By Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
As I conclude my year as AALS President, I would like to speak briefly about my year as president. I was deeply honored to have been chosen as President of the Association of American Law Schools. As I looked at those who have served in this role over the last 122 years, I was truly humbled to be among them.
It has been a wonderful experience to be part of the leadership of this important experience. I am deeply grateful to the members of the Executive Committee, to my predecessor Vince Rougeau and my successor Mark Alexander. And most of all, I am grateful to the terrific staff of the AALS and its superb executive director, Judy Areen.
I chose as my theme for this year and this conference “How Law Schools Can Make a Difference.” I think all of us, regardless of our politics, can agree that the problems facing our country, our world, and our planet seem more difficult and intractable than ever before in our lifetimes. Law schools have a crucial role to play and an obligation to do so. I am grateful to the many sections and programs which have focused on this at this year’s conference.
My hope is that law schools will consciously and strategically look for opportunities to make a difference. Some of this will be through the scholarship of our faculty. As an academy, we must find ways to focus the tremendous talents of law faculty on the most intractable problems – the crisis of democracy, the pervasive and persistent inequalities in American society and the world, the existential threat of climate change. These and other topics must be the focus of our scholarship, our conferences, and our pro bono work.
As educators, we must be conscious of our role in training the next generation of leaders and we must give them the tools they need to lead and make a difference. I have been teaching for 43 years and never have seen our students so discouraged. We must provide them hope that they can and will make a difference. Our clinics and our centers provide them opportunities to see this and do this while in law school.
As I look back at the list of those who have served as Presidents of AALS and on its Executive Committees over the last 122 years, I think about how our generation of law professors will be regarded 25 or 50 or even 100 years from now. I believe we will be judged by looking at what we, individually and collectively, did or didn’t do to make a difference in the face of enormous challenges.
I know AALS will continue to make this a major focus. We will have a second online conference on May 4 on protecting democracy through law. And we will have a conference on July 10 on achieving diversity after the Court’s decisions on affirmative action. And so much more to come.
I will simply conclude by saying a heartfelt thank you to all who provided me such wonderful kindness and support in the last year.