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Student Perspective on Leadership Development: Philip D. Ricker

Philip D. Ricker graduated from Baylor Law School in April 2019. He is currently working for the family law firm O’Neil Wysocki, P.C. in Dallas, Texas. While at Baylor Law School, he was on Law Review and also involved in a Mock Trial team.

Baylor’s leadership development training taught me not be afraid to speak up to a more-experienced attorney. I feel more confident when voicing my opinions on a legal issue or to walk down the hallway and tell a partner about a problem we need to address.

Gladiators.jpg

Ethics of an Attorney

A consistent theme of our leadership class was how to assert our ethics as attorneys.We talked extensively about the ethics of an attorney and I did not realize how much those discussions mattered until I began practicing. I often joked that lawyers are like gladiators – we go where we are told and fight who we are told to fight. After spending about 6 months in a family law firm with a 3L bar card and going through practice court, I realize how much better of an understanding the class gives gave me about ethics and the law.

Throughout the Leadership class, my classmates and I were given the opportunity to hear from numerous speakers who are leaders in areas outside of the law. I am always fascinated at the interesting twists and turns an individual’s careers take. For me, it was surprising to learn about the many different ways our speakers became leaders. We didn’t have any two speakers who follows an even remotely similar path. This is encouraging that even if you have an untraditional beginning, one can become a leader.

Baylor Law Formative Leadership

As Baylor Lawyers, I feel like we have an opportunity to emerge in leaders amongst our first and second-year peers from other schools. I was able to serve as the Notes & Comments editor of Law Review. This was another formative leadership experience at Baylor Law that helped prepare me in my future career. During that time, I had a team of three to four students who I would work with to get an upcoming article ready to publish. I found it difficult to ask someone to do something that I was not going to do. It felt uncomfortable asking someone to stay up late in the evening to edit an article when I wasn’t required to stay up and edit. Little did I know at the time, that the discomfort was preparing me for something bigger. Now that I am working at O’Neil Wysocki, P.C., I work with paralegals, legal secretaries, and other associate attorneys. Similarly, I have found myself asking someone to do something that I am not doing. For instance, I may ask a legal secretary to prepare a binder for an appellate brief or attach exhibits to a Motion for Summary Judgment. It feels UNCOMFORTABLE; however, my time at law school on law review helped me prepare for some of that discomfort. 

I think all law students need to be exposed to a leadership role. Not every law student is placed into a position of leadership, and Baylor does a good job to equip each student to be comfortable taking a step into the realm of leadership.


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Encouraging Students to Use the Power of their Law Degree for Good

Leah Teague

“I also learned that a law degree not only changes your life…it has the potential of helping you change the lives of many others. And last but now least, I learned that lawyers can and should be leaders. And wow, does the world need bright and committed leaders right now!”

These were words shared by Jerry Clements, Chair Emeritus of Locke Lord LLP, as the keynote speaker for our 2019 John William and Florence Dean Minton Student Award Ceremony and Lecture Series. Only after law school did Jerry recognize that the leadership skills and legal skills taught in law school would prepare her to one day chair of one of the largest law firms in America. And lead effectively she did! As Chair of Locke Lord LLP from 2006-2017, the law firm rose in the American Lawyer rankings from No. 110 to No. 60 and grew from a Texas-based law firm with 4 offices to a global law firm with 23 offices, including London and Hong Kong.

Under Jerry’s leadership, she strengthened the firm’s deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, tripling the number of women and diverse lawyers in firm management and nearly doubling the number of women and diverse lawyers in practice group leadership. She received numerous recognitions for her efforts and was named One of the Top 50 Most Influential Women Lawyers by the National Law Journal and one of 30 Extraordinary Women in Texas Law by Texas Lawyer. As you can imagine, we are quite proud she is a Baylor Lawyer.

In asking Jerry to deliver remarks to our students, we did not suggest a specific topic. As is often the case when accomplished lawyers reflect on their careers, Jerry’s remarks were laden with stories about opportunities she had – because of her legal training and law degree – to positively impact and influence others. She also admonished law students to embrace the obligations they will have to serve others. She acknowledged that her law degree “changed my life but more importantly, it gave me the skills, knowledge, and power to change others’ lives, as well.”

She applauded our students’ dedication to “become a part of what I believe is still the most powerful, honorable and rewarding career a person can chose.” She then challenged them by adding, “like all things, it is what you make of it.” 

While crediting her law degree with giving her opportunities to “meet— Presidents of the US, CEOs whose names you would recognize, senators, governors, famous trial lawyers whom I had heard about and admired,” she reminded them of the many important and critical positive roles that lawyers play in the world. “Lawyers are critical to preserving, promoting and protecting the Rule of Law in Society… Lawyers daily serve as champions.”… She encouraged them to “Learn the power of your law degree and learn how to be a leader and communicator so that you can use that power for the good.”

She left them with some final notes, “if you take away one thing from my presentation tonight make it this—-Lawyers are part of the basic foundation of our society and you are about to be a part of that club…Be purposeful. Make a difference. Be a leader.”

I know we all love to have accomplished, exemplary alumni come back to share words of wisdom with current students. When they do, we all should be intentional about noting how often they speak of the role of lawyer as leader. It also is worth noting how often they attribute their true satisfaction and sense of meaning and purpose in life not to drafting a legal document or winning a legal argument but in using their legal training and law degree to making a positive difference in the lives of another.

 -LWJT
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The legal profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem

In case you missed it: “The legal profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem”, by Charles Edwards. Mr. Edwards post in the ABA Journal is wonderful write-up on the importance of character in leadership. As Leah and I frequently discuss with law students, leadership alone is not enough – ethical leadership is the key to long-term success. By integrating best practices into leadership courses, we are preparing our students for their future roles.

If you haven’t read it yet, Mr. Edwards post is worth the read: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/the-legal-profession-doesnt-have-a-leadership-problem-it-has-a-character-problem

-SLR

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Article Callout: Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success

In case you missed it: “Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success” by Liam Montgomery. In the style of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (authors of Extreme Ownership), Mr. Montgomery translates lessons learned in military service to leadership for lawyers. In this article he focuses upon giving and receiving feedback – a critical skill for any leader. The article is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for more feedback material to give to students: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyer-leadership-secret-to-success

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Article Callout: 3 Steps To Transform From Top Lawyer To Business Leader

In case you missed it: “3 Steps To Transform From Top Lawyer To Business Leader.” To never stop learning is probably the most important lesson that a leader can learn. This Forbes article explores the modern challenges that lawyer-leaders will encounter and what to do about it: to continue to expand their knowledge base, work with other, and understand data analytics. But the underlying message is more important: never stop learning.

Without further ado: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insights-klgates/2019/10/09/3-steps-to-transform-from-top-lawyer-to-business-leader/#2a906890394f

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The Role of General Counsel: Influential Members of the Team or Merely Bit Players?

The Author, Leah Teague (Center) with Baylor Lawyers Lee Roy Calderon, JD ’12 (L)
and Justin Chakrabarty, JD ’12 (R)
Leah Teague

Recently I was in front of about 150 lawyers who work in a general counsel’s office at one of the Texas public university systems – mostly Longhorn lawyers within the University of Texas system but a few Aggie lawyers mixed in. To my surprise and delight, 4 Baylor Lawyers also were in attendance. The topic was Lawyers as Leaders. The invitation was the result of an article I wrote for the Texas Bar Journal and a podcast interview with Rocky Dhir, CEO & President, Atlas Legal Research, LP and host of State Bar of Texas Podcasts, who read that article. Rocky and I were invited by Omar Syed, Associate Vice Chancellor & Deputy General Counsel for The University of Texas System and chair of the annual gathering of general counsel lawyers in Austin (who also read the article and listened to the podcast) and wanted us to present the conversation at their annual gathering. I was honored and humbled to have that opportunity to share our work and our passion for our students and the future of our profession.

In preparation, Rocky and I were encouraged to include discussions about the role of lawyers as trusted advisor and leaders. We included such advice as “get to know the departments and schools you advise,” “ask about their work and their goals before trying to solve their legal issues.” We recommended they try to understand enough about the work of the “clients” so that when they have to tell them no, they can say “You can’t do that, but…” and then work to find a solution that will meet their goals when possible. In other words, try to be a problem solver and trusted adviser who adds value – be more than a legal technician.

As the conversation continued, questions were submitted to the host electronically – nothing fancy, simply texted to his phone. One of the questions has stayed with me weeks later, almost haunting me. It went something like this, “But what if the general counsel has instructed you to NOT do anything more than strictly answer the legal question asked?” The question was not: “What if the department does not ask for more than an answer to the legal question presented?” We had addressed that scenario. Attentive lawyers often must use that request for legal advice as the springboard for probing to get the information they need (background, issues, goals, costs, etc.) to help craft an option or two or three.

As soon as the question was asked, in my lawyerly way, I began to wonder what else was behind the question. Being part of a university, I well know how territorial life can be on a campus. Had the young lawyer (at least I assumed her or him to be) overstepped and been dressed down, i.e. stay in your lane? Had the general counsel given that instruction in a particular situation for which that command made sense? Was the office so overwhelmed with work that such an instruction was necessary for survival? Was the lawyer still inexperienced, unproven or perhaps not yet trustworthy?  I don’t know but we were grateful for the validation we received when a lawyer in the audience (who had a seasoned look and demeanor) stood and basically summarized all that we had shared about the need for us, as well as society, to view lawyers as more than “bit” players only to be engaged on the periphery. We need lawyers to be valued members of the team – to be part of the group trying to solve the problem, accomplish the goal or protecting the university – not merely legal specialists.

 We ended our response with the hope that all the general counsel offices have, or work toward, an office culture in which lawyers are encouraged to reach beyond the naked legal question to establish relationships that allow the client (department, school, etc.) to view their lawyers not as nay-sayers, deal killers or legal assistants, but as valued and trusted advisors and university partners. 

Leadership entails influence and impact in positive ways. We all need to help our students see themselves as leaders who have an obligation to serve and who will have many opportunities to help and to make a difference.  To that end, I was encouraged to see several hands go up when I asked who all in the audience serves on a non-profit board or volunteers in a service or pro-bono legal organization.  Part of law school must include a call to arms to all law students, encouraging them to roll up their sleeves and help their communities, thereby showcasing lawyer leadership at a grassroots level.

-LWJT
Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Engaging Students: What We’ve Learned in Developing and Teaching a Leadership Development Course (Part 2)

 By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli
Title Image - Engaging Students: What We've Learned in Developing and Teaching a Leadership Development Course - Part 2

Leadership Development Syllabus Series • Part 2: Engaging Students

Part 1 of our LEAD Course Series can be found, here.

In this second post of our LEAD Course series, we share our thoughts on interesting methods to engage law students. This year marks the sixth year of teaching this course and we are constantly making adjustments to the syllabus and our teaching methodologies. In addition to carefully selecting topics, exercises, and speakers, below we discuss three ways we engage the students.

1. Journaling

As noted in a previous post, we require students keep a journal throughout the class. We have come to believe this is one of the most beneficial elements of the class. Not only does it help them personalize and internalize the lessons, it allows us to evaluate their progress in real time throughout the course. We use Box as a file management system and create individual folders for each student. At the end of each class, students are assigned two or three journal entries which are then added to the class syllabus. Students answer these questions and prompts before the next class which allows us to read their answers and gauge understanding and progress.

2. Leadership Quote, Video, or Short Story

Each student signs up to present a quote, video, or short story about leadership in the first three-to-five minutes of a class. This fun exercise allows students to use their creativity (and sometimes add some humor) to present about leadership. The students – both the presenters and the rest of the class – seem to enjoy the activity before jumping into the topic of the day. Interestingly, most students chose topics for their presentation that fit well with the topic for the day.

3. Blog Post

From the beginning we required them to select and read a book about leadership. This year, instead of a book report, they will write a blog post based on the book – a short review or why someone should read (or not read) the book. We think they will be more engaged with the book of their choice and it will allow us to showcase the best ones on this blog!

In our next post in this series we will share the main components of our syllabus. Posts that follow in this series will include a discussion of how we teach each class, PowerPoint presentations, exercises used in class, topics presented by our guest speakers, prompts for journals and feedback from our students.

We know that many of you present similar topics in your courses and want to hear from you. We encourage you to post how you present these topics in the comments to this post. Our hope is that this blog becomes a discussion forum for best practices in teaching leadership in law schools. By going through the syllabus step-by-step, we can have a detailed conversation and share ideas.

Without further ado, our syllabus is here.

To help with the collection and distribution of what other law school leadership programs are doing, we created a repository for syllabi, programs, exercises, articles, presentations, and other leadership development materials. You can view and download the materials, here.

Please add your materials and syllabus!

(You can also upload by emailing AALS_Se.u8s6qo11r8rljvdf@u.box.com and attaching the document you want uploaded.)

How do you consistently engage with your leadership students? Have your tried something that didn’t work at all as planned? As we continue this series, we invite your feedback and input in the comments!

Leadership

Student Perspectives on Leadership Development

 Ali Moser (JD ‘19) 

Below, Ali Moser (JD ‘19) and a Baylor Law Leadership Fellow, offers her thoughts on the Leadership class and her experience at Baylor Law.

Benefits of the Leadership Class         

The Leadership Development Program at Baylor Law School helped me gain an extra set of skills to take into my future career. I learned much from the leadership class, but I gained even more from the experiences I had when actually serving as a leader during my time at Baylor Law.

I was fortunate to have two very formative leadership experiences outside of the LEAD class. First, serving as Executive President of the Student Bar Association my 3L year was not an opportunity that I expected to have during law school. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the student body. SBA is the umbrella to every other student organization on campus.  As SBA President I thoroughly enjoyed working with so many ambitious fellow students. I learned a lot about communicating with different groups of people and how to meet the needs of students during a challenging and demanding three years of their lives.

(L-R) Ali Moser; Dean Leah Teague; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, Nathan Hecht; Dean Brad Toben, Dean Stephen Rispoli

My second opportunity to put the skills into practice was when I served as the 2018 Conference Chair for LEAD Counsel’s Making A Difference Conference. As chair, I was challenged as the many moving pieces had to all come together, but it taught me a lot. The class helped me develop skills that I put into practice. I’m thankful for both of my experiences with SBA and LEAD Counsel and I know that lessons learned as part of the Leadership Development Program will serve me well in my career.

The Importance of Relationship Building

In the Leadership Class, there were many opportunities to learn about our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our peers and other leaders. This allowed friendships to develop with the other students in the class, which does not always happen in law school classes. However, that was an integral part of the Leadership Class, which was surprising to me. I learned about my leadership style and the leadership style of others. It taught me where I was strong, and exposed places where I could improve. This created a unique classroom environment with the fellow classmates, and I hope to cross paths with many of them in my legal career.

Advice to all Law Students: Learn Leadership Styles

I offer this advice to all law students – I encouraged you to discover what your leadership style is whether that is through a class, reading a book, or watching a podcast. It is incredibly value to know before stepping into a legal career. As you learn more about leadership styles, you become more aware of the strong parts of your personality so you can capitalize on those aspects; but also learn where you can improve. As you become familiar with many of the leadership styles, you will be able to recognize different styles which will enable you to work well with others in your future career.

Ali Mosser, JD ’19

Ali Moser graduated from Baylor Law in May of 2019 having earned the distinction as a Leadership Fellow. During her time at Baylor she was involved in various student organizations including Student Bar Association, Inn of Court, LEAD Counsel, Federalist Society, Intramurals. She also competed in Moot Court competitions, volunteered her time as a McLennan County Court Appointed Special Advocate. Ali’s leadership and devotion to Baylor Law School encouraged many students to follow in her footsteps and become not only a law student who goes through the motions, but a leader who impacts lives. After graduation she joined the litigation section of Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle, P.C.