Highlights from the 2024 Annual Meeting - Annual Meeting

By Zaena Ballon and Barbra Elenbaas

The 2024 AALS Annual Meeting drew more than 2,300 law school faculty, deans, professional staff, and sponsors to Washington, DC, in early January to explore the theme “Defending Democracy,” as selected by 2023 AALS President Mark C. Alexander.   

“As president, I have been encouraged by how we, as the AALS, have taken defending democracy to heart,” Alexander (Dean, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law) said during his report to AALS House of Representatives on January 6. “I am hopeful that law schools and legal education will continue to help prepare our students to be engaged in our democracy in meaningful ways.”

AALS President Mark Alexander, Dean of Villanova Law

By the Numbers

Spanning four days from January 3-6, the meeting included: 

  • Over 1,000 speakers, moderators, and discussants. 
  • More than 200 substantive sessions, including moderated panels, discussion groups, and more. 
  • Fifty-five receptions and networking events hosted by law schools and other organizations. 
  • A record-high 33 works-in-progress and “new voices” sessions. 
  • Awards ceremonies from 23 sections. More than 60 AALS section awards were presented at these ceremonies and at section programs throughout the conference. 
  • Two programs televised nationally by C-SPAN, the Presidential Opening Plenary, and the Section on Constitutional Law program, “Democracy at the Podium: Arguing the Rules of Politics Before Today’s Supreme Court.”
  • Two annual traditions, the AALS Awards Ceremony, and the Opening Reception. 

The 107 AALS Sections planned the majority of the sessions, addressing topics that are the most relevant to their members. Programming chosen by AALS also closely reflected important and timely issues, including immigration and the labor movement to academic and pedagogical topics like the NextGen bar exam and teaching during an election cycle.

Presidential Opening Plenary: A Conversation with Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State

Thursday’s Presidential Opening Plenary speaker, Jocelyn Benson, provided a unique perspective on the current issues facing our democracy and the law. As Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State, she has become one of the nation’s most prominent leaders in ensuring elections are secure and accessible. The conversation with Secretary Benson, who is also a former law school dean, was moderated by AALS President Alexander. During the hour-long discussion, Secretary Benson answered questions about her life, experience, and thoughts about how law schools can help defend democracy. The session was televised live, nationally on C-SPAN.

“If history teaches us anything, it is that democracy thrives when we, the people, demand that it does.” said Benson. “My hope is that we will all spend this year trying to help as many people realize that is possible and become critical consumers of information and fight back against the misinformation with truth and engagement and voting and not allowing those who try to gain power and division and misinformation.”

Programming Highlights Throughout the Meeting

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday were packed with programs. Time blocks began at 8 am each day, with each block consisting, on average, of 15 sessions running concurrently. This year, the Annual Meeting offered more works-in-progress sessions than ever before. Open Source programs offered sessions on additional pedagogical topics, and Arc of Career panels offered support for faculty in various stages of their professional development.

Wednesday’s schedule included the annual “Session for First-Time Annual Meeting Attendees,” where those new to the conference or to AALS had the opportunity to meet with AALS leadership and senior faculty. The session was followed by a reception for new faculty, which also served as a reunion from the Workshop for New Law School Teachers held last spring.

Friday afternoon was dedicated to the Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color, where attendees received guidance from colleagues and faculty on navigating the tenure and promotion process.  

Saturday morning included a working breakfast for all incoming Section chairs and chairs-elect. This annual event is key for the continuity and success of AALS Sections throughout the year.

  • AALS Annual Meeting Discussion Group on
  • AALS Hot Topic Program on
  • AALS Discussion Group on
  • AALS Hot Topic Program on

AALS Awards Ceremony

Thursday’s fourth annual AALS Awards Ceremony celebrated success and honored excellence in legal education.

The AALS Scholarly Papers Competition winner Maria Ponomarenko (University of Texas School of Law) was honored for her paper “The Small Agency Problem in American Policing.” The selection committee also recognized honorable mentions Sarah Lorr (Brooklyn Law School, “Disabling Families”) and Felipe Jiménez (University of Southern California Gould School of Law, “Tradition in Constitutional Adjudication”).

AALS Section of the Year was awarded to the Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution. This award honors excellence in member support and activities that promote AALS core values.

The Deborah L. Rhode Award was presented to Penelope Andrews (New York Law School) and Renee Knake Jefferson (University of Houston Law Center). The honor is awarded annually to the law professor or lawyer who exemplifies the groundbreaking work, imagination, and inspired action of Deborah Rhode.

The Michael A. Olivas Award for Outstanding Leadership in Diversity and Mentoring in the Legal Academy was presented to Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Boston University School of Law) and Michael Pinard (University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law). The award was established to recognize individuals who exemplify Olivas’s devotion to mentoring junior and aspiring faculty from underrepresented communities and promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity in the legal academy.

AALS Section Chairs, winners of section awards, honorees of the Pro Bono Honor Roll, and Teachers of the Year were also recognized and congratulated during the ceremony.

Association Business and Leadership

The AALS House of Representatives met on Saturday, January 6, to address several orders of organizational business. Mark Alexander ended his term as AALS President, and Melanie Wilson (Dean, Washington and Lee University School of Law) began hers. She announced “Courage in Action” as the theme for her year as President and the 2025 Annual Meeting.

“Each of you is acting with courage in your teaching, scholarly pursuits, and service to law schools and universities, as well as in your communities, sometimes defined narrowly and often broadly,” said Wilson, “My challenge to all of us is to continue that important work. Let’s continue to build courage in ourselves and to urge others—our colleagues, campus partners, students, staff members, and alumni—to be courageous.”

The AALS House of Representatives voted in advance of the meeting to confirm the nominees for AALS President-elect and members of the Executive Committee. Austen Parrish (University of California, Irvine School of Law) became President-elect. New Executive Committee members Risa Goluboff (University of Virginia School of Law) and John Valery White (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law) began their three-year terms. Danielle Conway and Daniel Filler ended theirs.

The meeting of the House also included an amendment to the AALS Bylaws that makes explicit the organization’s dual role as both the institutional membership organization for law schools, and as the learned society for law faculty, a segment in memoriam of law faculty lost in the past year, and the presentation of the Order of the Coif Book Award.

Thank you to all AALS section chairs, moderators, speakers, and committee members for their contributions to the planning, programming, and support of a successful Annual Meeting.

Special thanks to the members of the following committees who contributed throughout the year to the success of this meeting

Program Committee for the 2024 Annual Meeting

  • Todd S. Aagaard, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
  • April M. Barton, Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University  
  • Richard Moberly, University of Nebraska College of Law, Chair  
  • Patricia E. Roberts, St. Mary’s University School of Law  
  • James Steiner-Dillon, University of Dayton School of Law  

Committee to Review Scholarly Papers for the 2024 Annual Meeting

  • David S. Caudill, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law  
  • Michael Coenen, Seton Hall University School of Law 
  • Brittany Deitch, Capital University Law School
  • Amanda Harmon Cooley, South Texas College of Law Houston  
  • Youngjae Lee, Fordham University School of Law, Chair  
  • Nicole Summers, Georgetown University Law Center 

Planning Committee for 2024 Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color

  • Tammi Etheridge, Elon University School of Law
  • José R. (Beto) Juarez, Jr., Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, Chair
  • Solangel Maldonado, Seton Hall University School of Law 

Committee on Arc of Career Programs

  • Michèle Alexandre, Loyola University Chicago School of Law 
  • Myrisha Lewis, William & Mary Law School 
  • Jennifer Oliva, University of California College of the Law, San Francisco
  • Toni M. Massaro, The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law  
  • Danya Bowen Matthew, The George Washington University Law School, Chair
  • Natalya Shnitser, Boston College Law School  

Planning Committee for the 2024 Deans Forum Program

  • Michael F. Barry, South Texas College of Law Houston, Chair  
  • Roger A. Fairfax, Jr., American University, Washington College of Law 
  • Leah Chan Grinvald, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S.
  • Boyd School of Law 
  • Jennifer Rosato Perea, DePaul University College of Law  
  • Sudha N. Setty, City University of New York School of Law 
  • Elizabeth Kronk Warner, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law, Chair

Committee on Sections

  • Kerry Abrams, Duke University School of Law, Chair
  • Jeremy W. Bock, Tulane University School of Law  
  • Emilio R. Longoria, St. Mary’s University School of Law 
  • Eugene Mazo, Seton Hall University School of Law  
  • Eboni S. Nelson, University of Connecticut School of Law  
  • Matthew Sipe, University of Baltimore School of Law 
  • Michael E. Waterstone, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles  

Deans Steering Committee

  • Mark C. Alexander, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law 
  • Michael Barry, South Texas College of Law Houston 
  • April Barton, Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University   
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Berkeley School of Law   
  • Danielle M. Conway, Penn State Dickinson Law   
  • Anthony Crowell, New York Law School 
  • Daniel M. Filler, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law 
  • Renee Mcdonald Hutchins, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law  
  • Lolita Buckner Inniss, University of Colorado Law School
  • Melanie Leslie, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law    
  • Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Boston University School of Law  
  • Jacob H. Rooksby, Gonzaga University School of Law   
  • Jennifer Rosato Perea, DePaul University College of Law   
  • Sudha N. Setty, Western New England University School of Law   
  • Kevin Washburn, University of Iowa College of Law  
  • Elizabeth Kronk Warner, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law, Chair   
  • Melanie D. Wilson, Washington and Lee University School of Law