The Purpose of the AALS January Meeting:
Over at Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Brian comments on the upcoming Association of American Law Schools January meeting for law professors: "[M]y sense is that specialist meetings of scholars have completely displaced the AALS as the destination of choice for those looking for conferences with intellectual content. Am I wrong?" Brian is quite right. This year's panels look unusually good, but in past years I've been significantly underwhelmed.

  Of course, that doesn't mean the AALS January meeting has no purpose at all. As I see it, it serves at least five critical purposes, in descending order of importance: (1) It provides law professors with an all-expenses paid trip to the city where the conference is being held (this year, New York); (2) It provides professors an opportunity to sample the culinary delights of that city (figures Solove would be way ahead of me there); (3) For conservatives and libertarians, it provides a trip to the Federalist Society's shadow conference, always held near the AALS meeting and generally rich in intellectual content (and always with lots of co-conspirators); (4) For blog readers, it puts you in town for the annual CoOp/Prawfs happy hour; and (5) It provides a chance to roll your eyes at the bland and meaningless theme the conference organizers come up with, this year being "Reassessing Our Roles as Scholars and Educators in Light of Change." Uh huh.

  (With that said, yup, I'll be there this year. In fact, I plan to walk up to people to ask, "so, are you reassessing your role as scholars and educators in light of change?" I sure hope they are!

  UPDATE: I amended the post after looking more carefully at this year's schedule; whatever the past failings of the AALS, this year's offerings look much better than the usual ones.

  ANOTHER UPDATE: Eric Muller has posted an amusing essay about the AALS annual meeting here. Footnote 4 is a gem.