The conference started at 9:00 a.m. with a welcome from John Harvey, the President of AALS and Dean at Boston College. He is a very gracious and warm person. Professor Mike Green gave a few introductory remarks as well, as the chair of the planning committee for the 2008 workshops for all three conferences: new law school teachers, new law school clinical teachers, and the workshop on the retention of minority law teachers.

The substantive program began at 9:15 a.m. with a plenary panel on “Promotion and Tenure: Getting to Yes.” The panelists were Dean Harvey, Tanya Hernandez of George Washington University, and Mark Niles of American University. They gave a lot of useful pointers to new law professors on how to avoid the pitfalls on the road towards tenure.

The next session was entitled, “Teaching: Strategies to Success.” The speakers were Adrienne Davis, Timothy Davis and Serena Williams. The panel description noted that are a few “born teachers” who are able to command the classroom and foster an environment that encourages student participation and trust without breaking a sweat. But for most of us, there are a variety of specific challenges to face in the classroom, particularly for minority and female colleagues. The three panel members talked about some of those challenges and shared their experiences, and ways that they’ve overcome classroom challenges to engage students.

The AALS sponsored that afternoon featured Blake Morant, Dean at Wake Forest University as the keynote speaker. He is one of the loveliest people in legal education. He gave a very inspiring and thoughtful talk about why it’s important for all of us to remain in academy. He reminded us of what our contributions could and should be to legal education and to society more broadly.

That afternoon I was on the panel with Prof. Leonard Baynes of St. John’s Law School. Our panel was entitled, “Service: Strategies to Success.” During our presentation, we talked about the fact that new faculty should be careful about being overwhelmed by their service commitments. We engaged in a role play in which I was the most unreasonable dean on the face of the earth, who was requiring Len, the young faculty member (who happened to be the only person of color) to take on way too many service obligations. Len’s response demonstrated how a new faculty member could gracefully shuck some of those commitments. We talked suggested that a new teacher who has been tapped repeatedly by the dean to the extent that it is endangering her scholarship, might have senior faculty members or the associate dean intervene. We also answered questions about the various types of service and how each might be valued. As with the other panelists we reminded everyone that all rules are local and it is important for ne faculty members to know their institution and their specific faculty’s view on all these issues.

The next panel entitled, “Scholarships: Strategies to Success” was presented by Mechele Dickerson of the University of Texas and Xuan-Thao Nguyen from SMU. They gave a number of helpful tips on scholarship, specifically how to pick a topic, various types of research when to think about a scholarship agenda, how to start the writing process, what to do if you are stuck, when to circulate a draft, and what about SSRN. It was quite a thorough presentation.

One of the later sessions of the day was a small group discussion on scholarship which was very helpful, because attendees could raise issues that they really didn’t want to talk about in a plenary session. The senior faculty members were assigned to the various small groups to offer encouragement and advice. Afterwards, we gathered again for the final talk given by Dorothy Brown, “You Can Do This.” She was awesome and rocked the house, leaving all of us feeling empowered.

It was an honor to present during the conference. It’s important work, and just as important for the University of Arkansas to be visible encouraging new faculty members of color and to be visible on a national legal education programs.

Thursday evening, Professor Green invited me to attend the reception and dinner for the New Law Teachers Workshop which created a great opportunity to hang with two of our new faculty members, Professor Brian Gallini, and Professor Elizabeth Young. I met Brian in the lobby for a drink before the reception because he had a prior commitment that evening and couldn’t stay for the dinner. We were having a pleasant conversation when a very strange man walked up, and well, you’ll have to ask Professor Gallini what happened next. Let’s just say that he got things straightened our.

Brian and I took off then to find Elizabeth and the three of us attended the reception together. I was delighted to bump into one of my favoritest professors from Iowa, Jim Tomkovicz. He taught me Criminal Procedure, and that was a tall order. Seriously, I become fast friends with Jim and his family and even babysat for them while I was in school. Fortunately, Jim’s research area intersects with Elizabeth’s and Brian’s scholarship interests and he agreed to be a resource for them. Elizabeth, Jim and I sat together at the dinner and had a delightful time. It was the perfect ending to a long day.

Friday, I had an early flight to Houston, Texas where we were having our first law school reception at the Texas Bar meeting. We didn’t learn about this opportunity until a little bit late, so unfortunately we weren’t able to join the other law schools on Thursday night when they all had their receptions. Next year, though we’ll be there with the other law schools on Thursday evening. Fortunately, the Texas Bar Association was gracious enough to allow us to host a reception for our alums on Friday. Teri Stafford met me in Houston for our reception.

As usual on the way to the airport I visited with my cab driver. The topic of the day was the change from zone billing to metered fares. My driver, as you might imagine had very strong opinions about the change and felt it disadvantaged people who lived at the edges of the zones. Many of them he said, were working people who took a cab to work, but now most likely would not be able to afford it. It was, as always an interesting discussion, and the trip to the airport went by quickly.

The Texas Bar meeting was being held at the Hilton Americas in Houston and we had a little bit of time after arriving to gather our thoughts and freshen up before our reception that evening.

[I need to digress here to say that the Regional Director from my sorority Polly Sparks Turner (who I mentioned in an earlier blog posting because she came up to help the sorority celebrate it’s 10th anniversary of the chartering) lives in Houston, and when she learned I would be there she was amazing. She has a very good friend, Algenita Scott, who is very active in the National Bar Association which was having a reception the same evening. Thanks to Soror Polly, I was able to go from our law school reception the National Bar Association reception. Many thanks Soror Dr. Polly Sparks Turner for your thoughtfulness and for coming to our reception and for bringing Ms. Algenita Scott Davis, former president of the National Bar Association with you. What an honor to have them both as our guests. I also very much appreciate Algenita taking the time out of her busy day, prior to attending the National Bar Association reception, to come and meet me and to learn about the University of Arkansas.]

Teri and I were very excited about the U of A reception and we were delighted when a number of our alums attended including Mark Torian, Bob Middleton, Tina R. Green, Gary Holman, Cedrick Frazier and Charles Stewart. We gave them an update on the law school including the completion of the building, and also the upcoming academic and speakers programs, and ecouraged them to visit the law school. It was a wonderful, warm reception. Although we didn’t have as large a turnout as we would have liked, next year we’ll be visible with the other law schools. Then as people hop from reception to reception they’ll be able to stop in to learn more about the University of Arkansas. We’re looking forward to seeing many more of our alums. Also believe it or not, I ran into Rick and Clair Ramsay in the elevator. Rick is the outgoing President of the Arkansas Bar Association this year, and our alum. It was fun bumping into them at the Texas Bar meeting.

After leaving our reception, Soror Turner took me over to the National Bar Association reception. It was a fun event at which I was able to meet a number of lawyers, from around the country, who are active members of the National Bar Association. Although I am a long time member, I’ve never been to the annual meeting. Unfortunately, I had a conflict again this year again, I with SEALS, but I’m looking forward to attending in the future. In the meantime, it was just fun to hang out, to meet a number new folks, and to learn of upcoming the National Bar Association programs.

After that long week so it was time to head back to the hotel to get some rest. Saturday consisted of flying back to Northwest Arkansas and being grateful to be home.