Dear Colleagues and Friends of Legal Education:
As the Constitution of the United States is the cornerstone of democracy, America’s law schools are the wellspring where future attorneys acquire the knowledge and skills to uphold the founders’ compact and to protect the rights it guarantees to the people. Our legal education system is a model for the world. Indeed, many countries send their most talented legal minds to American law schools to pursue legal degrees.
But the heart of legal education’s mission is to prepare those who will practice law in the United States, representing and guiding individuals, businesses and institutions; helping to shape public policy; defending, prosecuting and deciding legal cases; and solving quarrels and societal problems outside the courtroom as well as inside.
For more than a century the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) has worked to advance excellence in legal education by supporting outstanding teaching and scholarship, encouraging innovation, and promoting diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints.
AALS represents the deans and professors of 176 law schools that educate most of the nation’s lawyers and jurists and many of its policymakers. Another 17 are fee-paid law schools. AALS law schools prepare their graduates not only to practice law, but to become problem solvers and leaders in government, business and the private sector in positions that do not require a J.D. degree.
Law faculty and students grapple with questions that affect everyone, from justice and civil rights to property and taxation, to intellectual property and international law. While the AALS’s most visible role is serving as a voice for legal education, our greatest service may be bringing faculty together to explore the full panoply of issues that vex both public and private lives.
The AALS Annual Meeting draws nearly 3,000 faculty, deans, and senior administrators from the United States and other countries each January; it constitutes the world’s largest gathering of law faculty to exchange scholarly insights and participate in the 104 sections that discuss in-depth discrete areas of law. Other AALS forums and services assist faculty as they enter the academy, provide venues for clinical faculty and assist law schools in recruiting and interviewing faculty.
Although the contributions law schools and their graduates make to society are evident, we operate in an era when all of higher education is taking a hard look at costs and student debt, as well as issues of access and equity. To this end, AALS in 2017 undertook a major research project, Before the JD, collecting survey data from 22,189 undergraduate students and 2,727 first-year law students. The resulting dataset provides important insights into the factors contributing to an undergraduate’s decision/intention to pursue a graduate or other professional degree in general and law school in particular. Through its research team and the support of its member schools, AALS continues to examine trends in legal education and share its findings with its constituents within legal education and higher education more broadly.
We invite you to explore this website to learn more about AALS, what we do, and how our member schools are responding to the challenges facing legal education and our world.