The Legal Beat
AALS 2017: A Guide For The Uninitiated
Posted on Tuesday January 03, 2017
Greetings from AALS! Are you going to AALS this year? Are you on any panels?
If your answer to these questions is “WTF is AALS?,” then you clearly aren’t a law professor.
The 2017 American Association of Law Schools (AALS) conference happens every year. Due to some random city generator epic fail, the conference is held in either Washington, D.C., New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco, or, when Mercury is in retrograde and the stars align, San Diego.
The conference starts almost immediately after New Year’s, because law professors like holidays and don’t want them to end. Also, some of us are not done with grading. Long plane flights help us focus.
There are many things to do at AALS. You could look at the vendors booths, see what cool books there are to adopt, ensure that your own book is proudly displayed, and get coffee and cookies. You could go check out the beautiful city in which the conference is located. For certain individuals, you might go to or be on a panel or two. And, for the law professors who were dropped down to earth by alien life forms, you could go to panels every waking moment.
There are also meetings, breakfasts, and lunches. For example, the Civil Procedure breakfast is sure to be a real hootnanny. The Criminal Justice and Evidence Joint Luncheon and Business Meeting is rumored to be good, but that’s just hearsay. There is a Mixed Empirical Methods workshop, which sounds like Mixed Martial Arts for economists.
Too much stimulus? Well, the AALS has provided a “Contemplative Space for Registrants,” a no electronics zen zone. I’m eager to check this out. The hotels also provide such contemplative spaces and call them “your room,” but you can’t be seen there. And AALS is all about being seen.
Want to get out? Then there’s the Animal Law, Environmental Law, and Natural Resources and Energy Law Joint Field Trip: Farallon Islands Eco-Tour. As you’re on the bus with a bunch of other law professors, you’ll want to bring a guitar and arrange a sing along to make yourself popular.
If you’re still bored, then here are some things I’ve done in the past at AALS:
- If you’re a casebook coauthor, you’ll be invited to an author’s reception. If someone asks which book you wrote, explain that you wrote a children’s book on international law. Explain that the hard part was the artwork, but you were proud that Elmo used it for the “extraordinary rendition” portion of Sesame Street.
- Police the badge police. The AALS provides “security” personnel to AALS to prevent people from entering anywhere without a badge. You could try to talk one of the “security” personnel (aka law students) into allowing you into the room without a name tag. Explain that you HAVE to see Professor X give a talk but you can’t afford the AALS fee. Explain that it has been your life’s ambition to see Professor X give such a talk. Ask to borrow the security personnel’s tag to get in if he or she refuses to let you in without a tag. You won’t be successful. I once hosted a panel, and security refused to let one of my speakers in without a badge.
- Interrupt any conversation/heated discourse at random and accuse both people of being wrong. A friend of mine did this once during a very vocal argument. He then took the time to figure out, using the Socratic Method, what they were talking about in his field of expertise. He did convince them that they were both wrong.
- People watch or socialize. Bonus points if you:
- find someone who is alone and not on an electronic device;
- meet someone who isn’t in your field and aren’t blown off when they look at your name tag; or
- walk up to a group of people and successfully introduce yourself.
- If anyone proudly gushes about having met a (famous in their field) law professor, feign ignorance of the person.
- When someone is going on for more than 20 minutes about an article he or she wrote that is groundbreaking, have a friend ring your phone. Answer it, and say, “Yes, Mr. President. Excuse me…”
- Take your laptop and work on an article at the bar. One of my friends did this once too, and he wound up with a group of people drinking with him. And an article.
- Make up a field of law, and profess to teach a course in it. For example, say you created a course called simply “Law & ….” Suggest what you have done is combine topics from Law & Religion, Law & Society, Law & Economics, Law & Culture, etc. into one exciting blockbuster course.
- Make up a course based upon a popular TV show. I know people have used Law & Order and The Wire to teach courses, but really go further than that. Sadly, in trying to come up with hilarious examples, I have discovered that people have already used them in courses. 🙁 International Law and Star Trek? Lost? Done. Sigh. How about Contract Drafting using Fantasy Island as the client? Divorce Law on the High Seas: The Love Boat? The Law and Science of the Big Bang Theory? Whatever you do, don’t do Star Wars. Cass Sunstein has a monopoly on that.
- In any discussion, list three reasons for anything. For example, there are two reasons for this. One, people like the number 3. Two, people don’t like four or two reasons for anything. They aren’t so much convinced by two and four seems like too much.
- Find @Lawprofblawg. I’ll be doing 1-10, above. But not 11. I know who I am (most of the time).