like being here and feel themselves to be an integral part of a wonderful place. Students often pop into my office and we discuss law, law school, and the world in general. My colleagues often meet for lunch and discuss similar topics. Everyone is ambitious, but not at the expense of others.
Alex Sarsfield: You were a physicist prior to attending law school at Stanford University. What brought you to law?
Professor Seidenfeld: I hit a point during graduate school when my Ph.D. dissertation was not working and I became disillusioned with physics as a profession. I then became a research physicist and engineer at Intel, where I was successful, but never really loved the applied work I was doing. I did not know what I wanted to do but many of my high school friends had gone to law school and their stories of their experiences were interesting. I have a patent that I got at Intel and I thought I would be a patent attorney, but when I got to law school I developed a keen interest in how government operates.
Alex Sarsfield: Why are you interested in administrative law?
Professor Seidenfeld: As noted, I became interested in how government operates and my limited knowledge of civics did not prepare me for the realities of the administrative state. So much happens in government that is not explicit in the structure of the Constitution and I am interested in why that is so. I think that the administrative state holds the best promise for government serving the public interest. Administrative law deals with how the law can and should be structured to fulfill that promise without falling into pitfalls of agency sloth, capture or abusive self-interested.
Alex Sarsfield: What are the biggest advantages that the College of Law has over other law schools in Florida?
Professor Seidenfeld: A phenomenal faculty and ethos that focuses on faculty teaching and serving the needs of students without dumbing down their courses. The faculty presents its cutting edge work to students who appreciate that the education they are getting will prepare them to think, and therefore be successful, in a quickly changing legal market. The education at Florida State University College of Law is on par with that provided by the best law schools in the country. In addition, for my interest in how government operates, Tallahassee, being the state capital of the one of the four largest states in the U.S., provides many opportunities to learn in a locale that is very livable.
Alex Sarsfield: How can attending Florida State University College of Law prepare students for jobs outside of Florida?
Professor Seidenfeld: A good law school does not teach students the law. It teaches students to think like a good lawyer. Florida State University College of Law excels at this task. These skills allow graduates to practice law anywhere, regardless of whether the legal doctrines and rules are the ones they studied in law school. We prepare students to practice not only in Florida, but in Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., London, Europe, South America or virtually anywhere in the world.
Alex Sarsfield: What is the most important habit or trait for a person entering law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: To think critically!
Alex Sarsfield: What extracurricular activities do you recommend to maximize one’s experience while in law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: Whatever you like, as long as it is legal and does not hurt others.
Alex Sarsfield: Why did you decide on a career in academia rather than work for a large law firm in the private sector?
Professor Seidenfeld: I like to think about the big questions in law, to discuss them with others and to communicate my thoughts with students and colleagues. That not only led me to the legal academy, it is what has made me so happy to be at Florida State.
Alex Sarsfield: What advice would you give students upon graduation from law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: Try to find a job that you enjoy. Of course it has to pay enough to support the lifestyle the student wants, but life is too short to be stuck in a job for 40 years that one does not like just to make a few extra bucks.
Alex Sarsfield, 3L
Mark B. Seidenfeld, Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean for Research