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Thursday, July 16, 2009

One More Thought About Conferences

I got a lot of interesting feedback on my post last week about conferences.  Last week I talked about formats.  Recently, I've been thinking about conference audiences.

Most of the conferences I've been to have been geared towards academics.  To the extent that the audience is bigger than the conference participants (which is not the case at many of the conferences I have attended), the attendees tend to be other academics.  But I've recently been to two conferences where the audiences were much larger and quite diverse.  The first was a conference on forensic science, that ASU hosted this past April.  The conference organizers (some of my senior colleagues) invited junior members of the faculty to moderate individual panels --- an invitation that I thought was both thoughtful (it made me feel loved) and good sense (as it let those of us who are less well-known meet some truly impressive people in the field).  The audience at that conference (which discussed the recently released National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science) drew a very large audience including lawyers, law enforcement, activists, and scientists, as well as academics.  The conference seemed to draw such a large and diverse crowd both because of the subject matter, which is of interest to many groups outside the academy, and because of the panelists, which consisted of leading experts in assorted fields presenting independent research and commenting on the National Academy's report.

The second conference with a large and diverse audience was a conference on criminal appeals that I recently attended at Marquette Law School.  Most of the panelists were law professors who had written short papers on the topic of criminal appeals (those papers, including one by me, will be published in an upcoming issue of the Marquette Law Review).  The large audience assembled to hear those papers was made up of practicing lawyers, and the Q&A sessions demonstrated that the audience was really engaged.  The organizers of the conference seem to have secured a large audience by selecting a topic that was broad enough to appeal to a large segment of the bar and by offering CLE credit for attending.  This format strikes me as a brilliant idea, not only because it encourages an exchange of ideas between the academy and the bar, but also because it allows law schools to provide something of value for their alumni while keeping them involved in the intellectual community of the school.

Posted by Carissa Hessick on July 16, 2009 at 04:58 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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