Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hopeless Association of American Law Schools

With another meeting on the horizon, I thought I'd flag my post on the AALS meetings from a few years ago.  Whether it is the meetings of the American Law & Economics Association, or the annual Analytic Legal Philosophy conference, or the newer Empirical Legal Studies conferences, my sense is that specialist meetings of scholars have completely displaced the AALS as the destination of choice for those looking for conferences with intellectual content.  Am I wrong?  (As usual, unsigned comments are unlikely to appear.)

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Tracked on Jan 8, 2008 8:10:37 AM


I've been teaching for six years. I've gone to law and society every year as my research interests are interdiscplinary; this will be only the third time I've gone to the AALS. The AALS reminds me of law practice as it is designed for schmoozing and is largely devoid of intellectual content. NYC, however, is a cool city so I'll be there.

Posted by: Miguel Schor | Dec 20, 2007 6:13:52 AM

A further problem not shared, presumably, by the other conferences you've mentioned: membership in other professional societies is reasonably open. Thus, graduate students and others who wish to develop contacts, present papers, and so forth can do so easily. Because the AALS is a society of persons associated with law schools, rather than of people engaged in legal scholarship, those of us not already holding law school academic appointments can't do this. This seems to me to make the AALS less professionally useful and likely to affect the quality of presentations and discussions. Thus, this post counts both as a protest against the AALS's current strictures and as a request for information about alternative comparable venues in which legal scholarship by people outside law schools (I currently teach in a business school) can be shared and law school contacts developed.

Posted by: Gary Chartier | Dec 20, 2007 10:55:46 AM

I took vicarious pleasure from Mark Tushnet's short-lived (and I think genuine) effort to spin the AALS as a "learned society", but knew deep down that it would never work. The Association is ruled by Decanal types and wannabes, and at this point in its history only rarely taps genuine scholars for significant roles. Thus, the efforts at scholarly interchange at the AALS annual meeting are mostly about politics. They tend to be not so subtle efforts to stroke egos and acquire status by association. The funny and illuminating story you recount about the silly panel Sherwin invited you to "join" is a good example of what happens. On the other hand, the room rates for the upcoming New York event are great, so I'll be there!

Posted by: Richard | Dec 21, 2007 6:52:49 AM

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