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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Timeless Classics About Conferences

Not that many law review articles are intentionally funny.   I commend to those who have not seen it a major exception, Eric Muller's What's In a Name(tag)? .   It seemed relevant after I attended Law and Society and the AALS Midyear, but it is 11 years old and not available for free on line, so it probably does not get the circulation it deserves.  The paper proposes radically  improved nametags to deal with the dilemma of whether to speak or remain silent when making eye contact with a person at the AALS (or, by implication, at other big conferences).  Professor Muller writes: 

I cannot overstate the importance of this choice. Each might strike gold: the other person could be, say, the chair of appointments at Texas. On the other (and far likelier) hand, each might strike out: the other person could be, say, a legal-research-and-writing teacher from Wyoming. [Muller's former position]  And make no mistake: that second possibility is disaster. Who wants to waste valuable networking time with someone off the network? Just yesterday I myself spent (read "wasted") several minutes on idle pleasantries with somebody who could not advance my career in any way!  Time at the AALS is too short for that sort of thing. That is what LAWPROF is for.

And, while thinking about conferences, no academic is fully prepared for career-advancing denigration of other people's work without reading economics Nobelist George J. Stigler's The Conference Handbook, 85 J. Pol. Econ. 441 (1977), also, unfortunately, requiring a JSTOR subscription or free registration.  Although economics-focused, many witticisms will readily translate.  My favorite suggested comment: "I can be very sympathetic with the author; until 2 years ago I was thinking along similar lines."

Posted by Jack Chin on June 30, 2013 at 04:35 AM | Permalink


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I believe there is a elite group of invitation-only meetings that the rest of us barely even hear about. The legal academy is class-ridden. On the other hand, it is based, to some extent, on merit, don't you think?


Posted by: Jack | Jul 1, 2013 5:50:22 PM

While I share Jack's disillusionment with AALS, which I have found to reinforce all my worst fears about academic snobbery, I must say I find Law and Society to be a little more egalitarian, perhaps because there are so many non-law profs, perhaps feeling like fish out of water. But I wonder if Jack is willing to take this further, and consider that there is a hierarchy among conferences, such that there are some you get invited to if you are of a certain rank; and some that few of an exalted rank attend. It is rare, for example, to see many folks from the top ranked schools at the people of color conferences unless specially invited to receive an award or as a plenary speaker; on the other hand, there are the various workshops that are, for the most part, only open to folks from the top tier. That, one might think, solves the name tag problem, but in an equally pernicious way.

Posted by: EJM | Jul 1, 2013 5:18:56 PM

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