The 35th annual AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers welcomed more than 60 new law faculty to Washington, D.C. from June 7-9. The workshop was a two-day exploration into the fundamentals of law teaching for professors in the first couple of years of their academic careers. Programming included interactive sessions related to becoming an effective classroom teacher, a productive scholar, a thoughtful mentor, and an engaged member of the community. Workshop attendees also participated in moderated breakout sessions where they had the opportunity to engage with experts from law schools across the country and share ideas with one another.
Sophie M. Sparrow (New Hampshire Law) presents during a plenary session on learning theory.
Suzanne Valdez, workshop planning committee member and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law, said “Professors develop many skills as they progress through their teaching careers. This workshop gives new teachers the initial confidence that they can do it—they can get out there and face their first class. It also reinforces skills for faculty who have taught before.”
Suzanne Valdez (Kansas Law) moderates a panel on inclusion in the classroom with Orin S. Kerr (USC Law), Naomi Jewel Mezey (Georgetown Law), and Veryl Victoria Miles (Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law).
The workshop kicked off with a dinner on Thursday evening, June 7, featuring a mix of inspiration and a call to action. Deanell Tacha, retired judge and former dean of Pepperdine University School of Law, delivered an address on “The Privilege and Responsibility of the Legal Academy, Our Positions, Being a Legal Scholar.”
Deanell Reece Tacha, Pepperdine Law.
The first full day of programming on Friday, June 8 started with a welcome from Wendy Collins Perdue, AALS President and Dean of the University of Richmond School of Law, followed by the opening plenary delivered by Vicki Jackson, AALS President-elect and Professor at Harvard Law School. During her address, Jackson focused on how legal scholarship can help provide stability and needed change to the foundations of the rule of law in an increasingly volatile national and global context.
AALS President-elect Vicki Jackson (Harvard Law) discusses the importance of legal scholarship with workshop attendees along side AALS President Wendy Collins Perdue (Dean, Richmond Law).
AALS Executive Director Judith Areen also welcomed the cohort of new law professors and discussed the importance of professional development, including connecting with colleagues through AALS Sections and at the association’s Annual Meeting and Conference on Clinical Legal Education.
AALS Executive Director Judith Areen welcomes attendees to the AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers.
Throughout the day, topic-specific breakout sessions traded off with plenary panels on scholarship in the age of digital public personae and on exploring the range of service opportunities while managing faculty time commitments.
Eloise Pasachoff (Georgetown Law) leads a breakout session on service requirements.
“[The Planning Committee] wanted energy, and we chose presenters who have a positive outlook on the profession and on teaching,” said Valdez. “That was reflected in the attendee engagement and enthusiasm.”
Okianer Christian Dark (Howard Law) presents teaching techniques.
Deborah Epstein, professor at Georgetown University Law Center, delivered the Friday luncheon address on the skills behind excellent classroom teaching, drawing on her career and expertise in learning theory to begin to rectify the perceived dearth of published guidance on teaching skills.
Deborah Epstein (Georgetown Law) delivers an address on “How to Become an Excellent Classroom Teacher” at the workshop luncheon on Friday.
The day closed with a plenary panel on diversity and inclusion inside and outside the classroom, followed by an evening reception for networking and further discussion with panelists and attendees.
Friday’s plenary session, “Scholarship: Building Relationships and Distributing Your Ideas” with Omari S. Simmons, (Wake Forest Law), Randy E. Barnett (Georgetown Law), Naomi R. Cahn (George Washington Law), and Emily Hammond (George Washington Law).
On Saturday, June 7, the plenary sessions covered assessment and feedback methods, a survey of teaching methods, and current academic research on learning theory. Blake D. Morant, Dean of George Washington University Law School, delivered the luncheon address, “Reflections on Teaching.”
George Washington Law School Dean Blake D. Morant discusses his “Reflections on Teaching” during Saturday’s workshop luncheon.
Valdez dispensed some advice for attendees wanting to get the most out of their time at the Workshop: “Remember to always be a student. I’m always learning from my students. Come to a conference with that mindset. Being open to learning is the healthiest mindset, and that’s how you’ll get the most out of it.”
Workshop attendees collaborate during a breakout session.
Attendees also had the chance to connect with AALS Sections at sponsored breakfasts and receptions spread out over the two days, including the sections on Minority Groups; Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues; and Women in Legal Education.
The 2018 cohort of attendees will participate in a reunion at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans this coming January to reflect on their first semesters in the academy.
AALS thanks the 2018 Planning Committee, as well as all the speakers, moderators, and experts who contributed to a rich and rewarding experience for their newest colleagues.
Planning Committee for AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers
Richard W. Garnett, Notre Dame Law School, Chair
Janet C. Hoeffel, Tulane University Law School
David Min, University of California, Irvine School of Law
Omari S. Simmons, Wake Forest University School of Law
Suzanne Valdez, University of Kansas School of Law