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August 26, 2013

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Richard Gershon

The AALS needs to help law schools in this regard. SEALS as an organization is much more inclusive, and the cost of membership in SEALS is less than $1000 per school. The AALS membership fee is in excess of $10,000 per school. Factor in the cost of a AALS site visit every seven years, and we have to start asking what is the benefit of AALS membership, when our faculty members have other options to share their scholarship and interact with colleagues from other law schools?

AnonProf

AALS is a great conference. I've made many connections there over the years; met and conversed with people with whom I've stayed in contact, called to consult periodically, and/or to whom I've sent drafts. And on multiple occasions (yes, multiple occasions) I've secured publications and symposia invitations on the spot or some months after attending.

I highly recommend people attend. It's the best networking opportunity of the year. Use your own money if the school won't provide it.

Win

AnonProf: you would admit, I trust, that experiences vary; many attend without such a clear payoff, and at least a few confess to/boast of behaving at the conference in such a way as to defeat those opportunities. Probably to some degree it depends on the field.

Still, you leave two questions unanswered. First, is it the kind of expense that schools should bear in budget-strapped times, or should each of us spend our own money if we think it worthwhile? Second, and bearing the first answer in mind, do you think it does an adequate job of containing expenses? Personally, I suspect that if school subsidization were eliminated and costs remained the same, attendance would drop by 50% or more, but that is sheer speculation.

P.S. As to SEALS, query how attendance would fare if it were hosted in Mississippi.

AnonProf

Dear Win,

I agree with you that achievement is in large part based on personal deportment and, more importantly, depth. But that's true at all professional functions. Someone who acts like an ass or a phony shouldn't expect doors to open, but the professional openings are there (and I think they are available at AALS to a greater degree than any other law school conference because of the number and diversity of attendees). As a caveat let me add that it's possible for the best, most astute people to be passed up, but I think if they stay at it they'll eventually (probably sooner rather than later) develop a good professional circle. A further caveat is that sometimes week players get picked for political and prestige reasons.

Field matters too but often luck knocks into you at a coffee table, a book stall, an audience panel, or in the halls and it's up to each of us to grab it and make the most of it; not out of opportunism but to enjoy the depth, if only for a few stolen moments. You never know what'll become of a chance meeting--it may go nowhere or it might lead to a major career break.

I think law schools should pay the cost of attending. Law School badge recognition can (but to be honest probably won't) stick in someone's mind and lead to better ratings on the US News questionnaire. That's unlikely, I know, what's more probable is that it'll improve the intellectual life of the academy as a whole and law in particular. That's good for us and students: I'm willing to bet ten gold dollars that this January I'll learn of cases I missed (and should have know), articles I overlooked, and books that are must reads.

I think the expenses are relatively reasonable. Hotel rooms come at the much reduced group rate. But the breakfasts and lunches seem exorbitant. The gala is a nice treat.

I agree with you that if schools were to cease subsidizing the event attendance will sharply decline. And location surely matters as well.

Best wishes,
AnonProf

anon2

Do many schools actually give faculty "extra money" to attend AALS? I'm at a top-50 school and we have never given money to faculty to go; if you want to go, it's funded out of your normal research allotment. hence, I never go, as it is very expensive.

Anon

My school used to give separate funding for AALS, for reasons that aren't clear to me. In any event: no longer. It's now just funded out of your normal research allotment like everything else.

VAP

At my prior school, AALS attendance came from a separate pool of money and everyone was welcome to attend.

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