Academia, Leadership, Podcast

Podcast: The Need to Lead

By Ed Nelson

The State Bar of Texas Podcast – available on the Legal Talk Network – recently interviewed Leah Teague, associate dean at Baylor Law, about the importance of enhanced leadership training of future lawyers – and how many law schools are stepping up to the plate and revamping curricula and extra-curricular activities to make this a reality.

You can listen to this important message, here:

The Need to Lead: Revamping Legal Ed to Grow Better Leaders:

State Bar of Texas Podcast


Academia, Leadership

Benefits of Leadership Development Programming in Law Schools

By Leah Teague

Five important benefits to our students when law schools are more intentional to provide leadership development for our students: (1) Insure our students not only understand their obligation to give back to society, but inspire them to seek opportunities to use their legal training and skills to positively impact their communities as well as their clients; (2) Guide students through a self-assessment and discover of their own leadership characteristics and traits and provide appropriate training so that they are better equipped for success when those opportunities are presented; (3) Expose our students to specific leadership language, theory and skills necessary or helpful to be more effective in those roles; (4) Provide experiential learning through case studies, role playing and problem solving allowing students to practice assessing different situations and different personalities to best strategize effective approaches in each situation; and (5) Give students opportunities to experience, and to reflect upon the broader ramifications of how ethical considerations should affect the way lawyer-leaders make decisions.

Law schools will benefit as well. Highlighting leadership skills gained from legal training will help applicants see that law school continues to be a great investment in their future as they seek a path of significance and fulfillment through helping people and effectuating a better future for organizations, communities and societies.

As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program. 

Leah Teague

As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program. Seven of the thirty-one have a specific focus as indicated, including business law, cybersecurity, government, transitional justice, and women. Twenty-three law schools have at least one course which has leadership in the title or a course description that includes leadership development as a significant objective. Leadership development courses are in the planning stage in at least one additional law school. Other law schools likely have courses with elements of leadership development even though not in the title or description. Schools with leadership programs generally offer non-credit workshops, seminars and other leadership activities. Other law schools likely have or had leadership workshops or forums.

The majority of the programs and courses were created in the last five years. Leadership programs or courses at Elon, Harvard, Ohio State, Maryland, Santa Clara, Stanford, Stetson and St. Thomas are at least ten years old. For a list of known programs and courses, see If you have a leadership program or course, please let us know so we can add you to the list!!


Academia, Leadership

How My Thinking About Leadership Development For Law Students Has Changed

By Leah Teague

When I first pitched the idea of creating a leadership development program to our faculty, I focused the need for such a program because we know our Baylor Lawyers are going to serve as leaders in their communities and in organizations. So, shouldn’t we law schools better prepare them for this important role in society? Shouldn’t all law schools incorporate these skills into our core curriculum? As I discussed the concept with faculty and alumni, I got pushback from that, which required me to rethink why I thought it was so vitally important for today’s law students. Then I realized the topics covered in leadership development programming also help each one of us to be a more effective lawyer and more valuable employee. The skill sets and mindsets are advantageous for both roles.

As we think about how to most effectively teach and train this generation of law students, we’re focusing more and more on many different aspects: stress management, grit, resilience, and ability to accept feedback constructively in a healthy manner. All of these are essential parts of leadership development and are not matters that have been part of the law school curriculum or programming in the past.

Perhaps you have heard someone say leaders are born, not made. Perhaps you feel that way. We won’t dispute that not all of us will be THE leader of an organization. Who rises to the top or hired in as the leader of an organization is influenced by many variables – some (or most) may be out of your control. However, one of the aspects of the leadership development work we do is recognizing that all of us have the opportunity to influence, impact and affect those around us from whatever position we occupy and whatever relationships we create. Once we recognize that leadership development is about our own individual journey to improve and expand our abilities then we can get down to the business of growing! There is always room to grow and improve. The characteristics we are born with don’t define us completely unless we let them.

… One of the aspects of the leadership development work we do is recognizing that all of us have the opportunity to influence, impact and affect those around us from whatever position we occupy and whatever relationships we create.

Leah Teague

Students in a leadership development program are collectively going through a journey of self-discovery, assessment, and growth in an environment that allows them the freedom to think about who they want to be and to have some guidelines in place that will help them stay true to that path. Every law graduate will be better equipped for the challenges they will face because they worked on developing skills, vision, and a moral compass that will facilitate their success and enhance their ability to make a difference in the world.


Leadership, Persuasion, Terminology

The problem with the term ‘leadership.’

By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli

Why are people resistant to leadership training and development? It seems that law faculty, staff, and students are all reluctant to participate in anything labeled “leadership.” Moreover, it seems that everyone is resistant to leadership. But why is that the case?

Personally, we believe it’s because people don’t really know what leadership means. It’s a buzzword that has been over-used and associated with CEOs. It is thus unsurprising that many people first hear the word and think that it means anyone using it is talking about training CEOs on how to manage people. And, to further complicate matters, they may not be wrong. The challenge is explaining that leadership means so much more than that.

Leadership is a frame of mind, not a position. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what position the person with a leadership mindset holds. The key is that the person with a leadership mindset is thinking about how she will be most effective in whatever role she plays in the life of an individual, an organization or the community. Isn’t that what lawyers do? Or at least, isn’t that what lawyers should aspire to do?

Every aspect of what lawyers are called upon to do in the representation of their clients is practiced leadership. By advising, advocating and influencing others, lawyers can address an identified need and, hopefully, accomplish a greater good. Utilizing the skills, talents and resources of lawyers can have a tremendous impact on society.

Serving in positions that require legal training, as well as serving in a wide array of other leadership roles, lawyers influence society.

Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli

Serving in positions that require legal training, as well as serving in a wide array of other leadership roles, lawyers influence society. Lawyers have contributed to pivotal historical events including the founding our nation, the progressive era, the New Deal, and the civil rights movement. As heads of nations, universities, foundations, companies, legislative committees and public offices, lawyers have shaped our society and culture.

Today, lawyers advocate for important causes, counsel businesses and serve non-profits. Their involvement, through various roles and responsibilities, advance these causes and enhance these enterprises. Through legal education, lawyers learn strategy, persuasion, and ultimately how to command the room.

So, what do we call this? Why use the term “leadership” instead of something else? The issue, as we see it, is that other terms don’t fit. “Advocacy” doesn’t really work because that term is tied, in the legal profession anyway, to the courtroom. “Team building” is likely too constrained to working on inter-personal dynamics, not what should we be doing and how do I fit in (and that term is just as likely to cause people to hesitate about learning through doing it). “Social change” doesn’t capture personal growth associated with leadership of self. “Professional development” is getting closer but makes it seem as if the exercise is all about the person doing the learning to become better and does not include the “why” of leadership and its importance to society. “Social entrepreneurship” is too focused upon developing unique business models to address issues. Even if other terms are close, they are likely just as ambiguous and require just as much explanation. “Leadership,” though, checks a lot of boxes. Leading by example, leading through advice and counsel, leading a team, leading an organization, leading in the community, and leadership of self. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best descriptor we’ve come up with. What about you? What term do you use?

-LT and SLR

Academia, Leadership, Persuasion

What is Leadership

By Stephen Rispoli

Lawyers have a responsibility to seek opportunities to make a positive difference in their communities. This can be done through pro bono work, serving on the board of a governmental or non-profit organization, simply volunteering time or resources in the community, or persuading their law firms or companies to fight for justice and equality for all. Leadership is the act of getting involved and effecting change – regardless of your title or position. These things are possible because lawyers have a special set of skills.

Leadership is the act of getting involved and effecting change – regardless of your title or position. These things are possible because lawyers have a special set of skills.

Stephen Rispoli

But how do you conceptualize leadership or go about doing it? To me, leadership is simply advocacy in another context. Advocacy is traditionally thought of as a skill to be utilized in the courtroom or the boardroom for your client. It is the art of persuading others that your client’s position is the correct one. Leadership is no different, except that it may be your position for which you are advocating.

There is another important difference between courtroom or boardroom advocacy and leadership advocacy. In the courtroom and the boardroom, there are a lot of rules relating to the proper method of advocacy and their boundaries: the rules of evidence, rules of procedure, and ethics rules, to name a few. However, there are not rules about how you convince others to make change within your organization. There is no guidebook to convincing your fellow partners, over whom you have no authority to tell them to do something, or your superiors in an organization. Instead, you must convince them that the course of action you are proposing is the correct one. Rather than following the rules of procedure to determine the best path forward, you must use emotional intelligence and tailor your approach to each situation and each person differently. Such conversations and actions take nuance and understanding of not only the person but also the organization in which you are operating. It is a complex and difficult undertaking.

The good news is that leadership studies have been around for quite some time and can be applied to the special role that lawyers play. There are even several excellent books specific to lawyers that are already out. To get your library started, here are several books that address the topic of leadership for lawyers:

  1. Deborah Rhode, Lawyers as Leaders, 2016
  2. Deborah Rhode, Leadership for Lawyers, 2018
  3. Robert Cullen, The Leading Lawyer: A Guide to Practicing Law and Leadership, 2010
  4. Paula Monopoli and Susan McCarty, Law and Leadership: Integrating Leadership Studies into the Law School Curriculum, 2017 (compilation of articles on the subject of teaching leadership in law schools)

To elaborate on the themes of our first post, we created this blog to jot down our thoughts on leadership, change-making, advocacy, and how to do it. In this blog, we’ll cover specific topics of leadership (such as choosing the right leadership style to deal with specific situations), our thoughts on particular topics, book reviews, upcoming leadership events, and posting scholarly articles from which leadership lessons can be learned.



Why Leadership Development for Lawyers?

By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli 

As the co-founders of the Baylor Leadership Development Program and early adopters of the leadership movement in legal education, we established this blog to address several questions:

(1) What do we mean by leadership development? 

(2) Why are these efforts important and relevant to individuals – law students, lawyers, and law schools? 

(3) As guardians of the rule of law and defenders of our democracy, how can these efforts benefit our profession and our country? 

(4) What does leadership development look like for lawyers and how is it different from leadership development for other professions?  

All of us who have started a leadership development program or class (as well as those who attempted to do so) are commonly faced with questions and preconceived notions such as: Aren’t leaders born not made? Why should law schools devote attention to leadership when so few lawyers will serve as a managing partner of their firm? How is a leadership course in law school different from the leadership program or course from their high school or college days?

These are all important and difficult questions. We will address these questions (and more) in this blog. For those who have leadership programs or classes, we hope you will share your challenges faced and wisdom gained. We hope all will join in the conversation. Just as we know civil discourse results in better outcomes, we know that engaging in robust discussions around these questions can lead to more effective conversations and programming in law schools, bar associations and legal offices throughout the nation.