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Comment on Contracts Conference:
I did not receive very much feedback on my live blogging of the AALS conferences on contract law. So I decided, as an experiment, to open comments on this post so readers have a single place where they can react to the previous posts on all six panels (which are chained to this post). Did you find such blogging to be worthwhile? (Negative opinions on this are welcome, if civil.) Do you have any reactions to the topics of the various panels? Etc.
Paul Horwitz (mail):
Courage! It was a useful set of posts. It was primarily informative rather than provocative, I thought, which might explain the dearth of comments. But it was appreciated nonetheless.
6.17.2005 12:26pm
Kevin Withers (mail):
I thought the material in the posts was interesting, but, I didn't see a point in live blogging. I suspect that the posts would have been more interesting if you reported on the conference after having had time to digest and think about the points made in the presentations.
6.17.2005 12:29pm
alkali (mail):
The posts were fantastic. I am still thinking about them.

On the other hand, I am a raging commercial law dweeb, so I can't guarantee that I am representative of your readership.
6.17.2005 12:39pm
Plainsman (mail) (www):
I quite liked the posts, but I am specifically interested in contract theory and have read your writings, Hillman's, Feinman's, etc. The posts were pretty technical and "inside baseball"; I am unsure whether a VC reader who is not an academic (or a lawyer of academic bent) would have gotten much out of them.

I agree that it might have been a good idea to wait until shortly after the presentations to blog about them. One day's lag time to hear a first-hand report about an academic event I can't attend in person is still a great advantage. I don't see much of a marginal gain from more immediate forms of "live-blogging."
6.17.2005 1:31pm
Kate Litvak (mail):
This was very useful, thank you! AALS events are usually not worth attending, but every now and then, interesting people drop by there. Your posts allow us to cherry-pick valuable comments and skip the rest.

Live blogging is an excellent idea: it gives us the sense of "being there" and spares you the temptation to edit your comments. I would strongly argue against delaying and "digesting" your thoughts before posting. I just want to know what happened; if you eventually come up with analysis, nobody is stopping you from posting that later. If you wait, you'll forget the details and will turn your comments into a referee report; you may also get tired of editing, so we'll end up without any comments at all.

A thought on the "would your school hire an aspiring Allan Farnsworth?" lament. My answer is, of course we wouldn't. If an applicant to the Math faculty announces that he does not believe in Lobachevsky geometry and is not willing to learn new methodologies of the field, he shouldn't be hired -- even if he is Euclid!
6.17.2005 2:24pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail):
Randy, I copied &printed the posts for future reading, for when I work on contracts questions-- they seem very helpful but like they'll be put to best use when I can also refer to the literature they cite.
6.17.2005 2:31pm
Eh Nonymous (mail) (www):
Randy,

I took contracts from your casebook just a few short years ago.

Besides liking your posts in general, I appreciate when you blawg about academic things, including thoughtful stuff about conferences, new papers, etc.

Liveblogging is hard to react to, because as noted it's an undifferentiated mass of experience, with nuggets of interest and loads of narration.

In some ways, liveblogging is like the lowest, least edited form of blogging. Alternatively, it can provide some fresh and storylike reading- if the reader's interested.

Thus, I wouldn't be surprised if liveblogging usually produces the lowest number of comments. Those interested may be fewer in number, and the majority may skip past or refuse to comment, since there's too much there.
6.17.2005 4:48pm
RPS (mail):
I concur with who suggested live blogging was unnecessary. Besides, the thought of actually "being there" is making me drowsy. You shouldn't have had to sacrifice time at the panels just to live blog.

As someone with a casual interst in contracts, I would have preferred shorter, leaner posts at the end of the day hitting highlights. But that's just me. If your target audience was "raging commerical law dweebs" then your posts were perfect. If they were meant for the general VC audience, which consists of a wide variety of dweebs (myself included), then I think they were too technical and too long.
6.17.2005 5:03pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I loved the stuff on intellectual property and whether contracts can override default IP rules. I had a case in my practice that involved this precise issue, with respect to a copyright license that contained terms that arguably altered the rules of standing to sue for copyright violations. The issue was obviously unresolved in the caselaw, and the briefing in the case was very interesting.
6.17.2005 5:06pm
Martin (mail):
I found the conference posts interesting, but then I used to be a contracts and UCC professor (in the early 1980s, and then as a visitor for a couple of years in the early 1990s). I enjoyed getting even a (necessarily) somewhat hasty and sketchy overview of some recent work in contract theory.
6.17.2005 6:51pm
Bob (mail):
I sent your live blog of the "Cognitive Psychology and Contracts" panel to an eminent cognitive psychology professor (retired). He loved both the idea of the live blogging and the content.
6.18.2005 12:58am
SupremacyClaus (mail):
Swimming upstream against lawyer cult addled impairment, over and over: nothing Medieval is acceptable for day to day practice today.

1) Today, we have paper. We have pens. We have electronic media that have really reduced the cost of writing and recording. These have password security, date stamps, recorded IP addresses. Tough to counterfeit. Parchment no longer costs the same as a horse. We all know how to read and write, except the lawyer. All oral agreements can now be void. That eliminates half this stupid subject. All contracts are subject to the Statute of Frauds, no longer just the extremely important ones, such as promises to marry.

2) The purpose of a contract is to ... ? Increase trust, and obviate the necessity of a barter economy. Very good. In 1400 AD, consideration may have been an advance over the necessity of hostage taking. Today, it is a real drag on the purposes of contract. Bag consideration. And take all defenses based on mind reading and future forecasting along into oblivion, where they may meet up with the work of Farnsworth, at the trash dump of legal history.

What follows is too hard for the lawyer. They may stop here.

The public understands, new contract law can copy this. This is all of contract law, when we get rid of the rent seeking lawyer. (Oh, my God. It too has a hold harmless clause. Those are banned by statute.) You break a promise, everyone knows about it. Do that 3 times, big trouble for the business.

No lawyers.
6.18.2005 4:20am
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Randy,

I found these posts interesting and readable, even though I am not a lawyer, just like Restoring the Lost Constitution, which I requested and got for my birthday last year, and like most Supreme Court decisions I've read lately. I did have to google "promissory estoppel".

I was very pleased with your defense of our ability to enter into agreements in the absense of perfect rationality. It's not that various elites aren't knowledgeable and well-qualified to make good decisions and design good systems. It's that they are not as knowledgeable and not nearly as motivated as I am about my own situation, so how can they do better than I?

I was interested in your analogy of the Constitution as a contract in Restoring. It seems to me that Supreme Court precedents also function like contracts, though. I think Wickard v. Filburn was a horrible decision, but Congress and the people have been relying on it for over six decades. I know you believe bad precedent should be overridden, but I'm sure people would be seriously unhappy if their favorite Federal ox got gored by overturning Wickard. That's why I'd rather convince people first.

SupremacyClaus - I like lawyers. They are useful, just like guns. Everyone should have at least one of each. Like guns, they are most useful in a preventative role, since deploying them can be very dangerous and destructive. Some folks have recommended that lawyers would also be good for target practice, but I can't figure out how you would aim one.

Seriously, how the heck can I protect myself against even the simple errors of large entities like governments and businesses without a good lawyer? Gerry Spence is right. Lawyers are our natural allies.

Yours,
Wince
6.20.2005 7:11pm
SupremacyClaus (mail):
Wince: I like lawyers as people. They are victims, too. They are indoctrinated and oppressed tightly by a criminal cult enterprise. The Commission for this Mafia is well known. The arrest list is online, once the Executive Branch decides to fulfill its obligation to the Constitution.

The elimination of all self-dealt immunities would also help it to improve. I believe in the purposes and methods of torts. For example, being able to sue lawyers and judges for deviating from their self-defined standard of professional practice would reduce the crime rate, the rate of frivolous lawsuits, the self-serving Medieval malarkey for the purpose of generating lawyer welfare jobs. Let's not have any group with the immunities of George III, justifying self-help by the public.

Alzheimer Disease was not described when the god-like Founding Fathers committed one of their 2 or 3 great mistakes, the lifetime appointment. It ranks up there with the mistake of not slowly and peaceably phasing out slavery, as they could have, and most nations did, except Haiti.

Once accountability is accepted, there would be a huge jump in their value to society, based on genuine improvements, and a proportional increase in their wages. They would be less pestilence, more essential utility product providers, which is their duty. Today, all change increases procedure and mystery to further rent-seeking, a fancy term for straight theft. That cult criminality is unbearable.

Worse, hypertrophied, out of control proceduralism is a threat to our survival. Next major terror attack, we see lawyer concentration camps opened. If I were a lawyer like Chertoff, I would keep the profession out of decisions to drop bombs on the convoy of Mullah Omar. I would say, military, not legal. That is a great risk to the profession, which has a duty to survive, in its English form. Unfortunately, he has said just the opposite to law grads. War on terror requires massive increase in lawyering, he told them.

You are an owner of the law, having paid for every jot and dot. Someone has converted an essential utility product for their own purposes.
6.20.2005 9:31pm