Should International Law Professors Attend AALS?

by Roger Alford

I’m here at the AALS annual meeting enjoying the beautiful surroundings of San Diego. The Malibu winters are brutal and therefore the chance to flee one part of glorious southern California for another part of glorious southern California is most welcome.

But I must admit I am completely agnostic about attending the AALS. I scan the program for the meager portions of international law that are served each year. This year is no different, and it is safe to say that one morning at the ASIL annual meeting is more fruitful for the international scholar than four days at AALS.

Which begs the question, should international law professors attend AALS? I can think of three possible reasons for attending: (1) AALS allows one to network with the larger academy outside international law; (2) AALS provides an opportunity to attend panels on subjects you do not write about but teach; and (3) AALS offers the best opportunity to look at the big picture of the legal academy.

The best argument for attending AALS is to reach out to those in one’s broader concentric circles of professional relationship. Attending international law conferences will strengthen relationships with the core circles of one’s professional life, but AALS allows one to build and renew relationships in the outer circles.

Second, there are always a few panels at the AALS that offer interesting insights on subjects that I teach. Contracts, for example, is rarely a subject that features prominently in my writing and I have yet to attend a full-blown Contracts conference. Yet I think Contracts is one of the best classes to teach and AALS panels about Contracts are typically of very high quality. The same goes for Constitutional Law.

Third, international law conferences never ask the big questions about the future of law schools. The AALS annual meeting regularly does. So I look forward to attending Thursday’s session on Institutional Pluralism and Friday’s session on measuring law school success beyond US News rankings also looks quite good.

I suppose there is always the hidden reason lurking in the background, which is the self-serving opportunity to spend a few leisurely days in a wonderful venue in early January at someone else’s expense. But frankly if that were my real reason for attending AALS I would feel too guilty to enjoy the experience.

2 Responses

  1. Given that I have a 20-hour trip ahead of me tomorrow to get there I certainly hope we should!!

  2. Fiona,

    You have an easy choice.  A young scholar like yourself speaking on a panel with Philip Bobbitt and Brian Tamanaha is an easy yes.


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