On September 22-23, 2017, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law welcomed scholars from law schools around the nation for the Inaugural Junior Faculty Works-in-Progress Conference.  A new component of the law school’s vibrant intellectual life, the two-day conference brought together eight faculty members – rising stars in their respective fields – to share their most recent written work and engage with each other and members of the Chapman Law faculty.  Participants were invited to attend based on the strength of their scholarship, after Chapman conducted an extensive review of the work of junior scholars recently hired at law schools across the country.

junior faculty works in progress

The conference was developed and coordinated by Fowler School of Law Dean Matt Parlow and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development Donald Kochan.  It was made possible by a generous donation from Parker S. Kennedy.  Kennedy is Chairman of First American Financial Corporation as well as Chair of the Fowler School of Law Board of Advisors and Vice Chair of the Chapman University Board of Trustees.

Program speakers and topics included:

Marie C. Boyd, Assistant Professor of Law, University of South Carolina School of Law: Serving Up Allergy Labeling

Jonathon Byington, Associate Professor of Law, University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law: Debtor Malice

Felix B. Chang, Associate Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law: Roma Inclusion, U.S. Civil Rights, and Federalism

Lauryn P. Gouldin, Associate Professor of Law, Syracuse University College of Law: Framing for Release

Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Associate Professor of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law: Extending “Dignity Takings”: Reconceptualizing the Damage Caused by Criminal History and Ex-Offender Status

Jeremy Kidd, Associate Professor of Law, Mercer University School of Law: Probate Funding and the Litigation Funding Debate

Agnieszka McPeak, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law: Disappearing Data

David Noll, Associate Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School: Who Regulates Arbitration

The works-in-progress program was designed around a set of straightforward ideas about when scholarly interaction is most productively animated. “If we gather innovative thinkers engaged in exciting research projects all in one intellectual space, then we can create a stimulating environment for cross-fertilization of ideas and networking effects,” said Associate Dean Kochan. “We wanted a forum where the participants could present their most recent works, exchange information, learn from each other’s insights, and feed off each other’s enthusiasm for research,” he added.

Each participant was slotted into their own 70-minute session that started with some opening remarks where the junior scholar summarized their research paper.  Next, three commentators per participant were designated to provide prepared remarks after closely scrutinizing the draft ahead of the conference.  One of those three designated commentators was another junior scholar participant, and two distinct commentators per paper were drawn from experts on the Chapman Law faculty.  After that set of initial remarks framed the discussion, the bulk of each session was devoted to an organic exchange between all participants.  All eight participants and the Chapman faculty members came to the workshop well prepared to contribute and help one another improve their work.  The fact that every participant had carefully read every other paper in advance made the discussion period for every paper rich, detailed, interactive, and useful to the growth of all of the projects.  This collaborative environment provided a forum for the junior scholars to develop and refine their drafts before submitting these scholarly works for publication in the coming months.

Chapman was also pleased at the networking effects facilitated by the conference.  The workshop sessions, together with planned time for informal conversations, ensured that the junior scholars could walk away with an expanded network of interesting peers.  Not only did the junior scholar guests get to meet and interact with each other, they also engaged with 17 members of the Chapman Law faculty who served as commentators across the two days.  And, the networking benefits worked in all directions.  The participating Chapman Law faculty felt inspired by the energy these scholars brought to our building.  They enjoyed the opportunity to meet a cadre of passionate young scholars, particularly in fields that matched their own areas of expertise, and are excited by the sure-to-be lasting connections that developed with a new set of peers.

Chapman plans to hold the Junior Faculty Works-in-Progress conference annually.  This year’s program was just the latest in a series of programs that demonstrate the law school’s dedication to scholarly exchange.