Training Students in Civil Discourse: New Public Deliberation Workshop Developed as Part of ABA Standard 303 Efforts

The recent amendments to ABA Standard 303(b) (development of a professional identity) & (c) (education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism) did not require major adjustments to our programming at Baylor Law. Still, a 303 Committee was appointed to ensure and document our compliance. With a mission to “train lawyers who are able to practice law with competence, serve with compassion, and provide effective and ethical leadership,” we have long been dedicated to the notion that our job does not end with teaching basic concepts of law and legal analysis. With a tradition of incorporating a significant amount of practical skills training, the concept of professionalism is baked into the DNA of a Baylor Law education. With that said, we recognized eight years ago that we needed to be more intentional in our professional development training. In 2014, we created our Professional Development Program and our Leadership Development Program to be more intentional in preparing students for the modern challenges of being a member of our time-honored profession.

The 303 Committee’s review of our curriculum and programming confirmed numerous ways in which Baylor Law develops law students’ professionalism. But the Committee did not stop there. More can and should be done and we spent the summer exploring enhancements and additions to our programming. This post highlights one of those new programs. Beginning with the Fall 2022 entering class, all entering students will participate in a public deliberation workshop.

What is public deliberation and why should law students learn how to do it?

The public expects lawyers to be zealous advocates for their clients, but sometimes a lawyer’s conduct goes beyond zealous advocacy and crosses the line of civility. Not only does ill-mannered conduct reflect poorly on our profession, but it also contributes to the normalizing of disrespectful, uncivil, and polarizing reactions to viewpoints and statements with which a person does not agree.

Lawyers’ professional obligation extends beyond individual clients to our system of justice and to society. As stated in the preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct: A Lawyer’s Responsibility, “[a] lawyer is a representative of the clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Since the beginning of this nation, lawyers have recognized that their special status comes with a professional responsibility to address pressing issues facing society. A lawyer’s legal education and training provide the opportunity to be change agents and difference makers not only for their clients but also in their communities and across the nation. These professional obligations and opportunities for influence call for lawyers to model civil discourse and to be able to facilitate deliberation in a calm and respectful manner.

This workshop teaches our students a different way to approach advocacy – one that helps them embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively.

“Deliberation involves the best parts of dialogue (conversational) and debate (argument) to offer an experience where participants can learn from one another by talking through different perspectives and approaches to local and global issues and working together to come up with community action steps.


We want this experience to occur early in law school so they recognize that civility and professionalism are not antithetical to zealously representing a client. We also hope the experience will inspire and enable students to approach some of the most potentially heated issues debated in the public square (e.g. race, religion and its role in society, sexual orientation, gun rights or gun control, among others) with a desire to build community through shared values, solve problems and build a better tomorrow.

Public Deliberation Workshop Required for Entering Students

Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, each entering student at Baylor Law will be introduced to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative.  Dr. Joshua Ritter, Director of the Public Deliberation Initiative, described the workshop as a “partnership for training law students as active deliberative citizens with democratic skillsets they can implement within their own communities and leadership.” 

The 1 ½ hour workshop began with a video from the Dean to explain the importance of the effort and to give some context. After some initial remarks and instructions by Dr. Ritter, the law students were divided into groups of 10-12 and given an issue for discussion. Different topics can be used but it needs to be one that generally elicits a wide range of differing views. We used food insecurity for our first workshop.

Facilitating each group is a second- or third-year law student who participated in a 2- hour training session with Dr. Ritter. The facilitators keep the group on task while remaining neutral. The goal is not to change anyone’s mind on the particular issue, but simply for each participant to hear and to be heard on the issue.

Through this interactive exercise, we hope to demonstrate to students that individuals with diametrically opposed positions often share common values but they may prioritize those values differently.  We also recognize the benefit to the law school environment. Creating a culture of respect for colleagues with different life experiences and perspectives will enrich our classrooms and programs.

Please contact us for more information on this program. 


Leadership, Professional Identity, and Student Wellness Programs Honored by ABA

Back in July, we congratulated our colleagues from Texas A&M Law and Ole Miss Law for joining us as recipients of the 2022 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards. See pictures below from August at the Annual Meeting of the ABA in Chicago as we proudly shared the stage for the presentations by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism. Our schools were recognized at the Joint Awards Luncheon of the ABA Division of Bar Services and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. “This Award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and ongoing professionalism programs established by law schools, bar associations, courts, and other not-for-profit legal organizations that help ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public.”

As you develop your plan for professional identity formation and student wellness programs (now mandated by ABA Standards 303 and 508), we encourage you to review and consider aspects of the programs described below that could be adapted for use at your law school. We certainly are!

All three programs recognized with this prestigious award were honored for education, training, and activities already in place before the new ABA requirements. Here are brief descriptions of the 2022 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards Recipients:

Baylor Law School Leadership Development Program

The Baylor Law School Leadership Development Program stands out for its deep commitment to preparing law students for their important roles as leaders in our society, emphasizing that lawyers as leaders have a special obligation to their clients and society to act with honesty, integrity, and civility in all matters. The leadership development program incorporates all essential characteristics and competencies essential to students’ professional identity formation. Created in 2013, Baylor’s Leadership Development Program consists of five major components: (1) an elective two-hour Leadership Engagement and Development course covering various topics including leadership styles and strategies, public service, and professional responsibilities; (2) 18 hours of professional development programming offered throughout the year designed for students to build skills necessary to succeed in practice and help students understand and embrace their responsibilities as a lawyer and leader in society; (3) a Leadership Fellow designation at graduation for a select few students who complete additional requirements in a Fellows program, including 25 hours of community service and serve as an intern for a charitable or community organization working a minimum of 45 hours; (4) an annual Making a Difference (MAD) Conference, featuring speakers selected to inspire students and lawyers to use their legal training to make meaningful contributions to their communities, discussing various topics, including public service, access to justice, and racial disparities; and (5) a national blog, entitled Training Lawyers as Leaders, dedicated further to encourage and support leadership development programming in legal education across the nation.

Baylor Law’s Leadership Development Team holds the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award with members of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. (L-R) D. Nichole Davis, Risk Management Director & Mentoring Program Administrator, South Carolina Bar; Stephanie Villinski, Deputy Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism; Baylor Law Professor Leah Teague, Associate Dean Pat Wilson, and Assistant Dean Stephen Rispoli.

Texas A&M University School of Law Professional Identity Course

Professional Identity (PI), at Texas A&M University School of Law, a required 1L course since Fall 2016, emphasizes core lawyering values, the self-directed development of interpersonal competencies critical to effective law practice, and the importance of well-being. This robust program focuses on helping students develop professional values, competencies, and a professional identity at the beginning of their law school career and provides a meaningful foundation for a successful career in the practice of law by introducing students to the “foundational pillars of the legal profession, including service, justice, and civility.” The PI program meets six times in the Fall and six times in the Spring and is structured into specific class modules centered on various professionalism concepts. Examples of the topics covered in the course modules include identifying lawyering competencies, developing an authentic narrative, well-being with an emphasis on mental health, grit, resilience and strategic pivoting, and leadership for lawyers. Student reflection writing exercises following each module provide students an opportunity to think more deeply about the topics discussed in class and allow the law school to assess the effectiveness of the PI program and make any necessary changes to build the program for the next year.

Stephanie Villinski and Aric Short, Professor of Law and Director, Professionalism and Leadership Program, Texas A&M University School of Law (https://ncbp.org/resource/dynamic/communitygallery/20220902_150808_27493.JPG)

The University of Mississippi School of Law Student Wellness Program

The University of Mississippi School of Law Student Wellness Program is a robust, multi-dimensional program aimed at helping students thrive both in law school and after graduation. Built around the foundational research supporting the recommendations of the ABA National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and the principles of the ABA Well-Being Campaign and Pledge, the Law School established the Student Wellness Program in 2018 with the objectives to promote healthy habits and lifestyles of the students at the beginning of their 1L year and communicate the relationship between wellness and professionalism. The program’s initiatives are designed to help students learn about, practice, or reflect upon six dimensions of personal well-being: intellectual, mental/emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational/financial. Beginning with a Student Wellness Challenge, presented the first week of each new semester, students are encouraged to track the healthy things they do daily, earn points for various activities and events, and are ultimately rewarded with different levels of prizes. The student with the highest total points at the end of the semester receives the first-place prize, a much-coveted parking place in the Law School’s front parking lot. Other programming, activities, and events available to students throughout the student’s law school career also incorporate wellness, including programs on diversity, equity, and inclusion and the recognition of its relationship to wellness. Orientation for first-year students combines programming on wellness and professionalism followed by students taking a professionalism oath. Programs presented on National Law School Mental Health Day discuss work-life balance, financial literacy, psychological resilience, and strategies for coping with the stresses of life in the law. To provide students with the highest-quality well-being resources, the Law School partnered with the University of Mississippi’s Department of Psychology to make available on-site individual, confidential counseling sessions to students free of charge. Counselors are fifth-year doctoral students in clinical psychology and licensed therapists who are supervised by the Department’s clinical faculty.  The Continuation-To-Do Kit with the “1-2-3” framework of the Student Wellness Program makes it easy for the Law School to adapt and expand the program as necessary to reflect rapidly changing student needs and preferences, new environmental factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and staffing changes. The wide acceptance and success of the Student Wellness Program led the University to launch the Chancellor’s Wellness Challenge, modeled on the Law School’s program and available for all University of Mississippi students. 

(L-R) Susan Duncan, Dean and Professor of Law; Brittany Barbee, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs; Alexandra Gilbert, Wellness Counselor;
all from the University of Mississippi School of Law

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism for recognizing and supporting these important efforts to better equip our students for entry into our noble profession. Through efforts such as these across the nation, future lawyers will be better prepared to serve and lead clients, organizations, and communities.


New Professional Identity Book Guides Law School Faculty and Staff

Neil W. Hamilton and Louis D. Bilionis continue their all-star efforts to guide and support law school faculty and staff tasked with meeting the new requirements in ABA Standard 303. Their new book, Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals (Cambridge University Press, 2022) is now available to help those charged with providing substantial opportunities for the development of their students’ professional identity, as well as education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism. The book has received praises and endorsements from many deans and professors, including Professors Patrick Longan, Daisy Hurst Floyd, and Timothy W. Floyd who just published a book review in the July/August NALP Bulletin (viewable by members only). As explained in that review, “[t]he book is aimed primarily at law school professors and administrators who understand professional identity and appreciate its importance but who are at schools where professional identity formation has not yet taken root. For members of that audience, the book provides wise advice about how to proceed step-by-step and a detailed look at the best practices for promoting professional identity formation.”

Highlights of the Hamilton and Bilionis book were shared in a two-part article published in the May and June NALP Bulletins. Because of the importance of the topic and the value of their work, those two articles are available to the public as NALP Bulletin highlights: Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 1: Understanding the New Requirements, and Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 2: Action Steps to Benefit Students, Law Schools, and the Legal Profession. I understand Part 3 will be published soon!

In their work, Hamilton and Bilionis encourage law schools to start with a group of enthusiastic faculty and staff who are already interested and then empower them to engage in professional identity work that will meet the students “where they are.” Their book provides a plan for creating programming that will benefit “students, legal employers, clients, the legal system, and the law school.” Their goal is to assist law schools as they effectively and practically address the new 303(c) requirement. They note ABA Standard Interpretation 303-5 which recognizes that the work of “developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time,” and therefore, law schools should provide students with “frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.”

As Longan, Floyd and Floyd add, “[i]n Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals, Professors Hamilton and Bilionis have done legal education a tremendous service by setting forth the opportunities for professional identity formation in this moment and providing a practical playbook for taking advantage of those opportunities, even in the face of some expected institutional resistance.”

This is critically important work in legal education!  We appreciate all of you for your dedication to better preparing law students for their future work as professionals and leaders.  

– Leah


Leading Without Authority

Have you ever been in a situation where your ideas or concerns, as expressed to those in authority, did not lead to action? Did it leave you feeling dissatisfied and powerless? Many of us have found ourselves in these frustrating situations– or even hopeless– because we had no authority to change the situation. Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Leading Without Authority, is written to encourage and empower us as leaders and influencers, especially in situations where we have no title, position, or power of authority to act.

Ferrazzi frames a new dynamic for leadership that encourages those in a follower position, and even those in a leadership position, to use collaborative approaches to problem-solving that redefine the traditional power paradigm. Ferrazzi places this new framework on our ability to create our own team, identify our own goals, and effect change. It is packed with strategies and approaches to leading without authority, not only for those who teach leadership but particularly important for law students and young lawyers who have not reached a point in their career to hold traditional leadership power or positions.

We highly encourage you to pick up or download a copy and recommend it to your law students. The lessons in it will help them, starting with their internships and clerkships this summer.

– Liz and Stephen


How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge

As a follow-up on the wonderful letter from Dean Brinkley to law students posted last week, I highly recommend How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, by Clay Scroggins, by Clay Scroggins for some summer reading for our law students (and faculty, too!). Better yet, they can download the audiobook and hear Clay Scroggins read it to them. The audiobook really allows Scroggins’s personality and flair to come through while reading an already-entertaining book.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge is a wonderful reminder for all of us, no matter our title, position, or authority, that leadership is built upon relationships. But it is especially helpful for students participating in summer internships. Students can use the book to incorporate the lessons they are learning in law school and apply them in their summer internships to make good impressions and help their organizations. As the least senior team members, this book can give them practical tips and suggestions for discovering who they are and how they fit into the organization, how they can make a positive difference, and even how to challenge, in a constructive and respectful manner, the more senior lawyers with whom they work.

A note about Clay Scroggins: As the lead pastor for North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, this book has a religious slant. Although not overbearing, I did want to mention it so that readers will know going in.

I thouroughly enjoyed this book and am sure that you will too!

– Stephen


Dear Summer Law Clerk,

Special Guest Post By:

Martin H. Brinkley, Dean and William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill.

As we roll into June and turn our focus to helping law students apply leadership skills in their summer internships and other opportunities, we reached out to Dean Martin Brinkley at UNC Law School requesting that he share some words of wisdom with all of our law students. We love what he wrote! Please share this letter with your students!

Dear Summer Law Clerk,

Before becoming dean of the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2015, I spent 22 years in private law practice at two large law firms.  I met, hired, and evaluated many, many summer law clerks. 

You might well think that law students, by virtue of their temporary status in the firm, are about as low on the totem pole of “power” in a law firm as it can get.  That line of thinking misses the point.  Seeing whether you have the capacity to be someone powerful in the future is what the firm is doing with you in the summer.

I remember from my practice days how some summer clerks seemed to grasp the dynamics and culture of the law firm naturally, while others – highly competent at law work, but emotionally clueless – blundered over the most obvious landmines.  For some of you, the analytical skills your professors have helped you develop have come easily.  But sensitivity to other human beings in an organization like a law firm, corporate legal department, or government agency is a different, equally important skill.  Years of experience have taught me that the ability to forge ties of sympathy and shared awareness can be learned and cultivated.  And even those of us who think we are “good with people” can improve at it. 

Take my word for it:

  • The ability to work with other people through stressful, challenging situations over the long haul is a core leadership skill in the profession of law
  • This skill has nothing in common with the analytical muscles you’ve been building up in law school. 
  • The ability to work with others is a leadership trait your employer is looking for, at least as much as any traditional “lawyering” skill. 

              Here are a couple of simple observations that apply to every workplace. 

First:  Work hard.  Do great work.  Come early and stay late – if that is what the lawyers you’re working with on a given project are doing.  But otherwise, spend your time forming relationships.  Be enthusiastic about the firm and its clients, but avoid looking like a gunner. 

You have been offered a summer job so that your employer can assess two things about you.  First, can you do the work that clients need done, at a level that will impress the clients and bind them closer to the firm over the long haul?  Second, are you a good long-term “fit” for the employer’s culture, not just now but for many years to come?  In short, will you wear well? 

Trying too hard to impress those you are working with can signal, unintentionally, that you are needy of approval and lack confidence.  Take the compliments you receive graciously, but have the humility to ask the assigning lawyer what you could have done better.  Inviting criticism assures your employer that you are focused less on yourself than on doing a good job.  It suggests that if hired, you will take criticism well and, thus, wear well.

Law firms, corporate legal departments, and other employers, no matter how prestigious, are not law schools.  Competition for grades and short-term prizes like law review slots are not what they are there to foster.  Legal employers are there to help clients to meet their goals and to offer rewarding careers to lawyers and staff.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Their question about you is:  Can we see you as a person whom we enjoy working with?  Will you contribute to our organization over time?

Second:  Respect, support, and befriend non-lawyer staff members.  A sure-fire way to exhibit quiet leadership in any work setting is to forge strong relationships with support staff. 

Administrative assistants, IT professionals, and paralegals are the backbone of law firms, corporate legal departments, and government agencies.  Without their skills, clients cannot be served effectively. 

Partners and experienced associates in law firms, and senior lawyers in other work settings, know this intimately.  Unless they are dysfunctional narcissists, they approach these vital co-workers with the greatest respect and affection.  Any hiring committee worth its salt will spot the summer clerk who courts only the powerful and ignores the rest.  For their part, support personnel can smell arrogance and self-regard a mile away – and will not hesitate to make their views known to the lawyers they work with.  When I was in practice, I would actively seek out the views of my longtime administrative assistant on our summer clerks.  She knew she had the power to blackball any clerk whose interpersonal skills did not impress her.  She was never wrong.

My advice on this score: 

  • Make the copies yourself, after asking an administrative assistant (“AA”) how to work the machine.  Put in a new ream of paper when the supply is low. 
  • Print your own research and work products, or at least offer to, unless the AA tells you otherwise.
  • Enter your own time unless you are instructed otherwise.  If you are told to give your timesheets to an AA, turn them in on a daily basis.  There is nothing a good AA hates more than a lawyer who leaves all of his or her timesheets til the end of the week, much less the end of the month.
  • If you have a day when you aren’t being taken to lunch by a lawyer, bring your sandwich into the staff breakroom.  Show an interest in the families and lives of staff members. 
  • Call administrative staff by the titles preferred in the workplace you’re in (i.e., don’t call someone a “secretary” if the firm calls him or her an “administrative assistant”). 

If you want to be viewed as a long-term asset to your summer employer, these suggestions should serve you well.  Best of luck to you.

Martin H. Brinkley is Dean and William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill.


Increasing Productivity and Reducing Stress in the New World of Hybrid Work

As many lawyers return to the office, we can use this disruption to create new habits that promote happiness and balance in the practice of law while handling all our clients’ needs. This article shares some thoughts about balance and some suggestions for forming new habits.

Increasing Productivity and Reducing Stress in the New World of Hybrid Work


High Expectations

By Pat Wilson

But wait, If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy
Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?

Perhaps you recognize these lyrics from the song “Surface Pressure,” from the Disney movie, Encanto, which is a profound yet utterly entertaining movie for both adults and children, in case you missed it. This song in particular captures what it can mean when the expectations we have for ourselves or that others have for us start to weigh us down. 

High expectations are especially true for lawyers and the law students with whom we interact. We and they were the high achievers through grade school, high school, and college. Of course, the expectations are high because we are the ones that gained admission to law school, and law school is nothing if not an environment teeming with pressure. Law school is only the beginning as the pressure on lawyers continues to grow for them to represent their clients well and bring their matters to a successful conclusion while juggling the myriad obligations of family, household, community service, and on and on.

Of the 13,000 attorneys surveyed by the American Bar Association as part of a study it conducted, 21% qualify as problem drinkers, which is nearly double the rate for other highly educated professionals. Twenty-eight percent struggle with depression, while 19% have symptoms of anxiety. The survey found that two-thirds of women reported severe stress as compared to 49% of men; some 23% of women reported moderate or severe anxiety compared to 15% of men.

The statistics for law students are similarly grim. A survey of 3300 law students, summarized in the ABA report, disclosed that 53% of law students got drunk in the prior 30 days and 45% binge drank at least once in the prior two weeks. Seventeen percent of students reported suffering from depression, while 14% reported severe anxiety, and 23% reported mild or moderate anxiety.

The ABA study does not suggest the cause for these various results, but one has to wonder if they are not due in part to the pressure of being a lawyer or a law student. 

So where does this lead us? Possibly to the obvious conclusion but one that bears repeating: we must strive to have more realistic expectations for ourselves and to model for our students the importance of not trying to do it all and have it all. I am of the strong belief that we can’t have it all, and no one should expect us to try. Much like a prix fixe menu, one can choose among the various options, but a choice here forecloses a different choice there. The fact that one opts for the prix fixe menu does not signal weakness. Rather, it means that one is much less likely to overeat to a state of discomfort. 

Maybe the best we can do for our students is to encourage our students to set high goals but strive to be realistic—not everyone will grade on to law review or snag the “high A” in every course, and that’s okay. It seems we also have an obligation to continue to remind students of the importance of taking care of their own mental health and being alert to the stressors that may be affecting their peers—we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in that regard. Of course, we need to take care of our own mental health and be sensitive to students who may be struggling.

Finally, as trite as it seems, we need to encourage our students to stop and smell the roses. We ought to, and our students should be encouraged to, seek things that bring them joy or simple pleasure. It might help relieve some of the pressure we face.

– PW


One Law Firm – 23,000 Pro Bono Hours

As a follow-up to our recent blog posts on the importance of Pro Bono,

We wanted to share with you the following article from Law360 on how the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler LLP clocked more than 23,000 hours of Pro Bono legal services in 2021:

How Lowenstein Managed 23K Pro Bono Hours Last Year