Get to Know AALS Sections

Clarissa Ortiz

AALS Sections are interest groups comprised of faculty members and professional staff of AALS member schools. The association’s 104 sections present the majority of programs at the AALS Annual Meeting as well as present awards, offer mentoring programs, provide resource exchanges, publish newsletters and directories, and host discussion lists.

Clarissa Ortiz joined AALS in March 2020 and has seen how important connections and community have become during the pandemic. As AALS Manager of Section Services, she is the primary AALS contact and resource for law school faculty and staff in sections. AALS News recently sat down with Ortiz to discuss how these groups supported each other virtually and helped maintain important connections when in-person gatherings were impossible.

Over the last several years, AALS has improved its services and support of sections. What are some examples? How have they helped section programming and members connect with each other?

AALS has improved our website at and has revamped section pages over the last several years. Each section’s webpage now acts as a centralized location for all section resources and activities, including those available to anyone (list of section leadership, newsletters, statements, calls for papers, Annual Meeting programming) and those available to section members. Members can also log into a section’s discussion board directly from that section’s webpage.

I encourage anyone to visit and explore the wealth of knowledge and resources available from faculty and deans.

Many sections are now hosting virtual events like webinars and Section Socials to help members stay connected outside of the Annual Meeting. Many webinars are recorded and available for playback at

What future improvements will we see regarding sections? How can AALS help sections succeed in their efforts?

AALS Sections are headed in a new direction. We hope to see more Sections involved in hosting virtual events, mentoring programs, and fruitful conversations via AALS discussion lists.

Also, anyone who is a member of any AALS section should now be receiving a monthly newsletter from me in their inbox. Look for a message from AALS Sections, with the subject line “AALS Connect.” This newsletter includes updates from AALS headquarters, section highlights, and a calendar of upcoming section events.

What were some of the events that sections hosted over the summer? How were they received by law school faculty and administrators?

This summer there were over 30 virtual events! Topics varied from teaching during the pandemic and ensuring equality in legal academia to well-being courses and programs and a Q&A for beginner empiricists. Many faculty members expressed how great it was to connect and “see” faculty though they are states away. During this time, it is so important to share resources and knowledge – or even just connect with colleagues to catch up and say hello.

What are some of the formal and informal ways that sections assist early-career professors?

Many sections have Works-in-Progress Sessions at the Annual Meeting for early-career members and send out calls for papers throughout the spring and summer each year. Works-in-Progress sessions provide the opportunity for junior scholars to present draft papers and obtain feedback from their colleagues. See for current CFPs.

Outside of the Annual Meeting, several sections have mentorship programs to assist junior faculty, including the Sections on Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence, and State and Local Government. The Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution is organizing an online dispute resolution-focused works-in-progress speaker series for junior scholars in the coming academic year with 15 law schools.

What advice do you have for faculty and administrators that want to be more involved in AALS Sections?

Join Sections! The best way to get more involved is to attend the networking events and webinars that occur throughout the year. We also encourage all individuals to apply for leadership positions in sections they are passionate about.