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Monday, April 20, 2009

New (better?) conference formats?

I participated on Friday and Saturday in a very rewarding and interesting event, organized by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions (sorry, Mr. Rich!), that was billed as a "consultation" on the topic, "Law and Religion:  Historical and Philosophical Perspectives."  Perhaps others are already familiar, or experienced, with this format, but it was new to me and, I thought, very successful.

Basically, the event's organizers gathered 10-ish pretty-far-along papers, and then distributed them not only to the presenters, but to an additional group of a dozen or so "discussants."  Each session involved a pretty short presentation (15 minutes) by two authors of their papers, and then an hour (or more) of very lively conversation among presenters, discussants, and attendees.

A few weeks ago, our guest-blogger Mark Kende arranged a similar program on "Law, Religion, and Constitutionalism".  Again, the event was set up to resemble a lively workshop -- lots of participation, back-and-forth, etc. -- and not the usual rubber-chicken, four-talks-on-a-panel affair. 

And, it sounds like we are seeing more and more Prawfsfest-esque,"schmooze"-type roundtable events.  All this -- i.e., a diversifying array of conference formats -- strikes me as a good thing.  Any thoughts?  Any other formats worth mentioning that people have experienced or tried?  Any downsides?

Posted by Rick Garnett on April 20, 2009 at 02:02 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Paul, I think you'll particular like Steve Smith's, "The Problem of the Church."

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Apr 20, 2009 8:38:24 PM

I like the format I saw at an AALS Hot Topics panel a few years ago that I used at SEALS last summer: A moderated discussion/conversation, with no presented papers. Moderator asks questions (generally and of individual panelists) and the conversation takes off from there. Much more engaging for everyone than the seriatim 20-minute presentations. This, of course, is geared towards a different type of program, one where completed or in-progress papers is less central than the public conversation.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 20, 2009 6:45:05 PM

The Penn Law institute for law and philosophy has done conferences along these lines for several years, at least, including ones on law and the social contract, law and risk, and others. One on Hobbes is coming up shortly, though it has a slightly different (though similar) format. See here:
All of the ones I've attended have been interesting and useful, and it's a format I'd recommend.

Posted by: Matt | Apr 20, 2009 4:02:41 PM

Rick, you might have added that the web page for the conference includes links to the discussion papers, and that they look very interesting indeed. I look forward to reading them.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 20, 2009 2:08:42 PM

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