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.
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!
Below, Ali Moser (JD â19) 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
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.
My second opportunity to put the skills into practice was when I served as the 2018 Conference Chair for LEAD Counselâs 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. Iâm 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
I offer this advice to all law students
â 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
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. Aliâs 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.
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.
The American Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Leadership has announced aÂ Call for PapersÂ from which one additional presenter will be selected for the sectionâs program, âLearning from Lawyer-Leaders Throughout the Profession,â to be held during the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington on Friday, January 3, 2020 at 1:30pm.
For more information and to submit, view theÂ Call for Papers,Â here.
Information about the Section on Leadership’s 2020 program and co-sponsored sessions is available on the AALS Section on Leadership website, here.
Victoria S. Feather, Baylor Law J.D. '17
Stephen Rispoli and I escorted eleven first-year Baylor Law students to Austin,
Texas, to spend a day at the Texas State Capitol observing the 86th
Legislature in session. This trip was made possible due to the generosity of
Baylor Lawyer and legendary Texas lobbyist, Joe B. Allen (or, as his friends
call him, simply âJoe B.â).
purpose of the trip was to expose law students to potential leadership
positions through public service. As they learned during the trip, leadership
occurs at all levels in the Texas Legislature â from the Members themselves to
each of their staff members. Each person plays a critical role in our stateâs
government and many of the studentsâ eyes were opened to the possibility of
using their law degree in this public sector.
The students began the day by observing both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate in session. While in the House gallery, as they observed members debate and discuss the Education bill on the House floor, students acquired a greater understanding of the legislative process and the role that public finance laws play in matters affecting public education. Students also had the opportunity to engage in discussions with various Senators and Representatives.
of our current students, Sarah Beth Toben, J.D. â20, is interning for Senator
Kirk Watson this session. Sarah Beth said that she has realized how important
âserviceâ is to leadership from her experience with Senator Watson. âIt is one
thing to be an elected official, but it shows true leadership to day in and day
out serve your constituents. That is what I have learned through working with
Senator Watson. His constituents love him and it is because he takes the time
to listen to them and tries his best ensure that their voices are heard.â
round out their view of life at (or near) the Texas Capitol, they also met with
lawyers from the Texas Attorney Generalâs office to learn about the various
matters that the AGâs office oversees and how lawyers are involved behind the
scenes in many facets of Texas life.
the trip, students were asked to write a short paragraph about what they
learned and their thoughts from the legislative adventure. Here are a few
Overall, I loved the trip. I consider myself very well informed when it comes to politics, but I learned more than I ever had before about the hands-on activities of the House and Senate. Everyone we met was kind and patient in discussing their work and experiences with us.
I consider it an absolute privilege that I was able to attend such a historic process, the effects of which will echo into the future for literally generations to come. I have become interested in the future the legislature has created for this next generation of children who will benefit from it.
I personally loved the trip to Austin, and I learned a lot about how Texas politics works. I was able to take part in many great exchanges of differing policy and political ideas.
This entire process that I was able to witness was illuminating and inspiring.
Without this trip, I may have found it easy to sit idly by behind monolithic political tenants. Now, however, I see the people behind the curtain: people driven to benefit their community both now, and later. The legislature appears to be the stewards of the future. Without strong leadership, the stewards can let infinite ruin blaze across Texas. With strong leadership, the stewards can let the fruits of prosperity blossom.
greatly appreciate Joe B. for sharing his vast knowledge of Texas history,
politics, and the legislature with our students. But more importantly, he
shared his story â initially getting involved in the Legislature to change a
minor provision on behalf of a local government client, to finding he liked the
work, to ending up working on (and positively influencing) most of the local
government legislation for several decades. Having this guide to the famous
halls of the Texas Capitol was a memorable experience for the students. They
got to hear first-hand stories of how a law degree served Joe B., and Texas,
well. (To learn more about Joe B., please read this great story from the
Houston Press: https://www.houstonpress.com/news/its-joe-bs-world-6567749. He has also been using his skills
and connections to help Houston recover after Harvey. He recently received the
Wild Life Award by Houston Wilderness: https://www.baylor.edu/law/news.php?action=story&story=208868.)
We believe that this trip was highly beneficial to our students. Subsequent conversations with some of them indicate that they may be re-thinking their career trajectories based on that trip. Even for those that donât, I suspect that this trip broadened their horizons, showed them the power of a law degree, and how it can be wielded to help others.
If youâre interested in learning more about the trip or would like to discuss the logistics of organizing it, we would be happy to visit with you or send you the schedule from our day at the Capitol.
On April 4th and 5th, Leah and I were
in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Lawâs
Leadership Conference. Doug Blaze, Dean Emeritus at UTK, put on an excellent
conference highlighting the good work that law schools are doing around the
country in leadership programs and courses.
Like Beth, we came away with a lot of new things to implement
at Baylor Law and some wonderful ideas to consider. Here were some of our key
takeaways from the conference:
How can we improve the framing of leadership at Orientation for our students? Should it be through a session or through an immersive experience? Although we havenât made a final decision, this is something we are turning our attention to improving.
The whole building can be more involved in the leadership development process. Not just faculty, but each department â admissions, career development, alumni relations, pro bono clinics, externships, etc. â can play a role in helping law students understand their leadership potential and reach it.
Tagging other courses in the curriculum that have leadership components, such as ADR and Professional Responsibility.
In short, Dougâs conference will be a hard one to follow. As
we are planning our own 2020 leadership conference, what we learned at UTK will
shape our program and what we hope each attendee takes home.