More than 3,000 law school faculty, deans, professional staff, and sponsors gathered virtually from January 5-9 at the 2022 AALS Annual Meeting.
Over five days, the meeting included moderated panels, interactive discussions, and networking events in addition to annual AALS business. Program topics closely reflected many of the most pressing legal issues of the day, including sessions related to the pandemic’s impact on higher education, the ongoing effects of the pandemic response on numerous areas of law, the Afghanistan crisis, reproductive rights, educational equity, civil rights, and climate torts, among other topics. The meeting featured many pedagogy sessions as well as sessions for newer scholars and for works in progress.
The theme of the meeting was “Freedom, Equality, and the Common Good,” selected by 2021 AALS President Vincent D. Rougeau, President of the College of the Holy Cross.
“This year, let us consider how we might reimagine the intersection of freedom, equality, and the common good to strengthen democracy and rule of law in the years to come and during many of the programs organized as part of this meeting,” Rougeau said during his welcome video.
Presidential Program speaker Michael Sandel delivered Thursday’s keynote address on the limitations of meritocracy. Sandel teaches philosophy at Harvard University and has been described as the world’s most influential living philosopher. Professor Sandel’s book The Tyranny of Merit, named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian and Bloomberg, among others, formed the basis of the talk. Professor Cathleen Kaveny (Boston College Law School) and AALS President Vincent D. Rougeau also participated in the discussion of the book during the session.
Professor Sandel explored the general premise of his book: “How can merit become a kind of tyranny? Merit becomes a kind of tyranny when it creates a society of winners and losers…Those who have landed on top have come to believe that their success is their own doing—the measure of their merit—and they therefore deserve the full bounty that the market bestows upon them. And, by implication, that those who struggle must deserve their fate as well. This way of thinking about success reflects a seemingly attractive ideal: the principle of meritocracy, which, simply put, says that if chances are equal, the winners deserve their winnings. In practice, we fall short of this ideal.”
In another notable session, the 14 law school deans who collaborated on the book Beyond Imagination? The January 6 Insurrection participated in an Authors Meet Readers session on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the events, to discuss the book, their writing process, and the lasting effects of the insurrection.
This year’s hot topic sessions addressed pressing issues in law and legal education including Afghanistan, election subversion, critical race theory, the future of reproductive rights, and the global tax deal.
- Programs from the association’s 104 sections made up most of the conference schedule. Sections also hosted more than 45 networking sessions throughout the meeting, keeping law school faculty, staff, and scholars connected to each other.
- Arc of Career programs that addressed lawyers leading higher education and navigating book publishing.
- A half-day Symposium on Implementing Anti‐Racism and Racial Justice into the Law School Curriculum.
- The Section on Institutional Advancement’s annual program with a series of panels on supporting pandemic graduates, discussions on race, and executive and crisis communications.
- The Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color provided guidance, networking, and support through panels on teaching, scholarship, and paths to tenure and promotion.
Awards & Honors
The Annual Meeting also served as an opportunity to honor outstanding law faculty. On Wednesday, the AALS Awards Ceremony, hosted by 2021 AALS President Vincent D. Rougeau, honored Kimberlé Crenshaw with the 2021 AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Law. In her acceptance speech, Professor Crenshaw said “I hope that the specter of creeping authoritarianism, the very real prospect of syllabi, research dollars, and curricular developments being dictated and vetted by politicians across the nations’ capitals, will spur others to act as well. It is folly to assume that it could not happen here, “it” already has. The question is what we will do about it.”
Read our recent profile of Professor Crenshaw for more information.
The ceremony also recognized the AALS Scholarly Papers Competition winners, section award recipients, and law teachers of the year as selected by their schools. The AALS Scholarly Papers Competition winner, Talia Gillis (Columbia Law School), won for her paper “The Input Fallacy.” The selection committee also recognized the following papers as honorable mentions: Courtney Cox (Fordham Law School) for her paper “Legitimizing Lies,” and Nicholas Serafin (Santa Clara University School of Law) for her paper “Redefining the Badges of Slavery.”
On Sunday, the fourth-annual Section of the Year awards were presented to the Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities and the Section on Property Law. The award honors excellence in member support and other section activities that promote AALS core values.
More than 40 awards from AALS sections were presented throughout the program at networking events and section programming.
- The Section on Women in Legal Education Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Camille deJorna (Law School Admission Council).
- The Section on Minority Groups Clyde Ferguson Award was presented to Dean Leonard Baynes (University of Houston Law Center) and Laura W. Gómez (University of California, Los Angeles School of Law). The Section on Minority Groups Derrick A. Bell Jr. Award was presented Monica C. Bell (Yale Law School).
At the Meeting of the AALS House of Representatives on Saturday, January 8, the 2022 AALS President Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, delivered his inaugural address and announced his theme for the year and the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting, “How Law Schools Can Make a Difference.”
“I have been teaching for over 40 years and I never have seen my students so discouraged. They see a country that has lost faith in the institutions of government… My students see a political system that is broken.” Chemerinsky said during the address. “It is in this context that I have chosen as a theme for the AALS a focus on what law schools can do to make a difference…My hope is that all of us – liberal or conservative – can agree that change is essential and that law schools must make a positive difference.”
The House of Representatives also took a moment to reflect on the law professors who died in 2021.
Blake Morant (George Washington University Law School) presented the candidates for 2022 AALS President-Elect and new members of the Executive Committee in his role as the Chair of the Nominating Committee. The House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of Mark Alexander (Dean, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law) to serve as 2023 President-elect and Eloisa Rodriguez-Dod (Associate Dean, Florida International University College of Law) and Kevin Washburn (Dean, University of Iowa College of Law) to serve three-year terms on the AALS Executive Committee.
Thank you to all AALS sections, chairs, moderators and speakers, and planning committees for your contributions to the planning, programming, and support of a successful Annual Meeting.
Special thanks to the following committees:
Program Committee for the 2022 Annual Meeting
John M. Breen, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
A. Mechele Dickerson, The University of Texas School of Law
Maggie Gardner, Cornell Law School
Garry W. Jenkins, University of Minnesota Law School, Chair
Zahr Said, University of Washington School of Law
Committee on Arc of Career Programs
Catherine M. Brooks, Creighton University School of Law
Heather Elliott, University of Alabama School of Law
Myrisha Lewis, William & Mary Law School
Jason Palmer, Stetson University College of Law, Chair
Natalya Shnitser, Boston College Law School
Kyle C. Velte, University of Kansas School of Law
2022 Deans Forum Program
Anthony W. Crowell, New York Law School
Elizabeth A. Kronk Warner, University of Utah, S. J. Quinney College of Law
Lyrissa B. Lidsky, University of Missouri School of Law, Chair
Anthony Niedwiecki, Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Jennifer L. Rosata Perea, DePaul University College of Law
Committee to Review Scholarly Papers for the 2022 Annual Meeting
Richard Albert, University of Texas at Austin School of Law
Mary Anne Bobinski, Emory University School of Law, Chair
Joan Macleod Heminway, University of Tennessee College of Law
Carissa Byrne Hessick, University of North Carolina School of Law
Kali Murray, Marquette University Law School
Shu-Yi Oei, Boston College Law School
Matthew A. Shapiro, Rutgers Law School
2022 Workshop for Pretenured Law School Teachers of Color
Pauline T. Kim, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
John K. Pierre, Southern University Law Center
Verna L. Williams, University of Cincinnati College of Law, Chair
2022 Section on Institutional Advancement Program
Elisa Douglas, Fordham University School of Law
Victoria Grantham, Fordham University School of Law
Robin Langhans, The Pennsylvania State University – Dickinson Law
Stephanie Silvestri, Seton Hall University School of Law
Colleen Taricani, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Chair