Melanie Wilson Assumes AALS Presidency, Named to List of Most Influential in Legal Education Wilson appears at number 14 on the list as she begins her presidency of the Association of American Law Schools.
Melanie D. Wilson, Dean and Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr., Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law, has been named to the National Jurist’s 2024 list of the 20 Most Influential People in Legal Education. Wilson is number 14.
National Jurist describes the list of 20 people as those who “are major forces shaping legal education.” To compile its list, the legal publication requests nominations from every law school in the nation. Its editorial team then narrows the list down and asks several hundred people in legal education, including every law school dean, to rate each nominee based on how much they influenced them in the past 12 months.
For the last year, Wilson served as president-elect of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). On January 6, she assumed the presidency of the flagship legal education association, kicking off her year in office with the launch of her theme, “Courage in Action.”
In her remarks accepting the presidency, Wilson said that lawyers have long had the role of embracing a steadfast commitment to justice, even in the face of unpopular views and controversy. Likewise, she explained that law professors more than ever before must model this same courage every day in classrooms that “reflect the tensions and schisms in society outside the walls of learning.”
“Today, as much as ever before, we need to infuse courage into the legal academy and in the lawyers and the leaders we are preparing and graduating,” said Wilson. “We need the courage to teach our students how to act civilly, even when they vehemently disagree with one another, and we need to teach students how to find common ground with those they oppose. We also must continue to graduate students who find the courage to defend democracy when self-interest or apathy would favor inaction.”
Wilson has served the AALS in numerous capacities during her academic career, including membership on its Executive Committee since 2020.
Wilson is a highly respected scholar and teacher. She writes and teaches about issues of criminal procedure, focusing on the Fourth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, and prosecutors. Wilson is the author of multiple books and law review articles on these subjects. She coauthors Criminal Procedure, Ninth Edition (Carolina Academic Press 2020), with Emeritus Professor Paul Marcus of the College of William and Mary. Her scholarship has also appeared in outstanding scholarly journals, such as the Iowa Law Review, the Utah Law Review, the Hastings Law Journal, Northwestern University Law Review Online, and many others.
Wilson took over the deanship of W&L Law in July 2022, arriving with significant leadership and administrative experience. Wilson spent two years as a junior law faculty member in Atlanta before joining the faculty of the University of Kansas School of Law in 2007, where she went on to serve as professor of law, associate dean for academic affairs, and director of diversity and inclusion. She received the Howard M. and Susan Immel Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas School of Law in 2011 and was named Outstanding Woman Educator of 2015 by the University of Kansas. Wilson left Kansas to become the dean of the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville in 2015, where she served successfully for five years before returning to full-time teaching.
Wilson earned a J.D. (magna cum laude and Order of the Coif) from the University of Georgia School of Law. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in business, also from the University of Georgia, where she was an Academic All-American and a member of the 1986 SEC Championship women’s golf team.
Before entering academia, Wilson clerked for Judge Richard Freeman in the Northern District of Georgia, and practiced law for 13 years in both the private and public sectors, including six years as an assistant United States attorney and four years as an assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia.
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