With the First Annual Conference of Empirical Legal Studies completed, I thought I'd share some thoughts and reactions. First, the University of Texas School of Law put on a wonderful event. I look forward to the 2007 event at NYU School of Law.
The papers presented on the whole were very good, likely a result of the competitive paper submission process,--(I was the discussant for an excellent paper entitled "How are Patent Cases Resolved" presented by Jay Kesan (Illinois))--and presenters were kept to strict time limits using a buzzing timer that kept panels moving efficiently and left time for questions. The panel format was paper presentation/discussant, paper presentation/discussant, etc. I found the panels with fewer scholars in the audience and in smaller rooms to be better as they acted as more of a roundtable workshop about every paper, though on the whole the experience was far better than say AALS or MPSA since attendees actually read the papers being presented and thus had very good comments and questions.
The biggest change that I would make to the conference would be to add more time for discourse and socialization. The panels led to a number of quality suggestions for individual papers. But since there were so many good panels held one after another and speakers/posters at dinner, all held over 1.5 days, there was less time than desired to pick the brains of attendees who had good suggestions to improve the works-in-progress. Adding more time for informal discussion could be done by having break-out sessions for each individual paper following each panel, changing the panel format, increasing the time between panels, or making the conference longer--though I'm sure there are many possibilities.
It also became clear at the conference that every discipline (statistics, law, political science, sociology, business, etc.) has different areas of concern, interest, and expertise for each research project. Thus, I would hope that these Conferences on ELS will promote co-authored papers that can rely on the expertise of a variety of disciplines.
Finally, in a number of panels there was debate over the details of the methodological/statistical techniques employed. For example, when Bill Ford and I presented our paper on dissensus on the courts of appeals, there was discussion of when it is appropriate to use lagged dependent variables in cross-sectional times series analysis. Thus, perhaps some panels might be organized based on methodological techniques employed (e.g., time-series) rather than substantive areas.