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March 15, 2012


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sugar huddle

I like this idea. I think the main difference can be summarized that legal academics workshop the ideas/argument/substance, while writers workshop "the piece." Most likely legal academics could also benefit from workshopping their "pieces" prior to publication-- you're less likely to get "did you consider X's argument about Y? what enables you to argue Z, do you have data on that? I think Q is a major flaw in your thesis." You'd be more likely to get "I had trouble with the transition from the 2nd to 3rd sections. I don't think the abstract really reflects the main arguments or does justice to the surprising conclusion. The portion summarizing the empirical data is really clunky-- I would like to see it read more smoothly." That might be the kind of workshopping that legal academics get on the side, though, in the form of comments from peers. Another question is whether it would be beneficial for the author to keep her/his mouth shut during the substantive workshopping-- for that I'm not sure, but it's true that many people provide straight-up criticism and suggestions and then pretend to put a question mark on the end when it's not actually a question at all.

Anon Prof

For this style of workshop, everyone has to read and engage with the piece to be able to offer comments.

It's not clear that workshop attendees for legal academics actually read and engage in a way that would be useful. And it's not clear that most legal academics are "workshopping" for the purpose of receiving useful feedback to incorporate in the writing. (Often, it's far too late to have a meaningful influence.)

I've led or attended workshops that feature the work being presented by someone other than the author, and I've been to workshops that require that everyone read a piece to participate. Both can be very fruitful, but they tend to occur at a more preliminary stage of the writing process, and only a handful of dedicated colleagues commit to them.

Paul Gowder

Iowa does this:


This is roughly the Prawfsfest! model (or was until Fagundes let it disintegrate somewhat while I was gone at the last one) as well as what we do at the NYU Criminal Law Theory Colloquium.

In both venues, we ask the author to speak for no more than 3 minutes to highlight their biggest anxieties about the papers and what they most want feedback on. We then don't let the author talk until all the folks in the room have spoken (usually capped at 15 people) about the paper, which they've read in advance. At that point, we've usually got 10 minutes for the author to ask followup questions. The key is not to let the author be defensive...and to minimize the "positive" feedback by the participants.

Air Max

minimize the "positive" feedback by the participants.

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