By Zaena Ballon
AALS welcomed 120 attendees to the AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers from June 8-10, 2023, in Washington, DC. Experienced law professors addressed faculty at the beginning of their careers with sessions focused on balancing the competing demands of teaching, scholarship, and institutional service.
Programming officially began the night of Thursday, June 8, with small group discussions among attendees. These groups navigated the workshop together and reconvened on the final day.
The Thursday night session closed with a welcome to the conference by the workshop planning committee chair Carla D. Pratt (University of Oklahoma College of Law), followed by a keynote from President of AALS Mark C. Alexander (Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law).
“I hope that attendees felt how excited we are to have them join the academy and that everyone who spoke on the panels is a resource to help them succeed,” said Pratt. “I also hope that the workshop demystified the role of a law professor and offered concrete ideas that attendees can implement in their first few years of teaching.”
On Friday, the conference started with an opening session that examined “Foundations for Excellent Teaching,” with Jamie R. Abrams (American University Washington College of Law), Lisa A Crooms-Robinson, (Howard University School of Law), and Jerome M. Organ (University of St. Thomas School of Law). The presenters reviewed academic research on student learning, teaching theory, and teaching strategies and then provided advice on incorporating those ideas in the classroom.
Following the general session were teaching breakout sessions on course design, being an effective teacher, interacting with students, and using technology to teach. The programming broke for lunch and a talk on “Fostering Diversity Without Divisiveness” moderated by Marina C. Hsieh (Santa Clara University School of Law).
On Saturday, the general session “Why Scholarship Matters” opened with an introduction by Olympia Duhart (Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law) and included speakers Paul Butler (Georgetown University Law Center), David Fontana (George Washington University Law School), and Maya Manian (American University Washington College of Law). The session highlighted the need for faculty to produce sound legal scholarship to help stakeholders and the public better understand the law.
During a lunch discussion, George Washington University Law School dean Dayna Bowen Matthew discussed her experiences as a law professor and scholar.
Afternoon breakout sessions on scholarship included designing a research agenda, building a scholarly community/network, distributing scholarship, producing interdisciplinary scholarship, developing scholarship on clinical/ experiential legal education, and engaging in scholarship and advocacy.
“I learned so much from the workshop participants,” said Pratt. “They taught me about various citation management software options, the need to think about trauma-informed teaching, and the potential for integrating more wellness into my teaching. Those of us who have been in legal academia a while can also learn a few new things from early career law teachers.”
The workshop also included informal breakfasts and evening receptions with volunteers from AALS sections, including the Section on Minority Groups, the Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues, and the Section on Women in Legal Education.
Attendees were also invited to participate in a reunion at the 2024 AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC this January to reflect on their first semesters in the academy.
“I love this tradition!” Pratt said. “Workshop participants should stay connected because they will support each other as they progress through the ranks of their institutions. We have the privilege of having an amazing job, but there will come a time when we need to talk to someone outside our institution as a sounding board. The people you met at this workshop will be that for you, and you can reciprocate being a good listener for those colleagues.”
In addition to chair Carla Pratt, the workshop planning committee included Marina C. Hsieh (Santa Clara University School of Law), Patricia Hurley (University of California, Berkeley School of Law), Douglas NeJaime (Yale Law School), and Ezra Ross (University of California, Irvine School of Law). AALS is thankful for their service and leadership.