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RegBlog: Innovative Site Takes Students from Classroom to Real World

September 27, 2011

By Dana Vogel
Excerpt from
Penn Law Journal Fall 2011 Volume 46, Number 2

Regblog screenshotRegulations affect everything from health care to the economy and the environment to food, but it’s not always easy for lawyers and interested members of the public to find careful yet accessible analysis of regulatory issues.

That’s where RegBlog comes in. A new student-run website sponsored by the Penn Program on Regulation at Penn Law, RegBlog features both student news stories as well as contributions from leading scholars at Penn Law as well as other major schools, including Harvard, MIT, and Oxford.
Over just the last several months, RegBlog has become a reliable, daily source of information for lawyers and policymakers from all fifty states and more than 125 countries, attracting the attention of government staff and officials from the White House, U.S. Congress, and major federal regulatory agencies. By any measure, RegBlog has been an unqualified success.
Cary Coglianese, Edward B. Shils Professor of Law and director of the Penn Program on Regulation (PPR), created the initial idea of RegBlog with the aim of providing a neutral forum for discussion of both legal and research developments. “In today’s highly polarized political climate, neutral sources of news and analysis have become harder to come by, leaving a niche that can be filled well by a university-based program,” he said.
Every day of the week — during the academic year as well as throughout the summer — RegBlog’s team of student writers and editors are hard at work covering a broad range of regulatory issues, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, food and drug regulation, constitutional litigation over health care reform, homeland security, telecommunications policy, and government transparency.
RegBlog SamplerRegBlog is an innovative addition to legal education, too. Building on Penn Law’s cross-disciplinary strengths, RegBlog brings together more than 30 students from the Law School and other Penn graduate programs to write, edit, and operate the blog under Coglianese’s tutelage. Students gain an opportunity to see how what they are learning in the classroom applies to live regulatory issues.
For RegBlog’s Communications Editor Jean Yin, L’12, the project “ties all of my favorite parts of law school together — reading and writing about topics that interest me, meeting other students, working closely with a professor, and thinking about how to make my school experience relevant to the real world.”
RegBlog’s online format forces students to hone their skills of writing clearly and concisely. “There’s no better way to learn how to write and edit high-quality, interesting, professional work than to do it nearly every day, discuss it with other students, and receive direct feedback from a top Penn Law professor,” RegBlog’s Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Mincer, L’12 said.
Many of RegBlog’s writers and editors are JD and LLM students, but its staff also includes a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Radiology at the School of Medicine as well as graduate students in bioengineering, environmental science, governmental administration, landscape architecture, and city and regional planning. “Mincer has organized an outstanding team from across the university,” said Coglianese.
Like Penn Law’s journals and clinics, RegBlog helps students gain valuable professional skills while performing a valuable public service. “RegBlog is a dynamic opportunity not just for Penn students to gain professional writing experience, but also to encourage intelligent dialogue about the complex regulatory process,” said Sean Maloney, L’13, RegBlog’s managing editor. Coglianese sees RegBlog as a great teaching and learning tool. “Law school isn’t just about reading cases. It’s about preparing for the world of today — a world which, for better or worse, is filled with regulations,” he said.