As with most professions, law faculty have different professional development needs at different stages of their career. In an effort to respond to changes in legal education and the legal profession, AALS President Blake Morant appointed a Professional Development Task Force in 2014.
The task force consists of nine members serving two-year terms: I. Bennett Capers, Brooklyn Law School; Susan D. Carle, American University, Washington College of Law [Chair]; Sheila Foster, Fordham University School of Law; Shauna I. Marshall, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Elizabeth E. Mertz, University of Wisconsin Law School; Carol A. Needham, Saint Louis University School of Law; Jason Palmer, Stetson University College of Law; Barbara A. Schatz, Columbia University School of Law; and Michael Waterstone, Loyola Law School.
For the 2016 AALS Annual Meeting, the task force has developed a strong slate of programs aimed at junior, pre-tenure or early tenured faculty, as well as faculty considering lateral moves and retirement planning.
Recently, AALS spoke with Professor Carle, Chair of the AALS Professional Development Task Force, about professional development programs at the upcoming Annual Meeting and how AALS is working to serve the professional needs of law school faculty at every stage of their career.
Can you discuss the new Arc of Career Programs at this year’s AALS Annual Meeting? What can attendees learn at these programs?
We tried to select a well-rounded, diverse set of programs that would appeal to a broad range of attendees. There are five programs on different areas of professional development, (1) Using Rounds about Teaching to Provide Peer Support and Learning Over the Course of a Career: Continuing Education for Teachers Who Educate Lawyers; (2) Scholarly Engagement Post Tenure; Impossible Realities, Infinite Loops, and Movable Staircases: The Impact of Institutional Marginalization on the Tricky, Unpredictable, and Inconsistent Trajectory of the Non-Tenured Track Career; (3) So You Want to Publish a Book?; (4) The AALS In Spite of Itself: How to Use the AALS for Professional Development Even If It Sometimes Makes You Mad; and (5) Joining the Administration: Law School and University Leadership for Law School Professors.
We are hoping that these programs will add new dimensions to the meeting attendees’ experience, by allowing them to focus on career development issues as well as academic interests. Some of the programs are focused on career development skills while others are focused on reflection about career goals and values.
Professional development needs for faculty vary according to experience and area of scholarship. What are common areas of concern for faculty who are new to the academy?
We will be listening intently to learn from new members of the academy about their needs and concerns. Newer members have concerns about setting their scholarly agenda, getting tenure, deciding on publication outlets, balancing and integrating teaching and scholarship, and choosing how to shape their profiles in the areas of public and institutional service. We also want to work on connecting new members of the academy with more experienced professors and want to serve as mentors across institutional boundaries and even fields. We want to be sure new faculty enjoy AALS and see it as a space that reflects their vision and priorities—one they will want to continue to come back to and utilize as their careers unfold.
What about faculty who have earned tenure?
One of the interesting points that emerged out of our committee’s extensive discussions in developing the arc of career idea was the fact that faculty who have achieved tenure still face many career development concerns and challenges, including taking on new big projects, editing or paring commitments once they no longer reflect one’s core commitments or goals, and facing career limits and all those kinds of issues. We also realized that professional and life priorities often change mid-career and we are all thinking about how to respond to changes in legal education and in the legal profession our students are now entering.
How can faculty members at the various stages of their careers take advantage of networking and programming during the AALS Annual Meeting?
One concern involves the fact that the AALS Annual Meeting’s size can make it a bit overwhelming to newer members of the academy. We want to encourage people to find the routes that make the AALS Annual Meeting fun and exciting, including getting involved in AALS sections and working on leadership committees, which is how many people end up becoming more involved in AALS. We also want to make sure that attendees meet people with similar career and professional concerns through taking part in the programming I’ve mentioned. We will also be looking for feedback about what worked well and what didn’t work so well in the pilot programming we are offering for this meeting.
Why are face-to-face interactions and networking important as faculty pursue the knowledge and skills needed to be effective teachers and scholars?
So much “networking” these days takes part through emailing and other forms of electronic communication, but there is nothing like meeting people in person to really get to know them and solidify professional friendships. Also, many intergenerational professional and scholarly friendships become much richer through contacts in person rather than online. There is still a big place for in-person meetings, and the AALS Annual Meeting has become a major location in which these kinds of connections can take place, whether in groups, or in individual meetings over coffee or dinner, or just spontaneous conversations in the hallways and lobbies.
Are there other ways you hope to see AALS foster the professional development of faculty during this challenging time for legal education?
e would like to foster more discussion about the difficult issues we all are facing in our institutions and for AALS to be a place where people come for rejuvenation, ideas, and inspiration, not only about ideas in our fields, but also in our own professional development through the many stages of an academic or administrative career in legal education. In a changing environment, that may be very tough personally and professionally, but it also may offer new opportunities for innovation. We think there is a lot more to explore and discuss along these lines and we are planning to continue those conversations.