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Law School faculty and students delve into the legislative process at conference

December 19, 2016

Three Penn Law faculty members and four students were among the 150 participants in this year’s International Conference on Legislation and Law Reform, held in November at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Penn Law was one of the academic sponsors of the event, which is devoted to legislative drafting, legislation, and law reform. The director of Penn Law’s clinical programs, Professor Louis S. Rulli, was one of the conference’s planners.

Because the Law School was one of the sponsors of the conference, Penn Law students Paul Stephan L’18, Jennifer Reich L’18, Ebenezer Gyasi L’19, and Pratik Agarwal L’18 were able to attend sessions at the conference and meet domestic and international legislative experts, including professional drafters from other countries. All four students are interested in government and public policy.

“The International Legislative Conference is still in its infancy, but you can tell it has grown in subject matter and attendance in each of its four years,” said Agarwal. “It was an excellent way to supplement my focus on intellectual property coursework at Penn Law by allowing me to see the legislative side of the legal realm and gain a better understanding of how the two areas would intersect in shaping tech policy.”

Several Penn Law faculty members were among the conference’s presenters. Professor Cary Coglianese delivered an opening plenary session on the regulatory landscape after the presidential election, lecturer Fernando Chang-Muy spoke on refugee law, and Rulli led a panel on teaching legislative drafting at law schools and legislative clinics.

Penn Law alumna Nicole Isaac L’04, a former special counsel to President Obama, participated in the panel with Rulli, who took the audience through the process of teaching statutory drafting in Penn Law’s Legislative Clinic, which is offered at the Law School each spring.

“Students come after their first year with a deeper understanding of how to write a legal brief in a litigation setting, and they are increasingly learning about how draft contracts and the like,” said Rulli. “Learning how to draft a statute is really helpful in properly understanding the interpretation of statutes.”

In the clinic, Rulli uses real-life issues that called for legislative solutions and illuminates them through film. Recent students were presented with the events that led up to Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” law and then called upon to draft a version of that statute in the classroom.

“Students learn how easy it is to draft ambiguous statutes and to have unintended consequences,” Rulli noted. “Real-life issues brought into the classroom are great for our students to develop legislative drafting skills because they don’t seem so abstract or academic. They can roll up their sleeves and problem-solve through legislation.”