New teachers in the legal academy gathered in early June in Washington, D.C. for the AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers. This annual three-day event integrates new faculty into the legal education community.
Law schools nationwide have entered a period of significant change in which expectations for faculty have evolved to include simultaneous contributions as scholars, professors, mentors, and active institutional citizens. The AALS Workshop for New Law School Teachers serves as a guide for that transition. The program included plenary speakers, panel presentations, small group discussions, and other formats.
Participants shared their experiences and concerns both with each other and with a roster of experienced scholars and teachers chosen for their commitment to legal education, the distinction they have achieved in their own careers, and the diversity of their scholarly efforts and approaches to teaching.
“I think the information in this workshop is really useful for people not just entering the field, but a few years into it,” said Workshop Planning Committee Chair Kimberly Yuracko. “As a new law school teacher, you will not know everything you need to after only one year—particularly about institutional participation and concerns. When I started teaching law, I wish I had realized the importance of institutional service. It’s not enough anymore to simply teach your classes and conduct your scholarship.”
The group-oriented, personalized format of the workshop allowed opportunities for participants to discuss how to apply presented concepts within their own schools, as well as develop solutions to common areas of tension for incoming and transitioning faculty members.
The workshop began on the evening of Thursday, June 9, with small group discussions and a sponsored dinner and reception which included a plenary address from professor and former dean, Frank Wu, University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
The day’s slate of speakers, chosen by the Workshop Planning Committee, passed along valuable advice about developing, placing, and promoting one’s scholarship as well as tips and techniques for successful student engagement and assessment.
AALS Past President Blake Morant appeared on a panel discussing “The New World of Academia: Planning for the Future.” A plenary panel moderated by Planning Committee Chair Kimberly Yuracko covered the nuances of managing institutional relationships in an environment in which young faculty members are increasingly expected to interact with a variety of audiences. In addition, Nancy Polikoff delivered an address on the role of the legal scholar in a changing world during the day’s luncheon.
During “Distributing Your Ideas,” a panel of law professors and a communications officer explored techniques to manage scholarship and expertise for multiple audiences. Randy Barnett (Georgetown University Law Center) discussed nontraditional ways of distributing ideas such as blogging—a good way to connect and garner feedback, especially when your scholarship or perspective may be in the minority within your institutional culture.
The AALS Sections on Women in Legal Education, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues, and Minority Groups held informal gatherings during the course of the workshop, welcoming new professionals from around the country into the AALS community.
The workshop wrapped up on Saturday, June 11 with a day of plenary sessions on “Diversity and Inclusion Inside and Outside the Classroom,” “Teaching,” “Learning Theory,” and “Assessment.”
“Everyone has a lot to think about and digest,” Kimberly Yuracko said about the atmosphere as the workshop drew to a close. “Some of the information from this workshop will be useful in year three or year five of teaching and beyond; a lot of it is going to be helpful even before day one.”
The 2016 Workshop for New Law School Teachers was organized by the Planning Committee, whose members included:
Donna Nagy, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Immediate Past Chair
Jayesh Rathod, American University, Washington College of Law
Kami C. Simmons, Wake Forest University School of Law
Michael E. Waterstone, Loyola Law School – Los Angeles
Kimberly Yuracko, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Chair