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Possible Legal Hiring Binge at FDA

January 2017

Keep your eyes on the 21st Century Cures Act, a rare bipartisan bill that sailed through Congress, one that could create many new job opportunities for attorneys. The bill passed the House in late November, the Senate on December 7 by a vote of 94-5,and President Obama signed the bill on December 13, 2016.

The bill streamlines the Food and Drug Administration’s drug and medical device approval process and authorizes additional billions of dollars for medical research. For attorneys, the big news is that it also authorizes a large number of new jobs at FDA and additional ones at the National Institutes of Health research and integrity division, including attorney and law-related positions.

Some of the new FDA jobs would be Regulatory Counsels. The FDA currently has more than 100 such positions for which a law degree is favored but not necessarily required. Moreover, these positions do not always require prior knowledge of or experience with matters FDA regulates.

Note. It is unclear at this writing how a Donald Trump-threatened across-the-board federal hiring freeze would affect this hiring authority. In past hiring freezes, exceptions have been carved out for “essential” positions. Also be aware that authorization of new positions is only the first step in actually realizing them. Congress must next appropriate the requisite dollars to fund the new positions.