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Giving Feedback

Guest Post by Baylor Law Professor Greg White

Students say that they love feedback. But that’s not completely true. They love feedback that they believe in.

Put yourself in the student’s shoes. They want to hear what they’ve done right (or wrong), and they want to do better. When the feedback begins, though, what they hear is often criticism. As justified as the criticism might be, it’s hard for anyone to hear that the effort they expended was not really very good. Instead of feeling that they are closer to being a lawyer, the student feels they are getting further away. The challenge is to present the feedback so that it is received with appreciation and so that stimulates the mind – not so that is depresses the spirit.

One effective way to motivate is to delay your feedback. Let the student talk first. Ask: What did you find challenging? Did you think you did some part poorly? Where would you like to improve? What was the hardest part of the work?

Those answers and the self-reflection they require opens the discussion with the student’s own concerns, instead of the instructor’s critique . The instructor’s critique comes from a person of experience and expertise. That can be intimidating.  Let the student tell you what they need help with first. When they get the help they wanted, they are ready to talk about improvements they didn’t know were necessary, and improvements they never considered.

I recently talked to a student who had turned in a required assignment – the first draft of an appellate brief. In my opinion, this student was just awful at proofreading. Obvious spelling mistakes, repeated words, odd spacing and poor grammar plagued his brief – so much so that I had a hard time reading the thing. When he came to my office, I asked him, “What was the one thing you think you could do better?” He spoke up quickly, “I have a hard time with the details.” That led to a discussion about a trait he and I have in common – we love to have someone else check our work. That wasn’t possible with this assignment, so he needed some different tools. Grammarly and Brief Catch are both available to all students at Baylor Law, and we walked through using those as an electronic proofreader and style coach. Software is not perfect, but it was just the tool he needed. I wonder if we would have ended up sharing a common trait and worked on a good solution if I had started our conversation with “You know, I don’t think you did any editing and proofreading on this brief,” or “You need to spend some time editing and proofreading before you turn in the next draft.” Either would have been truthful and constructive. But, had a professor told me that, I would have recoiled a bit, and maybe wondered if I was cut out for this profession.

There is a time to be brutally honest. There are more times when we should seek to inspire.

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Leadership Training Discussion on EdUp Legal


If you’re not already aware of Dean Patty Roberts’s fantastic Podcast, EdUp Legal, on the EdUp Experience Network, we hope you’ll add this Podcast to your listening queue. About once a week, Dean Roberts explores the opinions and prognostications of leaders in legal education regarding the future of legal training and considers the value proposition of law school.

Dean Roberts recently interviewed Professor Leah Teague. The duo, who share a commitment to preparing law students for their important roles as leaders in society, discussed Professor Teague’s work in fostering a national movement of intentional leadership development in law schools.

Dean Roberts’s Podcast can be found, here: https://lnns.co/kWUeRhMXJd8

And the episode with Prof. Teague, is here: https://lnns.co/kPC2NJqEbuO

Are there other legal training, law school, or other podcasts that legal educators should be listening to? Add your suggestions in the comments, below.

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Handling emotional triggers: preparing our students for the practice of law?

By Liz Fraley

In one of my earliest days teaching, I was in the courtroom grading students as they gave their first-ever opening statement.  Nerves are common in this setting, and so we give feedback on both the structural and performance aspects of the exercise.  The last pair of students took their spots at counsel table, and I instructed the plaintiff’s attorney to proceed with her opening statement.  She stood in the center of the courtroom, spoke three words, and completely broke down.  These were not leaky tears; these were body-wracking sobs.  I confess to being caught unprepared for this.  I could not imagine what about this exercise had her emotionally distraught.  I did know, however, that I could not let her stop; I believed that would irreparably damage her confidence that she could complete the exercise.  I told her to get a drink of water (always a good move) and to continue.  She would get a few lines out and then cry again.  I kept prompting her with statements like “and then what happened” until she completed the exercise. 

After all the other students left the courtroom, she asked to talk to me about what had happened.  I readily agreed since I was mystified. She shared that when she was a first year student, she had attempted suicide.  Thankfully, she had gotten help and was much better.  However, the case packet used for opening statement by the students prior to her exercise involved an insurance dispute over death benefits: had the decedent died accidentally or by suicide? Hearing the previous students give opening statements in a case discussing suicide triggered the emotional response in this student.  I had not dealt with a “trigger” event like this before.  She assured me that having her continue and using calm, measured tones had been the right response for her.  She successfully completed my class and the bar, and happily seems to enjoy a good career.

Triggers present a lawyer-leader challenge, both in law school and in practice.  As fiduciaries, our own personal triggers cannot prevent our putting a client’s interests ahead of our own issues.  We cannot realistically expect a law firm to change its business to adapt to our triggers.  In other words, we cannot be fragile in this profession.  We have a job to do, and we must do it to the best of our abilities.  This certainly puts the onus on us as professionals either to seek the mental health help we need to manage our triggers or to be intentional about the type of practice setting we seek.  A lawyer like my young student probably does not need to work in a field where she would be likely to encounter suicide issues as part of her work.

In the law school setting, training lawyer leaders may require us to provide support and guidance to student who have unresolved trauma.  We do not serve students well by suggesting the world will adapt to their triggers, but we can help them understand both their professional obligations and how their own experiences can actually make them a more empathetic and wiser counselor.  In many settings, client have significant emotional responses to their legal issues:  sadness, anger, despair over the events and their lack of control over difficult and upsetting situations.  Transforming negatives into a positive enhancement for emotional intelligence makes a better lawyer. This type of work in law school also reinforces the internal locus of control skills that are needed for good leaders. 

CHALLENGE:

Identify a situation like mine when a student reacted in an unexpected manner to the discussion.

If you did not engage the student to discuss the situation, consider what possible reasons might have existed.

How might you handle similar situations in the future?

I would also love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you agree or disagree with my take on triggers?

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Emotional Intelligence: “Leadership: Agility in the Face of Fragility”

By Stephen Rispoli

This article, posted in the November 2020 Leadership Issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, examines the concepts of agility and fragility in uncertain and ever-changing times. Although it deals with the stresses of the pandemic as they relate to the need for agility and recognizing fragility within teammates, these lessons in emotional intelligence are applicable to nearly every situation where the outcome or future is not guaranteed. As the pandemic drags on nearly a year later, it is perhaps more crucial now that ever as we deal with the effects of a long-term crisis.

The article also touches upon two other concepts that I like to discuss with students – efficiency and effectiveness. As the article notes, while many firms focus upon efficiency, they should also be focused upon efficiency’s necessary twin – effectiveness. Checking in on your colleagues to make sure that they are getting their work done in stress times is focusing upon efficiency. But effectiveness is also making sure that your colleagues are doing well. As the saying goes, “you must be doing well to do good.” This approach works with all constituencies, not just work colleagues – family, friends, and clients. We can use our emotional intelligence skills to connect with those around us and help them through difficult situations.

Finally, a note about fragility. Although “fragility” often takes a negative connotation, I really liked it in this context. It does not encourage fragility, but rather helps us look for symptoms of stress and anxiety in others when they are outwardly projecting confidence and positivity. It encourages us to look for moments and ways to help others when they may be struggling. If that’s not using emotional intelligence to make the world a little better, I do not know what is.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.

– SLR


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Did George Washington’s Journey to Strengthen his Emotional Intelligence Contribute to His Success?

By Leah Teague


“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them,
to enjoy them and to dominate them.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be self-aware of the impact of our emotions – and control them – and it is awareness of and understanding the emotions of others. At the core, Emotional Intelligence is connecting with others through empathy to build relationships and achieve goals.

Emotional Intelligence is a modern-day concept. No studies or books could have guided Washington back in his day. But as we study Washington’s development as a leader, do his efforts provide an example of what can happen if one is dedicated to improving one’s emotional intelligence?

Last week, Baylor Law was fortunate to host a virtual presentation on Leadership Lessons from George Washington. Award-winning historian David Stewart, was interviewed by Talmage Boston, a well-respected trial lawyer and author, to discuss the leadership journey of our first president. In his research for his latest book, George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father, Stewart discovered that “Washington’s rise constitutes one of the greatest self-reinvention in history.”

David Stewart described George Washington as a brash and arrogant young man – far from the respected father figure we see in portraits. Stewart notes, “From his earliest days, Washington hungered for distinction, for a high reputation that would validate his worth. Washington wrote in his early twenties that ‘the chief part of my happiness’ was ‘the esteem and notice the country has been pleased to honor me with.’” His judgment in early years appeared to have been guided, or misguided, by an excessive ego. And his failures were many in those early military years. Stewart writes of a transformation that took place in his mid-twenties. “Through that prolonged period of forced introspection, Washington evidently resolved on a fundamental change of direction.” By his mid-forties, Washington had transformed himself into the legendary leader known as a caring and quite gentleman who wrote much later in life that his “only ambition is to do my duty in this world as well as I am capable of performing it and to merit the good opinion of all good men.” 

The respected leader at the First Continental Congress in 1774 was “almost unrecognizable when compared to the man who led the Virginia Regiment two decades before,” wrote Stewart. To what does Stewart attribute this transformation?

Washington studied his flaws. From a young age, he struggled against his own nature. His early missteps might have crippled the prospects of a person with less dogged commitment to self-improvement. He ruthlessly suppressed qualities that could hinder his advancement and mastered those that could assist it. Washington’s story is not one of effortless superiority, but one of excellence achieved with great effort.

As we shared in our last blog on Emotional Intelligence, willingness to earnestly and honestly examine yourself and seek self-control are hallmarks of Emotional Intelligence. Awareness of other people and their circumstances with a desire to build relationships and work well with others represent two more key components of EI. George Washington may not have possessed it at the beginning of his career, but his later unanimous election victories indicate he earned it in abundance.

Stewart’s book is, according to the Wall Street Journal, “an outstanding biography that both avoids hagiography and acknowledges the greatness of Washington’s character.” I also learned that while Washington was not a lawyer, he served as Fairfax County Court justice for six years and presided over hundreds of matters. His time as a judge “season[ed] his judgment,” “bolstered his habits of acting cooperatively with peers, listening to differing views, and reconciling his ideas with those of others,” all of which well prepared him for his role as our Founding Father and First President. Washington’s willingness to listen to others with differing opinions and his selfless leadership were essential to seeing our nation through its fragile beginnings. Stewart stated, “Washington gave the United States something every nation needs, but few get: a national hero who understands that heroism includes giving up power and trusting your neighbors, that integrity and virtue – old-fashion concepts even in the eighteenth century – are a greater legacy than personal aggrandizement and national conquest.”   

In the interview, we appreciate Stewart’s thoughtful response to questions about Washington’s unwillingness to free his slaves during his lifetime which provides yet another reason to include Washington in our leadership studies. Washington could make an ideal subject for a class discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of our leaders and the complicated nature of leading in the midst of challenging times. We highly recommend the book, and we hope you enjoy the interview!

– LEAH

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Join Us This Thursday: Leadership Lessons from George Washington


VIRTUAL EVENT
THURSDAY, SEPT. 16, 2021 @ 4:30PM CDT

Baylor Law invites you to join us this Thursday as Talmage Boston interviews David O. Stewart about his latest book, George Washington – The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father, and they discuss the leadership lessons we can all learn from our first President. 

Stewart’s book has been described as an “outstanding biography” by the Wall Street Journal and was recently awarded the “History Prize” by the Society of the Cincinnati. (The Society of the Cincinnati was “founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army who served together in the American Revolution.” President Washington was a founding member and first president of the organization.)

Pleae RSVP at baylor.edu/law/EventRSVP. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Stephen Rispoli at 254.710.3927 or stephen_rispoli@baylor.edu.

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Can a lawyer’s emotional intelligence really be more predictive of success than IQ?

By Leah Teague


In a profession filled with high IQs, there is evidence that working on your emotional intelligence (or EI) can pay dividends in your professional and personal life.

The education and training in law schools traditionally focused almost exclusively on developing the cognitive ability to solve legal problems. Emotions were discouraged and even criticized as a sign of weakness. Research in more recent years confirms the relevance of emotions in decision-making and the benefit of well-managed emotions to career success and personal satisfaction.

The Yale researcher in the 1990s who coined the term Emotional Intelligence found that the most sophisticated information processing and decision-making occur when we employ not only cognitive ability but also emotion. For a brief history and explanation of Emotional Intelligence, please see the ABA article by Ronda Muir, Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers. She explains,

research has established that rational decision-making is impaired if the area of the brain relating to emotions is damaged or excised. It has now been scientifically demonstrated that the best analyses and decisions are made when we engage the emotions, as well as the intellect. For lawyers, the message is clearly that, in order to upgrade their performance, they should use the additional data available from their own and others’ emotions to enhance their cognitive skills.

In his best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reported research showing the traditional IQ test only accounts for 20% of a person’s success in life. “Psychologists have concluded that a portion of the missing factors lies in Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and others and to control our own emotions while empathizing with the emotions of others.

Law schools place a high value on intellect and cognitive ability and we are not wrong to do so. Lawyers as a group have higher than average IQ scores. Some assume the IQ is an accurate predictor of success after law school, and it is – but only to a point. Lawyers “exhibit high average IQ scores (in the 115-130 range), while at the same time scoring lower than the general population on Emotional Intelligence (85-95).” Emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success when IQ is similar, according to Ronda Muir, in “Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers.”

What is Emotional Intelligence?

As a general matter, emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own and others’ emotional state to relate and work well with others. One approach to EI is to consider four aspects:

  1. What a person knows about themselves (self-awareness);
  2. What a person does with this understanding of their emotions to control or guide their impulses (self-management or regulation);
  3. What a person knows about others (social awareness); and
  4. What a person does with the awareness of others to use that information to build relationships and work well with others (relationship management).

Enhancing one’s Emotional Intelligence takes commitment to developing emotional competencies (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills) through sustained practice, coaching, and feedback.

Our Challenge:

Spend time this month exploring emotional intelligence. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, start with:

Record Your Observation

Pick two different scenarios where you can observe a group without participating in the group. You also should be far enough away that you cannot hear what the individuals are saying to one another. Write down what actions you observe and what you think they mean. For example, if someone frowns, do you think that person is angry, is sad, disagreed with another person, or something else? Was the emotion directed at another person in the group or someone who you do not think was present? Spend at least ten minutes observing each group.

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Back to School, Back to Advocating that Leadership Development Programming is Valuable!

By Leah Teague


On top of the traditional busyness that comes with starting a new academic year, we know many face difficulties during these challenging times. To all of you, we send you our heartfelt greetings and best wishes!

As you resume your work preparing law students to be problem-solvers and influencers, please continue your efforts to increase leadership development activities at your school. For August, we challenge you to try the following:

For readers in the legal academy: Help at least two colleagues find ways to incorporate leadership development in their classes, programs, or other work within the school. Offer specific, concrete ideas or exercises to facilitate their efforts.

For readers who do not hold a full-time position in a law school: Inquire about leadership programming at your alma mater or one with which you have a relationship and offer to help. Feel free to use some of the modules and examples from Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership for a guest lecture, a CLE offering, or a professional development program.

We believe leadership development is helpful and essential, and leadership programs are gaining traction nationally. Please note that the ABA has proposed amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education which impact lawyer leadership. Three important topics may become mandatory for law schools, and they are fundamental topics in well-developed leadership programs. The proposed amendments to Standards 206, 303, and 508 will be voted on at the February 2022 meeting of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. If adopted, the following topics will be required in legal education:

  • Diversity and inclusion, (now specifically including bias and cross-cultural competency);
  • professional identity including lawyers’ special obligations to clients and society (which includes topics such as ethics, influence, and leadership); and
  • student well-being.

In our opinion, these three concepts must be addressed in leadership development courses or programs as they enrich any study of leadership. Deborah Rhode’s inclusion of these concepts in the Introduction and Conclusion of her Leadership for Lawyers textbook reveals her focus upon these concepts. We address these subjects both in individual chapters and woven in discussions throughout our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership. To explain the relevance, the language of the proposed amendments to Standards 206, 303, and 508 are included in our Teacher’s Manual (See pages 3, 18, 81, and 124, available as part of the Professor Resources) at the beginning of these three chapters:

Chapter 17: Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence
Chapter 1: What is Leadership?
Chapter 11: The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession.

This is NOT a sales pitch for our book. Our primary goal is to help as you advocate for, create, or enhance leadership development programming at your school. Whether a school or program chooses to adopt our book has nothing to do with that goal. The “leadership team” (Stephen, Liz, Pat, and me) at Baylor Law stands ready to work with other law schools fully embracing the need to develop lawyers who are not only competent practitioners in their chosen career pursuits but also well-rounded professionals who seek to be positive influencers among their family, friends, and clients and to have a meaningful impact on their communities.

We want to be a resource for – and learn from – others. Please let us know how we can work together to make leadership development programs, and legal education generally, better. That IS the reason we wrote the textbook. It was designed not only for use in leadership courses, but also so that individual chapters can be used as modules in orientation, professional identity programs, clinics, academic support programs, career development and student success centers, and any other courses or programs with the goal of better equipping our students for success in their future role as difference makers.

To read the full version of the proposed amendments to ABA Standards 206, 303, and 508, we direct you to the August 16, 2021, Memo from the Standards Committee to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The Memo eventually should be posted in the Notes and Comments Section of the ABA website. For now, Dean Paul Caren posted the Memo on his TaxProf Blog at ABA Standards Committee Approves Anti-Racism, Bias Training as New Accreditation Standards for Law Schools.

We note that the proposed amendments are not without critics. We share concerns about the lack of attention to the assessment of the effectiveness of any new training. But we are encouraged by the work of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, and its Co-Directors, Professors Neil Hamilton and Jerry Organ, who are leading the national effort to help law schools develop and adopt assessment tools in the form of stage development rubrics. Effective use of such rubrics can help law schools not only satisfy compliance with ABA Standards but also be more intentional about developing law students who are better prepared for the obligations they will assume as practitioners, professionals, and leaders.

We wish you a great start to the new academic year!

– LEAH

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Simone Biles: The Mark of a Leader

By Pat Wilson

The true mark of a leader is not so much how she leads when times are good, but how she responds in the face of adversity. In the past weeks, we all got a front-row seat to Simone Bile’s leadership when she was forced to limit her participation in the Olympics Women’s Gymnastics competition because of the “twisties.” I doubt that many predicted the profound effect she would have that would extend beyond the USA team, and even the gymnastics world. Forbes recently published an article that lists seven leadership lessons for business executives. 

Perhaps the most important take-away from all that happened in Women’s Gymnastics during the Olympics is, as the Forbes article suggests, to prioritize mental health. As leaders who are training other leaders, we must model for our students empathy and support when those with whom we work as students or colleagues are struggling. Just as importantly, we must prioritize our own mental health. It’s okay to step back when life’s challenges become overwhelming. It may be the best thing one can do for the team.


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Back to School, Back to Basics

By Leah Teague


As the end of summer nears and return to school looms, we are returning to the basics. For me, that means back to the beginning of this effort to support the growth of leadership development programming in legal education. I remember the early morning breakfast at the 2016 AALS meeting where Deborah Rhode and I hosted a small but enthusiastic group in the first conversation about this effort to encourage law schools to better prepare students as leaders. Encouraged by the energy at that gathering, we planned a formal Group Discussion for the 2017 AALS Annual Meeting entitled Introducing Leadership Development into the Law School Curriculum (see notes linked).The room was packed and over-flowing! The appetite for action was exciting. We all agreed that it was time! Lawyers are leaders and leadership development should be an integral part of legal education and training.

After all manner of justifications for why we need to emphasize leadership development in legal education, we identified and acknowledge challenges and we generated ideas. Two of the challenges identified at that time were:

  • How do we get colleagues to support the creation of leadership development initiatives?
  • How do we help professors and staff colleagues incorporate leadership development into all aspects of their legal education (class, clinics, professional identity formation, career development, etc.).

The progress that has been made since those initial meetings is impressive (see Making Progress in Legal Education: Leadership Development Training in Law Schools), but much more is needed. We challenge you to take an active role in helping with creation or growth of leadership development programming at your school.

Our August challenge is:

For readers in the legal academy: Help at least two colleagues find ways to incorporate leadership development in their classes, programs, or other work within the school.

For readers who do not hold a full-time position in a law school: Inquire about leadership programming at your alma mater or one with which you have a relationship and offer to help.

In a case of colleagues who still think “leaders are born, not made,” victory may be convincing them that leadership development is relevant and important and can be done in law school. Even if they are not yet comfortable that they can effectively include discussions or lessons of leadership in their classrooms, maybe they will be supportive of leadership development efforts of other colleagues.  

In future posts, we will discuss some suggestions for influence and action, which is after all our definition of leadership.

-LEAH