Proceedings: Volume 1, Issue 1


AALS Annual Meeting  |  Washington, D.C.  |  January 4, 2020

The 2020 AALS Annual Meeting included a discussion group that addressed the joys and challenges of mentoring law students, which is one of the most important parts of our work as law professors. The discussion was guided by three questions: How do we mentor all students? How can law professors balance the demands of mentoring with scholarship, teaching, and other service? How does scholarship intersect with mentoring? Some participants emphasized the impact of mentoring on colleagues who find themselves on the front lines of mentoring—legal writing faculty, professors who are persons of color, women, professors who identify as LGBTQ, etc.—and how institutions can be more supportive of our mentoring work.


Participants & Moderators

Tiffany Atkins

Dan Barnett

Olympia Duhart

Alicia Jackson

Tiffany Jeffers

Sherri Keene

Rosario Lozada

Hilary Reed

Suzanne Rowe

Craig Smith

Danielle Tully

Melissa Weresh




             At the start of each new year, I pull out my phone and go through my pictures from the past year. As I scrolled through the 2019 highlight photos recently, I saw pictures from a human rights conference I attended in Florence and a baby shower I attended on Biscayne Bay. At the human rights conference, I co-presented with my law school mentor, who has been a steady presence in my life for twenty years now. The baby shower celebrated one of my former Legal Research and Writing (LRW) students, a young woman who declared on the first week of school that I would be her mentor. That was nine years ago. As I prepared for this panel today, I thought of those pictures, those experiences and what each of those people has come to mean to me.

            My own career has been enriched in so many significant ways by the experiences I have had as both a mentor and mentee. And I know my experiences are not unique. I think those relationships speak to the enduring power and privilege of mentoring. Mentoring truly offers incredible benefits for people on both sides of the table, and the mentoring relationship can be both personally and professionally transformative.

            But for all of its benefits—and, yes, there are many—mentoring often gets lost in the shuffle when we tally institutional value and time spent. Part of this conversation today is dedicated to maximizing our efforts in building these critical relationships, but we would also like to explore ways to strengthen institutional recognition for this hard but important work.

            SUZANNE ROWE:

            Mentoring is some of the most rewarding and the most demanding work we do as law professors. In mentoring, we go beyond teaching content to focus on the student—understanding each student’s goals and challenges and using the student’s background and identity to empower the student to succeed.  This work takes enormous time, but we face the same demands of teaching, service, and scholarship no matter how time-consuming or successful our mentoring is. 

            Sometimes, we need to be magicians to pull this off: We could use Hermione’s time-turner so that we can be in two places at once (e.g., spending an hour with a student and writing our next law review article). We need a cloak of invisibility when the dean is handing out service assignments; instead, we get the most intensive assignments, but our mentoring is invisible when it’s time for promotion and tenure decisions.

            We’ve invited some of the best magicians we know to share their insights on mentoring—how to do it well, how to mentor all students (not just those who readily connect with us), and how to make mentoring visible and get our schools to support it. We’ve broken the three guiding questions noted at the outset into five components that we’ll pose to various participants. Then the participants respond to each other, creating a dynamic discussion.