The OpenRegs App is a limited search tool for federal regulations. For example, the Internal Revenue Code has its own separate Revenue Regulations that are posted to help a student, attorney or researcher get clarity on a certain topic or code section from the Internal Revenue Code. But, unfortunately, OpenRegs does not let you use the numbers of the regulations to search through all of the ones posted.
The content of the application covers the most recent regulations that each agency has posted, as well as many pending regulations that are still up for commentary. Because there is no ‘general search’ option to this application, you are only permitted to search regulations by agency name or the name of the regulation. It would be helpful to the researcher to also know the date the regulation was either discussed or finalized, as both of these dates are found within the app.
As a student currently taking Federal Income Tax, I know that the names of particular regulations are less important to the study and practice of tax law than the numbers of the regulations themselves. For example, we know the general topic or subject matter within the Internal Revenue Code that the regulations fall under, but we learn them by number, not by name. Additionally, the Court references the regulations by number, not by name. Therefore, this application helps a student or researcher looking for more information on a regulation only if they have the name of that regulation.
Because an attorney practicing in the field will have knowledge about proposed regulations that are being discussed and finalized, this application might be useful to them, not to mention for the reason that the regulations are current. The application, however, tries to be more student-friendly, as well. For instance, once you get to a particular agency, the app links you to a Wikipedia article about that agency. As a law student, I would never use Wikipedia as a reliable source, and I find it hard to believe any attorney would rely on Wikipedia either.
The major problem with this app is that the researcher cannot conduct a general search of regulatory information. There is no searchable database for all regulations that have been passed by certain agencies, only for those regulations that are current. OpenRegs is unlikely to become a necessary app for an attorney’s “tool box” of legal resources. I would not recommend this app for attorneys, or to students attempting to use it for class research. There are better resources available that provide the proposed regulations and, unlike OpenRegs, permit a search of all regulations finalized under an agency. In these cases, the attorney will have the opportunity to search the regulations by its number, and not just by name or finalization date, as with OpenRegs.
~ Karen Walker, Class of 2014 ~