More than 3,000 law school faculty, deans, and staff attended the 110th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) from January 6-10, 2016, in New York City. In accordance with the Meeting’s theme of “From Challenge to Innovation: American Legal Education in 2016,” programs focused on novel thinking and fresh perspectives on law and legal education during a time of profound change in the legal profession. The event is the largest worldwide gathering of law deans, faculty, and staff and featured over 800 speakers at more than 200 sessions covering a wide range of legal topics.
The conference’s opening plenary program on Thursday featured two of the authors of “Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens: Key Roles and Responsibilities in the 21st Century,” Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., Former Senior Vice President for Law and Public Affairs, General Electric and David B. Wilkins, Harvard Law School.
“The purpose of the essay was to put an emphasis on the imperatives of the lawyers’ responsibilities in an age when too much discussion is on economics,” said Heineman. “It also calls for collaboration between law schools, law firms and legal departments.”
The opening plenary also featured the presentation of the AALS Triennial Award for Lifetime Service to Legal Education and the Law to Herma Hill Kay, University of California, Berkeley School of Law. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Professor Kay was acknowledged for her enormous contributions to teaching, scholarship, and leadership. She is perhaps best known for her leadership as Dean of Berkeley Law from 1992-2000 and as co-author of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) which has now become the standard for no-fault divorce nationwide.
“I am honored and humbled, but delighted to accept this award,” said Professor Kay in a pre-recorded video address. “I am proud to join the [previous winners] and look forward to congratulating the 2019 recipient.”
One of the most popular sessions of the 2016 Annual Meeting was “A Conversation with the Honorable Stephen Breyer,” followed immediately by the signing for his recently published book The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities. Justice Breyer discussed his extensive legal career, his time on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the importance of learning how the law is applied across the globe during the talk moderated by Alan Morrison, The George Washington University Law School.
“I do believe that there’s an incredible need in this country, as well as abroad, to explain to high school or college students why we do what we do and why it is important to them… It’s certainly something we’re all in the business of trying to explain to people,” Justice Breyer said, regarding the importance of the rule of law.