Report of the Executive Director to the AALS House of Representatives

In addition, an increasing number of AALS Sections are offering workshops and works-in-progress sessions for their members. This past year, 42 sections offered webinars that were attended by nearly 3000 registrants on topics ranging from Rethinking Criminal Law Language, and Unpacking Disability Accommodations in Law School, to Cultural Heritage Destruction in Ukraine, and Teaching Cybersecurity Law and Policy.

2. Serving as a Voice for Legal Education

AALS continues to showcase the innovations and accomplishments of member and fee-paid law schools for policymakers, leaders of the bar and bench, the media, prospective law students, and the public.

We continue to rely on your schools (and your communication directors) to submit material to be featured on the AALS website. Most national reporters do not follow most of the nearly 200 ABA accredited law schools, but they follow AALS, particularly our weekly digest of activities at law schools around the nation. In this way we increase the likelihood that your accomplishments and those of your school will be shared with a national audience.

We need to devote time and energy to better preparing our graduates for the challenges to our democracy, voting rights, and the rule of law that still lie ahead.


As we hope you know, the AALS home page now also includes a calendar of upcoming symposia at law schools around the nation. There is also a list of recent books by law faculty. The webpage contains directions on how you can submit information about your new book to the list. You can also subscribe to the weekly Legal Education News and Blogs digests.

3. Improving Services to AALS Sections

In the past year, we have doubled the full-time staff who support sections (from 1 to 2 because, as you know, AALS has quite a small staff). They provide regular information to sections encouraging them to put on programs for their members throughout the year. We ask you to join this new effort to improve the work accomplished by sections by reaching out to faculty at your law school to explain the work of sections and to encourage them to become more active by joining the leadership of at least one section.

4. History of AALS 

There has never been a history written of the AALS. This past spring, the Executive Committee decided to undertake one for the 125th anniversary that occurs in 2025.

We have begun collecting both information and photographs for the planned book on our history—and we invite you to send us things that you would like to see included.

Among the interesting things we have learned so far is that while it is often said that the AALS was founded by the ABA calling a meeting in 1900, it would be more accurate to say that the ABA was founded in 1878 by academics in the ABA. Later, academics in the ABA founded the first ABA Section on Legal Education and then arranged the meeting that produced the AALS itself.

The leader of the founding of the ABA was Simeon Baldwin, who was a law professor at Yale and the ultimate association man. Over the span of two decades, he served as president of the ABA, the AALS (in 1902), the American Social Science Association, the American Historical Association, the International Law Association, and the American Political Science Association.

For most of its first 60 years, AALS was essentially an all-white gentlemen’s club. Things only began to change in 1966 when Clyde Ferguson, who was then dean of Howard Law School, was elected to the Executive Committee. The first woman was not elected to the Executive Committee until 1972, and she was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a faculty member at Rutgers.

Change to the structure of AALS did not arrive until 1972 when the first Sections were established and faculty were empowered to join Sections of their choice for the first time. Before 1972, members of committees and roundtable discussions had to be individually appointed by the president of AALS.

In his remarks to the 1972 House of Representatives, President Richard Maxwell, recently dean of UCLA Law, captured the importance of the moment when he announced:

“We are aware that this [new system] may not work smoothly at once. We may in fact have a bit of chaos at the beginning of it. But we think it can be made to work so that we can keep the Association vital and responsive and have something other than an artificial mechanism of selection of people who want to work in various field.”

I’m sure Dean Maxwell would be delighted to see so many of you here 50 years later, despite the challenges of traveling during a pandemic, and still dedicated to the mission of the AALS.

5. Closing

I will end by thanking the hard-working staff of the AALS. This small staff of 26 plus a handful of students oversee not only this meeting but support you in all the work you do for AALS.

It continues to be a privilege and an honor to work with you and the more than 1000 volunteer faculty, deans, and administrators who plan our programs, speak at them, serve as officers and work on new initiatives. Without your support and hard work and that of your faculty and staff colleagues, AALS could not function. My deepest thanks to all of you.