The purpose of the Iowa Legal Studies Workshop is to give authors at the University of Iowa College of Law an opportunity to receive constructive, critical analyses of their written work. The Workshop draws its inspiration from the format ordinarily used at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Recognizing that our readers regularly include a broad array of students, lawyers, judges, and academicians, all faculty are invited to participate—tenure track, LAWR, clinical, and adjunct alike—regardless of their areas of expertise. We are delighted when faculty from other colleges and departments at the University join us.

The traditional faculty-seminar format at this and many other law schools calls upon an author to make an oral presentation for 20-30 minutes and then respond to questions for the balance of the hour.  That format serves many valuable purposes, but authors can also benefit from the rather different experience that the Workshop offers. Much like a filmmaker who makes a film and then sits in the theater and listens as the audience reacts, or much like a student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop who submits a poem or story and then listens while others discuss his or her work, authors in the Legal Studies Workshop sit back and absorb what readers have seen in the text, and what recommendations they have in light of their perceptions of the writer's purpose.  As with the Iowa Writers' Workshop, in other words, our Workshop is founded on the premise that an author's text must ultimately speak for itself.

Workshop Format

To that end, at a Workshop session the readers—not the author—are the first to talk. After all, the text eventually will be sent into the world without the benefit of any oral commentary.  For much of the session, the author doesn’t say a word (or says very few).  Instead, each participant relates his or her reactions to the text—ways in which the arguments were or were not persuasive, ways in which the structure did or did not work, things that were not as clearly explained as one might like, and so forth.  Toward the end of the group’s time together, the author has an opportunity to talk with the participants about any matter he or she would find useful. Drafts presented at the Iowa Legal Studies Workshop have covered a wide range of subjects, and have routinely gone on to be published as scholarly articles or book chapters.