This year, AALS conducted its second-ever survey of faculty and staff from AALS member schools about their opinions regarding the association’s activities.
According to the 660 members who responded to our survey, the four most used member resources are the Journal of Legal Education, the Directory of Law Teachers, Sections, and the AALS Annual Meeting; these resources also made up the top four in 2016, when AALS conducted its first member survey.
The Top Four
The Journal of Legal Education (JLE) publishes articles on important issues confronting legal educators and acts as an outlet for emerging areas of scholarship. This year, the JLE enjoyed a five percent increase in reported usefulness: 73 percent of respondents found the JLE very or somewhat useful compared to 68 percent in 2016. In addition to the print edition and its permanent online home at aals.org/jle, AALS staff took steps over the last year to make the JLE even more accessible. This includes distributing each new issue of the journal to members via email, and featuring highlights of the latest issue in AALS News each quarter.
The association continues to make improvements to the Directory of Law Teachers including the addition of an online version with a new search function. Seventy percent of respondents said they find the directory useful, compared to 67 percent in 2016.
Attendees of the 2017 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco continued to enjoy the program enhancements that have been made to the meeting in recent years. More than 2,500 law school faculty, deans, and staff attended, and 63 percent of respondents to our survey found it useful to attend. In accordance with the theme of “Why Law Matters,” the programs at the January meeting focused on novel thinking and fresh perspectives on law and legal education during a time of profound change in the profession.
AALS has 102 sections organized around various areas of expertise for faculty members and professional staff of AALS member schools. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents said sections are useful to them, up from 62 percent last year. Sections develop the majority of programming at the AALS Annual Meeting and may also provide support throughout the year via newsletters, mentorship programs, and discussion on listservs. The association has been focused on improving services to sections including a new AALS Section Counselor e-newsletter for section chairs and enhanced resources for section listservs and webpages.
Responding to Feedback
Over the last two years, AALS has received feedback on some of the core services provided by the association. We’ve listed some of the more common requests and how AALS has worked to address them.
Comment: Put the Directory of Law Teachers online.
In September 2016, AALS Directory of Law Teachers premiered an online search function. This password-protected tool is available to deans and tenured, tenure-track, long-term contract, and emeritus faculty members.
In addition to searching by name and school, the new search function can sort faculty members by subjects taught. Users may also execute sub-searches, including whether the instructor is currently teaching, for how many years the instructor has been teaching, and their seminar offering, among others. It also allows users to cross-search for multiple faculty and multiple subject areas at the same time.
The new online portal presents advantages over the printed directory. Because it is constantly accessible for updates, it provides a more complete snapshot of an instructor’s profile in “real time.” Participants in the directory may adjust privacy settings so their listing reflects the amount of information they would like to be available online.
The association will continue to publish the popular print edition of the Directory of Law Teachers, printed annually as a donation from West Academic Publishing and Foundation Press.
Comment: AALS has been very slow to adapt to new technologies, especially social media, and to provide sections with better ways to interact with members.
Over the last few years, AALS has launched social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, and Flickr along with regular content on each of these channels. The association has also improved resources for our sections, including the launch of a better platform in 2016 for the members of our 102 sections to connect and share materials with each other.
Comment: There is an inconvenience posed to the members by the AALS not providing laptops at [Annual Meeting] panel sessions for PowerPoint presentations.
Although we still ask speakers to bring their own laptops, we have provided a speaker ready room in 2016 and 2017 where speakers have a place to test their equipment, print notes, and practice their presentations. The association also created a list of Frequently Asked Questions for speakers to help presenters prepare for their panels (available on the respective meeting websites).
Comment: I like the new website, but some pages can be difficult to find.
AALS recently made upgrades, including an improved search function, to aals.org. The association has also made efforts to group similar content into categories to make content easier to find. For example, a landing page was created for podcasts, AALS Sections, and data resources.
AALS continue to respond to feedback, and looks for ways to improve services to our members. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to leave feedback or to make a comment/request.