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Saturday, August 11, 2007

From the ABA Annual Meeting

I've been spending this weekend at my first ABA annual conference, in San Francisco.  It's different in lots of ways: the hanging out and catching up with people is minimized, since I don't have particularly strong links to practicing lawyers (and given the number of lawyers in the nation I'm not even sure the conference works as a way of catching up with people, unless you and your friends are both heavinly involved in bar activities).  The tone and subject matter of the exhibitors is quite different as well, unsurprisingly -- although at least one university press was there, as indeed, was a law school (an interesting marketing move).  I've been impressed with the sessions, which have been very smart and to the point -- both of which again are unsurprising.

I've also seen a number of law professors, especially at the Admin Law section meeting and events.  I've always heard that the Admin Law section was especially hospitable to academics, and as an admin law prof who lacks any work experience in the bureaucracy I've always been interested in checking them out.  I'm glad I did -- the reputation as welcoming is well-deserved, and I plan on getting involved.

It seems to me that profs, especially newbies in certain areas (admin law for sure and maybe specialized subjects like antitrust and environmental law) could spend their time in worse ways than getting involved in ABA sections.  We all know the complaints about the large disconnect between academics and practitioners.  Without getting deeply into that debate, it seems to me that there's at least a strong argument that that gap really is too large, and that academics could learn a lot from -- and teach -- their classmates who went into private practice.  For me at least the two hours I spent listening (and contributing very modestly) to a group of practitioners, ALJs and academics mark up the draft model state APA was time extremely well spent.  The discussion was at an extremely high level, and often touched on some of the fundamental issues I think about in administrative law.  But the discussion was also leavened with practica experience that I simply couldn't access at most academic conferences.  I suspect others could benefit from analogous experiences.

Posted by Bill Araiza on August 11, 2007 at 08:19 PM | Permalink


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Excellent point, and well made. I think such contacts are very important for empirical work as well, since you can easily both become better informed about your area of research (and thus avoid potential research errors) and become networked into potential research sites.

Posted by: JodyM | Aug 12, 2007 9:09:16 PM

This is my second ABA annual meeting as a law professor. I completely concur with Bill's assessment. This is time well spent, both substantively in topics we teach and making connections with practicing lawyers. I have really enjoyed myself. bh.

Posted by: Bill Henderson | Aug 12, 2007 1:25:51 AM

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