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Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Students at faculty workshops?

I gave a talk at another law school yesterday and the audience included five students. The faculty invites students to attend all talks--they send a school-wide, first-come email and make space for the first 10-or-so students. Two of the students asked very good questions.

Do other schools do this and what are people's thoughts on it? That students generally are not included in faculty workshops reflects the difference between law students and PhD students, who often attend department workshops and often are treated more as colleagues than as students. One point against it is that it changes the tenor of the talk by adding to the audience listeners who lack the expertise to engage in the presentation. On the other hand, a 1L is as competent to discuss a bankruptcy paper as I am. And I see some benefits, such as community building and filling the room (harder in the era of work-from-home). And I realized that the audience in most law school symposia, beside the other symposium speakers, consists of students (journal members, etc.). So why not for individual talks?

Would like to hear what other schools do. Comments left open.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 5, 2024 at 12:01 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


I appreciate Jason's comment. (Usually I get "bemusing" or "tedious," not "fascinating.") I have no problem with what he describes, on the assumption, based on his comment, that the student body as such is a part of the hiring process in all its aspects. My discomfort would be in a situation where students are not a part of the process, or only perform a specific function, like a discrete meeting with the candidates, but an unanticipated selection of students nonetheless attends the candidate's job talk--not as part of the hiring process but because they generally are free to attend "workshops" at the school. The distinction may seem slim. But I don't think job talks necessarily fit in the "workshop" category and don't think a "you are welcome to attend workshops" policy necessarily includes job talks.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 6, 2024 12:03:37 PM

Paul's comment on students not attending job talk presentations is fascinating. At Wisconsin our job talks are fully open to the public, and staff and students often attend. Likewise, our meetings to discuss and vote on hiring faculty candidates are also fully open to the building, and it is not unusual to have students attend those too (and sometimes to speak up).

For regular workshops (internal or external) students are free to attend, but they tend not to do so. I think they are in part turned off by the idea that attendees need in theory to have read the paper in advance.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Mar 6, 2024 10:42:12 AM

We regularly invite students (at Notre Dame) -- JSDs, LLMs, JDs -- to workshops, but the invitations tend to be targeted on a subject-matter basis.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Mar 5, 2024 7:27:17 PM

We have recently, through the initiative of one of my fine and energetic junior colleagues, started having students attend workshops—excluding job talks. I would think that would be inappropriate, unless they’re full or auxiliary members of the committee, absent their consent, which arguably would not be freely given.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Mar 5, 2024 6:36:21 PM

Great post Howard. At Lewis and Clark, we've had students participate in job talks and that has been great for the students and those who have presented. The students have asked thoughtful questions, and the presenters have had a chance to experience being in a classroom environment with students. We have not to my knowledge had students in workshops, but Will's post has prompted me to consider how we can create these opportunities going forward. Since our students write papers similar to law review note, I think they'd benefit from participation.

Posted by: Charlie Martel | Mar 5, 2024 2:30:39 PM

I had the good fortune as a student at Chicago about a decade ago of attending a couple faculty workshops on the invitation of a faculty member. It was fun. More importantly, for me, it showed what it is like to be on the faculty, which helped inform whether I might want to go into academia. Hopefully those invitations still issue now and then.

Posted by: David S. | Mar 5, 2024 1:05:28 PM

What we do at Chicago:

Students don't attend our weekly faculty workshops (which is all internal presentations) except in unusual circumstances (such as if they worked on the paper), but that is partly because the room is usually full.

They do attend our every-other-weekly Law & Econ Workshop and Public Law Workshop (which ae all external papers) and indeed can enroll in the workshops for credit. (This is also true for our Law & Philosophy Workshop, our Constitutional Law Workshop, and our Regulation of Family, Sex, and Gender workshop.) The students tend to ask great questions and are valuable participants.

Posted by: William Baude | Mar 5, 2024 12:37:40 PM

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