Practical Wisdom for Promoting Law Student Well-Being
Wednesday, August 9 ┋ 3pm ET ┋ 2pm CT ┋ 1pm MT ┋ 12pm PT
I hope everyone is enjoying our final weeks of summer! I am writing to remind you that the *FINAL* session of the AALS Balance & Well-Being Section’s Summer Speed-Share Series will take place today Wednesday, August 9, at 3 pm ET.
In this session, Practical Wisdom for Promoting Law Student Well-Being, students will share practical wisdom that helped them maintain and/or regain their well-being in law school, as well as advice for how law school faculty and staff can most effectively convey these insights and promote law student well-being. The panelists will also share tips for supporting non-traditional students.
While we focus our efforts primarily on legal education, we recognize the need for practicing lawyers and law firms to also encourage and support leadership development in the profession. We are always thrilled to discover kindred spirits who are doing just that! Today I write to introduce one of those to you and invite you to join us for an upcoming webinar.
Brett C. Govett, a Partner with Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, is the creator and host of a series of leadership webinars on leadership. I am honored to be his next guest on Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (1:00 – 1:30 pm ET | 12:00 – 12:30 pm CT | 10:00 – 10:30 am PT) for a conversation about developing leadership skills and seeking opportunities to make a difference. Here is the link for registration for Leadership development for success, service, and significance. We hope you can join us!
We also want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for your individual and collective efforts to incorporate more leadership development programming in law schools across the country. This important work is now a national movement because of the efforts of so many of you. Together we are making a difference as we better equip our law students for the important obligations and opportunities that await them after graduation. Please let us know how we can help you!
For all of us, being our best selves takes time and effort to care for our whole being. With the exhausting pressures in our professional lives, are we paying attention to our personal well-being? The statistics tell us that as a profession we are not. Let’s help our students do and be better.
As law schools identify appropriate placement for conversations around wellness, leadership courses or programs provide a perfect opportunity. We recognized the importance of the topic and devoted chapter 11 of our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, to “The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession.” At Baylor Law, discussions of the importance of personal wellness are woven into every offering of the leadership course. Strategies for being more intentional with wellness practices are presented in several class sessions. Through journal prompts, students are encouraged to consider how they might best plan their future with a design for finding harmony of work and life in the practice of law.
I do believe in practicing what I preach. Yet, the fast pace of life and work often keeps me from focusing on this topic for myself. What am I doing to make sure that I am happy? This Time article discusses the daily habits of happiness experts, with the usual suspects: good sleep, exercise, eating healthy, spending time in nature, engaging in a hobby, and praying, to name a few. But one focus of the article, “is happiness a choice?”, I found particularly interesting. One expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of the online Happiness Studies Academy, said, “part of it is a choice, part of it is innate. . . . And the part that is a choice is the choice to work hard at it.”
This Spring Break, Jeanine and I decided to work at it. We took some rare downtime to discuss what makes us happy. Some of the questions discussed were, “what activities do we enjoy?”, “How can we prioritize them?”, “how do we want to spend our time?”, “where do we want to spend our time?”, “Who do we want to spend it with?” The conversation was enlightening. Not because the answers were surprising, but because we do not go through this exercise often enough.
With trees budding and green grass popping up around us, I am reminded that spring is a time of new growth. What a perfect time to pause and reflect on your own well-being! I hope that your Spring Break allows you some space to consider your personal wellness journey.
During the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego in January, I attended the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility as they celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the PR Section with a program, “Looking Forward, Lawyering In The Next 50 Years.”
My motivation to attend was our continuing desire to explore interesting ways to incorporate leadership development throughout law school curricula. We have long recognized the potential for incorporating leadership development into PR courses. It is thrilling to discover that their discussions wholly align with our desire to awaken in our students a recognition of their obligation to serve society (in addition to serving their clients well) and then to better prepare them for those crucial roles. You can listen to the recording of the Section’s conversation at the PR Section’s 50th Anniversary Program.
Professional Responsibility courses are required in all law schools across the nation. These important courses are often under-utilized. We can and should do more in those essential courses! That was a message I heard loud and clear at the Section gathering.
Incorporating more leadership development into PR courses is a natural fit! Just consider the following expressions of a lawyer’s duty in society as stated in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities:
“ lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
 As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system.
 … A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.
 Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship to our legal system. The Rules of Professional Conduct, when properly applied, serve to define that relationship.
Lawyers are leaders. It is part of our professional identity. And lawyers’ professional responsibilities include serving well and with honor and using our legal knowledge and training for the greater good!
I am honored to be part of the 2023 Wake Forest Law Review Symposium, “Leading Change in the Legal Profession,” this Friday, February 24, 2023. As part of the panel on “Modernizing Legal Education,” I will join Former North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin, the incoming and founding dean of High Point Law School, and Professor Raina Haque, an expert on technology and law, and artificial intelligence.
Here is the description:
The “Modernizing Legal Education” panel will consider the ways that legal education can and should adapt to meet the changing needs of the legal profession as well as the needs of those who rely upon the profession. Emerging technologies are not only reshaping how we deliver educational content but also changing how we perceive the nature and function of law itself. This panel will provide panelists a wide-ranging opportunity to explore challenges and opportunities regarding how we educate law students and practice law.
Here is the link to a full description of the symposium and information on registration.
Look for a summary of the day in an upcoming blog.
Leadership Development Syllabus Series â¢ 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.
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 â both the presenters and the rest of
the class â 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 â 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.
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 [email protected] 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 Development Syllabus Series â¢ Part 1: Introduction
One of our goals for this blog is to advance the conversation of teaching leadership in law schools. We offer this blog-post series about specific parts of our Leadership Engagement and Development Course to hopefully spark ideas and further conversation. We begin with the top three things weâve learned over the last five years teaching this course.
First, engaging the students calls for more experiential
learning and effective use of guest speakers.
The first year, we used a more traditional pedagogy,
assigned heavy readings and relied on a Socratic method to engage the students
with the readings. We quickly discovered this material called for a different
approach if we want students to internalize the topics and embrace it as a
journey of self-discovery and growth.
We knew bringing in speakers would be beneficial. Our guest
speakers are assigned to cover specific topics and asked to provide context to
the concepts. They help the students see application of the concepts within a
real-world professional setting. Students more easily envision themselves in
those situations someday, and they connect with those lawyer leaders.
In the beginning, we scheduled guests near the end of the
course. Over the next few years, we experimented with how many guest speakers
and when. We found it best to have the two of us lead off the first week with
an introduction to leadership and an overview of the class. After that, we try
to bring a speaker for one of the two meetings each week. We purposefully
invite speakers to cover specific topics. We recognized that is a lot of guest
speakers so we set the syllabus early. We send the syllabus and assigned
reading to each speaker so that he or she can see where we started, what weâve
covered, and how his or her topic fits into the overall picture. From there,
each speaker chooses how to cover the topic and work his or her personality and
stories into the material. Students like this weekly balance and they enjoy
hearing from practicing lawyers and leaders. It is also a great way to connect
Early on we shifted to a more experiential approach. Even
during the sessions when we simply lead a discussion on a topic, we want the
students to âstruggleâ with the material at least to a certain degree to create
ownership of the material. We also constantly relate it to real-world
situations. For example, after a discussion on dealing with the media, we run a
mock press conference where students either assume the role of a media
correspondent or the general counsel for a company in crisis. The students
apply what theyâve learned in a controlled environment.
Second, the best class sessions include meaningful discussion among the students.
As noted above, we started with a more traditional pedagogy but the students were not engaged in thoughtful interaction. As a result, many students struggled to internalize the material and they could not identify how the information would be useful in the future. In other words, we were ineffective in leading them on a personal journey of self-discovery and growth.
Now, we are mindful of the need to include plenty of
opportunity for students to actively engage with the material during class and
after. If we donât have time for, or if a topic doesnât lend itself to, an
exercise, we involved the class in small and large group discussions. We have a
better balance of techniques leading to much better results. We hope we are
helping them establish a life-long practice of intellectual curiosity and
creative problem solving.
Third, journaling is essential.
When we created the class, neither of us believed in the power of journaling. With that said, since we did not believe that an exam was appropriate for this class, we required a journal to ensure that our students were getting through the material and completing the assignments. That first year, we did not see their journal until the end of the class.
We have seen the light! We now firmly believe that
journaling is critical to a studentâs development and growth. We tailor the
journal prompts after each class to connect with the conversation in class and
desired outcomes. Students must post journal entries to their personal Box file
before the next class so that we can review. This enables us to determine if
they are learning what was intended and allows us to make adjustments as
appropriate. It provides the students a mechanism for wrestling with concepts
and exploring the application to their lives. We hope our students create a
habit of continual self-assessment and development.
Baylor Lawâs Leadership
Development Program continually strives to prepare students to become exemplary
leaders, both in the legal profession, and in their communities. We make a
concerted effort to find ways to increase student engagement with our
Leadership Development Program. One way weâve done so is through the
development of the Baylor Law Leadership
Leadership Fellows are Baylor Law students that have met the strenuous requirements of the Leadership Development Program. In order to earn the designation, a Baylor Law student must:
the Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) class and complete the personal
development and team-building course (the Baylor Ropes Challenge Course).
of a minimum of 23 hours of Professional Development Programming.
as an officer of a Baylor Law student organization for a minimum of three
quarters. While serving as an officer, the student must perform a minimum of 25
hours of service related to activities of the organization.
of a minimum 25 hours of community service.
as an intern for a charitable or community organization’s director or
management team, or as an extern for a legislator, working a minimum of 45
The number of students who have received designation as a Leadership Fellow has been limited, and we are currently seeking new ways to engage with our students earlier in their Law School careers to involve them more fully in the Leadership Development Program. We hope to report back to you soon about our efforts.
Our most recent designee is Taylor A. McConnell (JD â19). From our news story:
McConnell has been a dedicated volunteer at the Baylor Law Veterans Clinic, where he assisted at the legal advice clinics, drafted wills for Central Texas veterans, and has represented several clients in litigation. He served as the President of the Baylor Law Military & Veterans Legal Society and was Secretary for LEAD Counsel. He won the Spring 2019 Bob and Karen Wortham “Mad Dog” Competition and received both the Best Speaker and Best Advocate Awards in the Fall â18 Dawson and Sodd Moot Court Competition. In addition to volunteering for the Veterans Clinic, McConnell volunteered with Baylor Lawâs Trial Advocacy Clinic, helping juveniles at their initial detention hearings in district court. Working with Baylor Law Veterans Clinic Director Josh Borderud, McConnell assisted the 74th District Court in developing the first Veterans Treatment Court in McLennan County.
your law school have a designation or award for students who complete a
specific leadership program or have demonstrated specific leadership
characteristics during their law school career? If soâ¦ share your program with
us in the comments.
Professor Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas School of Law, has written a fantastic article about developing law student teamwork and leadership skills – to be published soon in the Hofstra Law Review, and available now on SSRN.
Hereâs the abstract:
Skills of teamwork and team leadership are foundational for many types of law practice, but how much instruction, supervised experience, assessment, and guided reflection on these two skills did each reader as a law student receive? Law schoolsâ formal curricula, in the authorâs experience, historically have not given much attention to the development of these skills. There also has been little legal scholarship on how most effectively to foster law studentsâ growth toward later stages of teamwork and team leadership. Legal education must do better.
What is the next step for the 58 law schools that have adopted a learning outcome on teamwork or team leadership (plus those that will later adopt this type of outcome)? In Part II, this article outlines the next steps that competency-based education requires for a law school to implement a teamwork and team leadership learning outcome. In Part III, the article presents a stage development model for law student teamwork and team leadership skills. Part IV explains how to use the stage development model in the curriculum so that students can understand the entire range of stages of development of teamwork and team leadership. The students can then self-assess their own current stage of development, and faculty and staff and a studentâs team members can use the model to observe and assess a studentâs current stage of development and give feedback to help the student grow to the next stage. Reflecting on self-assessment, teamwork experiences, and othersâ feedback, a student can create a written professional development plan to grow to the next stage of teamwork and team leadership and get coaching on the plan. The student can also assess the evidence the student has to demonstrate his or her level of development to potential employers.
As we work to establish leadership
development as a recognized academic pursuit in legal education, we are met
with questions of definition, distinction and purpose. An often-asked question,
even among us who are pursuing the study of leadership in the context of the
legal profession, is what is the difference between professional
responsibility, professionalism (also referred to as professional identity,
formation or development) and leadership. This is a start. I have no doubt my
thoughts will continue to take shape as we continue conversations and work.
As lawyers we must abide by a code of
professional responsibility. The outer boundaries of unactionable conduct is
set by principles established in the code. Law students learn these rules as
minimums â that which they MUST do or not do to avoid scrutiny for a violation
and to avoid an appearance of impropriety. Students are tested on these rules.
Law firms have committees that consider ethical issues and make decisions for
their lawyers. Bar associations have committees for reviewing rules, advising
lawyers and taking action when lawyers step outside the boundaries. Self-regulation
of lawyersâ conduct is essential to maintaining our independence and our
privileged status with powers and opportunities.
But as we often discuss in law school,
or at least we should, the code of professional responsibility will not determine
who you are as a lawyer, what type of cases or clients you will represent, how
you will practice law, or how you will be remembered.
What does it mean to be a member of a
profession that has a rich history of status and privilege earned by rigorous
intellectual pursuit and legal training?
Here are some of the questions raised as we try to define our
professional identity and to better prepare our students to enter the
profession that has long been considered a noble pursuit, but also a profession
that is perhaps less favored and respected in recent decades:
Who are we as
What is our role
What does the
public expect of us?
And on an individual basis, we ask our
students to consider what kind of lawyer they want to be.
With our legal training & law
degree we have an obligation to serve our clients and society. From the ABA Model Rules of Professional
Conduct, Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities, â[a] lawyer is a representative
of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special
responsibility for the quality of justice.â
As Alexis de Tocqueville recognized in
the 1830s, the role of lawyers as keepers of the rule of law and the special
training of lawyers as problem solvers and advocates ensured for us âa separate
station in society.â When he labeled lawyers as the âAmerican Aristocracy,â he used
that title in the European tradition from which he came â where lords were
responsible for their charges. The privilege of wealth and power carried with
it a privileged duty to protect. For American lawyers, our charge is our
democracy. Our special status arose
because lawyers were viewed as more than mere providers of legal services. We
have an obligation to serve not only our clients but also society.
As lawyers, more is expected of us by
the public. And by that I mean, with the acquisition of our privilege â law
degree and legal training â the public has an expectation of us that obligates
us to live up to a higher set of principles and standards than a citizen who is
not a member of our profession.
As I tell our students during
orientation, the Latin root of profession is professieum â to make a public
declaration or to take an oath. When I ask them to name the three vocations
considered to be the original âprofessions,â it does not take them long to name
âdoctors, lawyers and clergy.â We then discuss what common attributes these
three share. Answers include âeducation and training;â âexpectation to live an
exemplary liveâ or at least âhigher expectations;â âless forgiveness for human
error;â and this is one of my favorites, âdoctors take care of the body, clergy
minister to the soul, and lawyers take care of live in a community – rights,
liberties and property interests.â What
becomes clear to them through the discussion is that our privilege comes with
expectations and obligations to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting of our
noble profession, which includes service.
Leadership development should go
beyond a focus on defining lawyersâ behavior and actions in terms of
expectation and obligation to serve clients and communities. Lawyers have the opportunity
to guide and influence clients and serve in their communities. Lawyers are
leaders and as such that is part of our professional identity. Yet leadership
development requires a different type of attention and training than
professional development. Leadership development should start with professional
development, i.e. self-awareness and self-assessment â the âwho am I as a
lawyer?â But then we must move to looking at the opportunities we have as
lawyers to have a positive influence and impact on society.
Throughout history, lawyers have
played a critical role in shaping stable, peaceful and prosperous societies. Leadership
seeks to develop lawyers who not only have mastery of self but also are
inspired to make a difference. Our legal training, our law license and
professional status afford us daily opportunities to influence individuals,
behaviors, transactions, organizations, communities and society. Now more than
ever, we need lawyers to recognize not only our obligation to serve society,
but also opportunities afforded to us because of our professional status and
education and then to use our position and training to make a positive
difference in the lives of their clients and communities. We, as the
teachers, coaches and mentors to the next generations of lawyers, need to
do a better job of equipping them and inspiring them to rise up and seek those
opportunities to positively impact society.