October 24, 2006
Small Intensives
Posted by Darian Ibrahim

I thank Lisa and Jeremy for their terrific comments on my Disney posts. The paper that produced those posts was the subject of last week's first “small intensive” experiment here at Arizona. The idea is to gather a small group of law faculty to hear a presentation on a working paper and provide comments. If this sounds like any other faculty workshop, only more intimate, there’s a catch. The author is a mostly a bystander in this process – another member of the faculty presents the paper and leads the discussion.

I really like this format for a few reasons. First, it removes the author from the “hot seat” and from the traditional role of defending the paper. This frees the author to listen to how others, and particularly the presenter, interpret the work. Second, keeping the group small allows for follow up and give-and-take discussions that are less likely to materialize in a large group setting. Finally, as we structured it, some of the group members were familiar with corporate law (including my esteemed colleague Elliott Weiss) while some were not. This blend led to discussions that went in a number of directions, some entirely unanticipated. My sense is that this wouldn’t have occurred if all participants were corporate types, or if all were not.

From what I understand, not many law schools use this precise format (a notable exception being Southern Cal). Some may use small workshops to discuss tenure-stream faculty papers, but the independent presenter seems like more of a unique twist. Of course, the small intensive requires a substantial time commitment on the part of the presenter, and also on the part of the other participants, which may help explain the infrequency of use. Or it’s entirely possible that other schools do this and I just don’t know about it. I’d love to hear what others think of this format, as I suspect we’ll begin to use it more often.

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