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Did You Say Storming of the Capitol Building? In America?

By Leah Teague

Caught up in my own little world last Wednesday, busily working on my tasks, I had no idea what was happening until a student shared the news during a phone conversation that evening. My thoughts and feelings as I tried to catch up on the events of the day:

• Shock at the images of violence

• Saddened for the victims and their families

• Disbelief at the disrespect by Americans for the sanctity of our nation’s house of government

• Concern for our democracy

• Embarrassment for our country

• Shameful lack of leadership by a man this country entrusted with the Presidency

• Sad, dark day in our history

And then the images of our elected representatives determined to do their job in spite of the events. Their resolve to ensure our democracy strengthened because of the actions of those who chose to violate our nation’s Capitol. 

I am also mindful of the appropriateness of Darby Dickerson’s theme for this year’s AALS Conference: The Power of Words. And as I listened to the excellent presentations in the Leadership Section program this week, I heard Mitchell Zuklie, Chairman of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, remind us multiple times that what we say and how we act matters greatly. Important messages we need to share often, especially with our students.

As we celebrated the ending of 2020, many of us thought we were turning the page in history to a better year – surely 2021 would bring a new and brighter day – only to be confronted on January 6 with the destruction and chaos and loss of life that occurred in the Capitol. May we each do all in our power to prevent that from ever happening again.

As teachers, trainers, and mentors of the next generation of lawyer-leaders, we hope you will join us in renewing our commitment and re-doubling our efforts to:

• inspire our law students to willingly acknowledge, and eagerly accept, their obligation as lawyers to serve the public and protect our democracy,

• encourage our law students to courageously seek opportunities, using their legal knowledge, training, and experience, to wisely and justly lead in their communities, and

• better prepare our law students to be leaders for change that will move our nation toward becoming a more perfect union.

Please let us know how we can help you in your work. Please also share your ideas for how we can work together to increase and grow leadership development initiatives across all law schools.

May this be a better year for all!

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Leadership Lessons from A Christmas Carol

Guest Post: Ed Nelson, Baylor Law’s Director of Marketing & Communications


Charles Dicken’s 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, more commonly known simply as A Christmas Carol, is a perennial favorite of millions of people during the Christmas season. The story centers around Ebenezer Scrooge, a selfish and unlikable miser who hates Christmas. The story has been retold, reworked, and recreated dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of times in plays, movies, and books.

As we approach the Christmas holiday in 2020… I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the valuable leadership lessons we can glean from this classic story:

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Past

We must constantly remind our students that good leaders learn from their mistakes and strive to not repeat them in the future. Babies don’t learn to walk without falling down, repeatedly. All of us, no matter how accomplished we are in our profession, have had to face failures, some of our own doing, some thrust upon us. Some of the best – and most memorable lessons we learn come from these mistakes and failures. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge was forced to face the mistakes he had made and the opportunities that he had missed. In the end, he recognized that he could never change the past, but he had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and ensure they were not repeated in the future. We must teach our law students to do the same. The past can’t be changed. But as Professor Walt Shelton shared recently, each of us should, on a regular basis, openly and honestly analyze our successes and failures and try to learn the lessons that each have to offer.

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Future

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that as humans, we have incredibly limited ability to predict future events. If we had been asked two or three years ago to predict how many of the nation’s law schools would be teaching their curriculum online during a pandemic – none of us would even come close to a correct prediction. None of us know with certainty what the future holds. The only thing certain about the future is uncertainty. With the rapidly changing circumstances, technology, and social mores in the world today, it is more important than ever that we train our law students to be proactive, flexible, and adaptable. Dean Teague has emphasized in recent posts the importance of training our students with grit and resilience. These are traits that can be learned – and implemented.  

Is your law school promoting a culture of empowerment and change? Are you focused on the future or stuck in the past doing the same things, in the same way, and surprised with the same outcomes? Scrooge didn’t just learn from his visit to Christmas Future, he was willing to adapt and make much-needed changes. If we take this even further, we can see that when he changed, he became someone who supported, encouraged, and empowered others to succeed. A wonderful change indeed!

Leadership Lessons from Christmas Present

As Scrooge learned, changing the future requires making difficult – and sometimes painful – changes in the present.

According to the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the legal profession is “buckling under the weight of stress, anxiety, substance use, and depression.” For many, the holiday season, rather than being a time of relaxation and reflection, simply amplifies already high stress levels. As if the legal profession wasn’t stressful enough, the holidays can increase pressures on your time and resources — shopping, baking, decorating, and entertaining, just to name a few. The spread of COVID-19 is adding to an already stressful time – and many of us are worried about how to celebrate the season without endangering ourselves or others. It can all be too much!

This Christmas season, carve some time out of your schedule to relax and recharge. Turn off your work email for a few days (or weeks!) and spend time some doing something you truly enjoy. Read a good book, focus on a favorite hobby, take some good long walks, or simply binge-watch a few sappy Hallmark Christmas Specials. 2021 will be here before we know it – and the demands on your time will resume. Model good mental health and wellness for your students this Holiday season.

From all of us here at Baylor Law’s Training Lawyers as Leaders Blog…  we wish you a wonderful holiday season.

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The Practice of Effective Leadership

Guest Post: Walt Shelton

This post is a guest post by Professor Walt Shelton. The Daily Practice of Life by Professor Shelton is a wonderful book and would make an excellent stocking stuffer if you still need to pick up some Christmas gifts! Here’s a link to buy it now on Amazon.



The Practice of Effective Leadership

What is the most important characteristic of an authentic and influential leader?  Character.  A stellar group leader is first and foremost a very good person, a role model in demeanor and behavior.  An effective leader emanates the “feel” of being part of the group rather than “above it.”   There is never any hint of attitudinal superiority.  Rather, respected leaders talk with instead of to their group in tone and substance.  Additionally, they work hands on like everyone else, as part of the group instead of its boss in group-related projects and activities.

Are Attorneys “Leaders”?

The Preamble to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct declares that our “incentive [is] to attain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct ” (Section 9, emphasis added). As members of our time-honored profession, we must aspire to this objective in our practice and representation of clients, and more so, in how we live and balance our priorities in life. Lawyer jokes aside, we should accept leadership roles with humility and assume a servant-oriented leadership mentality. We should give no hint of arrogance or partiality in our speech or conduct. Rather, drawing from Judeo-Christian and other authentic faith-related traditions, true leadership includes exercising and modeling compassion, kindness, and gentleness, as well as pursuing justice in our work and daily affairs.

Recognize That You Are a Role Model

In legal and all other contexts, people acknowledge and actually follow leaders that they respect.  Like it or not, life-quality and implementing excellent leadership skills are intertwined. Similar to children with parents, people watch how leaders live, what they do and live out, more than hearing what leaders say. Group members pay special attention to how their leaders react to difficult and challenging circumstances. Thus, qualitative daily living lays the foundation (or not) for people actually wanting to listen to you (actions and words) and embrace your position as a leader.

Owning Our Mistakes and Resolving to Improve

No one is perfect. Leaders are often in the spotlight and scrutinized in their behavior and decision-making.  Whatever the context, including legal representation, actively serving as a leader, or simply how we live each moment, when we err, we must own it. Subsequent to falling down, we apologize, implement a plan to personally remedy any harm, and resolve to improve. No one knows everything, including persons in leadership positions and recognized for their expertise. Anyone with an omniscient presence is not qualified to lead. “I don’t know” are among the smartest and most honest words leaders can ever speak. Following not knowing with diligently finding out and acting constructively upon it strengthens our leadership position and future performance.

Periodic “Self Auditing” is Important

Learning from experiences and reflecting upon them is an important yet often underrated mechanism toward more qualitative living and leadership. Taking the time for periodic, solitary, and unrushed hard looks at how we are living and leading others relative to our intentions and priorities is an excellent and necessary practice. True self-reflection results in progressive improvement. For example, we can pick a time of the year, such as the beginning of fall or a new year, as a season for this formative type of introspection to consider our priorities and goals in life, including leadership objectives. Honestly examining how we lived and performed over the past year, or some shorter period of time, relative to what we really care about in life and leadership provides a wealth of information. It allows us to: (1) understand and, as necessary, re-assess our goals; and (2) establish new habits toward the hard work of changing for the better. We can further enhance our effectiveness when we couple it with daily routines to focus and remind ourselves of our priorities as people, attorneys, and leaders: people who we would respect and want to follow.


Walt Shelton is one of the most well-read faith and life-quality columnists in Texas.  He has been a part time Professor at Baylor Law for 30 years and has led faith and life-quality related discussion groups for almost 40 years.  Professor Shelton also frequently speaks to other groups on ethical, legal, faith, and life related subjects.  His book, The Daily Practice of Life: Practical Reflections Toward Meaningful Living (CrossLink Publishing 2020) is available at or through most book stores.  Professor Shelton’s book includes an Appendix with ideas for leading small groups.  These include always being prepared and flexible, allowing for open yet unforced discussion, listening more than talking, and respectfully embracing differences of opinion.

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The Power of Conversation— and Listening

By Pat Wilson

Firing off an angry missive in the heat of rage is astonishingly easy and amazingly impersonal, particularly when sent via email, text, or some other electronic form.   We all know that people often say in writing things they would shrink from saying in person.  After all, the writer isn’t looking the target of his anger in the eye but venting at an inanimate screen.   

During the Women Leaders Panel at our recent 2020 Vision Leadership Conference, Dean Melissa Essary admits that when she received a long, angry screed from a colleague, she was tempted to respond in kind.  She opted not to give in to the temptation, however.  Watch the video or review the transcript of that panel discussion to see how Dean Essary chose to handle the situation.  Suffice it to say, her approach involved face-to-face conversation and engaged listening, with plans for more conversation. 

Dean Essary and the other accomplished women on the panel shared what they learned on the path to becoming leaders.  We hope you’ll check out this session, as well as others from the Vision 2020 Leadership Conference. 

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Leadership Traits

Dr. Mary Landon Darden knows a thing or two about leadership.  For her doctoral thesis, Dr. Darden studied the traits of successful university presidents, and she has since written two books.  In thinking about leaders in the context of the recent presidential election, Dr. Darden wrote in this recent column a summary of the characteristics of the ideal university president. 

We think that her suggestions are relevant to successful lawyer leaders as well. 

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What If Every Week Were Thanksgiving?

By Leah Teague

In my family we love Thanksgivings so much that we have multiple gatherings to accommodate extended family schedules. Big traditional meal on Thursday followed by at least one more (typically non-traditional, like Tex-Mex) on Friday or Saturday. One tradition is to go around the table with each person expressing gratitude for someone or some tangible or intangible thing in our lives. In most years it is easy to give thanks at Thanksgiving for the blessings in our life. But this year is different.

Still, even in this year marred with tragedies that will be marked and remembered in history, each of us can identify reasons to be thankful. So, we will observe this tradition this year. Whether in a small, socially-distanced back-yard gathering or virtually, we will count our blessings one by one. This act of sharing gratitude not only brings us closer as a family, but also creates a sense of peace and positivity within each of us. Knowing it produces such a favorable effect, why don’t we do this more than once a year?

My question for you today is: could we change the world if we all had a regular practice of gratitude? Research suggests we could!

Practice of Gratitude

Did you know that “people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed?” 

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (also thankful, pleasing). In the process of expressing thankful appreciation for what one has received, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives that comes from others. According to Harvard Medical School, “gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” From positive psychology research we know showing gratitude “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Lawyers who are happy and healthy are better able to perform professionally and more likely to positively impact the world around them. Encouraging law students and lawyers to develop a practice of gratitude should be part of our effort to develop lawyers as leaders. 

One suggestion from the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman, as recommended in his book Authentic Happiness,  is to write daily letters of gratitude. A practice of gratitude could be spending a few minutes each day to write a “gratitude” email to someone expressing appreciation for them even if you have not seen them in a while. In the age of electronic communication, a hand-written note can be even more meaningful.

We wish you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving gathering with loved ones, whether in person or virtually.

The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks, we give ourselves.”

David Steindl-Rast
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Election 2020 Lawyers Facing Dueling Duties of Responsibility: To Their Client and Society

By Pat Wilson

At the risk of wading into a partisan political dispute and appearing to take sides, we feel compelled to reflect on the controversy surrounding the international law firm Jones Day. According to the New York Times, some senior Jones Day lawyers are raising concerns about the firm’s representation of Donald Trump in his challenges to presidential election. They are concerned that the firm may be pressing arguments that lack evidence and tend to undermine the integrity of the election. Employees of the firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, also representing Trump in his election challenges, have expressed similar concerns.

We take no position on either firms’™ representation of the President. That said, it is worth considering and remembering the duty that lawyers owe not only to their clients, but the larger community. The preamble to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct states,

The lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

An attorney’s first duty is to her client. We owe our clients zealous representation; our work should always be guided by our clients’™ goals, using our knowledge and skills to get them as close to those goals and the law and facts will allow. Our duty, however, is not an unqualified duty. Indeed, the sanctions that courts may impose on attorneys who file frivolous claims or make specious arguments give proof to the obligation attorneys owe beyond their clients. My client made me do it is not a defense in these cases.

Moreover, lawyers can never lose sight of the full obligation owed to clients. A good lawyer is not simply a hired gun, retained to do whatever a client demands without question. Rather, good lawyers are also wise counselors, helping their clients to consider the implications of their goals. As we wrote in our upcoming book Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership,

The lawyer must move beyond the theoretical question posed to the [lawyer as a] technical expert and provide realistic guidance on what the client can and should do.

Embarking upon a strategy that lacks evidence or support in the law may in fact cause harm to a client beyond the immediate case. And if our clients wish to continue on their preferred path notwithstanding our wise counsel, perhaps withdrawal from representation is the next consideration.

These cases do not present easy answers. No lawyer should ever shrink from representing controversial clients, taking hard cases, or offering novel theories. However, lawyers must always remember that as officers of the court, our duty is to the pursuit of justice.

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Leading Through Victory and Defeat

By Liz Fraley

As I write this, our nation waits anxiously for who will win the presidential election. I use the word ‘win’ advisedly, as it seems difficult to conceive of a result that will be accepted with grace and unification by those on the ‘losing’ side. Bitter disputes make for more difficult times after resolution, and this is as true in a legal setting such as a trial as in this electoral cycle. The participation trophy does not apply; these are binary situations in which there is a winner and a loser. The challenge for leadership, then, lies in how to proceed in such a deeply divisive and potentially disappointing time.

For the winner, leadership requires modeling grace and conciliation. While victory feels good, the real challenge is moving forward in a way that recognizes the struggle and humanity of your opponent. We learned the lesson of punitive victory following World War I with the Treaty of Versailles. WWI’s victors felt the need to exact retribution from the Germans, placing a crushing burden on the country both financially and emotionally. This was an understandable desire given the unbelievable toll of the war, but the consequence was another more horrific war. We will never know how world events would have unfolded with a more conciliatory plan to move forward; we know with irrefutable evidence the damage that a cruel victory exacted.

Lawyer are experienced in situations where there are winners and losers.  Whether in trial or negotiating a deal, there likely will be a winner, and the party on the losing side may reel at the impact of that decision. Sometimes the impact is financial; sometimes it is emotional; oftentimes it involves both. Lawyers can play a vital role in helping colleagues, friends, families, and communities find a graceful way to move forward and bring healing to what is a difficult situation for both sides.

What of the losing party: how do you deal with difficult news you did not want to hear? How as a lawyer do you advise a client or bolster the morale of a team? This requires true courage and thoughtfulness. First, you have to help the team and client accept the outcome, especially if it represents the true end of the road. In many ways, accepting a known outcome, albeit difficult, is easier than one which remains uncertain. Second, debrief and learn the lessons of the loss. This may mean examining processes or leadership decisions; it may simply require an understanding that lawyers are not in the outcome control business. Either way, help your team learn, accept, and move on. Finally, have a plan for going forward. More senior lawyers can help younger lawyers, and law students, learn how to bounce back and developing resilience as a team strength happens most effectively following a loss. Success is not about how high you bounce, it is about how high you bounce back after hitting bottom. A team that cannot bounce back is fundamentally flawed; leading your team back to confidence is vital.

Our country will need to internalize these leadership lessons in the coming months. No one will ‘win’ this election if we do not learn that we must come together for the country, not for an individual or ideology. Our leaders, whoever they may be, will win only if they reunite the country rather than divide them more deeply. The current course is not sustainable; we must move forward with the help of strong and compassionate leadership.

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Am I enough?

By Leah Teague

During this time of crisis, many are understandably experiencing disconcert, anxiety, and/or a sense of isolation. In an effort to promote the practice of gratitude, we joined #ThankfulThursday and began posting videos of Baylor Law faculty and staff sharing what makes us grateful. As found by ‘positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.’ Harvard Mental Health Letter (updated on June 5, 2019).

I kicked off our first #ThankfulThursday on April 2 by expressing gratitude for the many blessings in my life, from my personal family to my professional family – that which we call the Baylor Law family. Then a few nights later, during a restless interval in the middle of the night, I sent all our students an email. Knowing that we ask much of our students even during normal times, I wanted to share with them a sense of togetherness and an understanding of our common concerns during this unprecedented time. Here is the message I sent them:

‘On Thursday, I shared what I am thankful for. Now for what keeps me up at night…

Am I doing enough? Am I enough?

I battle with these feelings often, but I share what is on my mind tonight.

Am I enough?

To my 83 year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s and other underlying health conditions and doesn’t understand why I can’t give her a hug. She spent her life devoted to caring for others. Whoever needed her most that day – my dad, my three siblings and I, then our kids, and, all the while, other family, friends and neighbors when we were not in need. She would lay down her life for any of us … or you, and yet now she doesn’t understand why I can’t come in and stay when I drop off food or groceries. Why none of us can. The loneliness of that disease is torturous in the best of times.

To my young grandkids who must think I have abandoned them during this time of COVID-19 quarantine. My four-year-old grandson says “Mimi, when you aren’t sick anymore, you can hold me. He doesn’t understand I am not the one who is sick – at least I don’t think so. His brother, the six-year old, just wants to know when he can come over and spend the night again … the way they used to. And I am sure the grandkids in East Texas don’t understand why they didn’t get the box of Fruity Pebbles in the Amazon shipment received when we asked what we could send them. Unlike many of the other popular cereals, it was available, but at  $12.95 a box? Really? Seriously! There ought to be a law, wait, there is!

To other family and friends, who are also struggling with isolation, illness, insecurities and uncertainties. How can I be there for them? I want to! If only I could. Virtual formats can’t replace sitting with someone as they cry while you hold them.

To our students who need someone to ease your anxiety, to reassure you and to help with your burdens. I wish I could be there to do something, to tell you how much we believe in you! That you are a child of God and therefore loved.

In times of uncertainty about my abilities and questioning my insecurities, I often look to others for inspiration. Here are some I found tonight on a website:

Helen Keller:   Lost her sight and hearing due to a mysterious fever when she was only 18 months old. She overcame her deafness and blindness to become a strong, educated woman who   spoke about, and promoted, women’s rights.  

Winston Churchill:   Overcame a stuttering problem and poor performance in school to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and one of the most influential political leaders of the twentieth century. He was also known for his powerful and rousing speeches.

Wilma Rudolph:  The Olympian born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children. She overcame double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio to become winner of three Gold medals in track at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games

. . .

J.K. Rowling:.   Born to a poor family; left a bad marriage with a young baby to live on government assistance; wrote her first Harry Potter book and was turned down by most publishers until Bloomsbury Publishing picked it up. Need I say more?

Determination, resilience, and  persistence   enabled all of these great people to push past their adversities and prevail. If they could do it, surely the rest of us can summon the strength and courage to do overcome our adversities!

From  https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/overcoming-adversity.html

I know this period has been a challenge for all and for some an extremely difficult period. While we know it is temporary, that does not ease the burdens you carry now. Please know that we are here for you to help as we can. It may not offer sufficient solace now, but my many years of experience allows me to assure you that someday this difficult time you are experiencing now will allow you to better serve a client, assist a friend, comfort a loved one or help a community. And we know that as Baylor Lawyers you will do all those and more.

Hang in there. Be safe and be well.’

– LWJT

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Where were you when legal education went virtual?

By Leah Teague

We were on spring break! In past years, I might have been glowing in the sun (literally, glowing from too much sun on my fair skin despite my best attempts to heed my doctor’s warning); in other years, we were skiing in the mountains. But not this year. I was in Waco preparing for the Baylor Law Vision 2020 conference, working on our textbook, and trying to whittle down that ever-growing To-Do pile. It was not going to be a leisurely week no matter what! But a pandemic was not in the plan. Spring Break 2020 will forever be remembered for COVID-19.

On March 11, Dr. Linda Livingstone, our University President, announced the University would take an extra week of Spring Break and that we should be ready to start teaching online March 23rd, making up the lost week before finals. The extra week off caused us concern with only 4 weeks left on our quarter system (we normally have 9 weeks of class with 70-minute class periods). Making up a full week’s worth of classes in the remaining 4 weeks amidst all the other challenges would have been nearly impossible! So, true to the Baylor Law spirit, our law faculty sprang into action and began teaching using online platforms the following Monday with only 5 days to learn technology that most had never heard of (like Kaltura, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams). A few understood WebEx but who knew you could narrate PowerPoints?! Yes, a few classes needed extra days to get up and running, but oh my goodness, did they rise to the challenge! Converting a traditional brick and mortar law school to a virtual one in five days – WOW!

Like all of you, we at Baylor Law are now fully online AND our faculty is serving as the front line for communication with their students to offer help and support for those in need. I have seen hard-nosed professors reach out to individual students to listen, counsel and advise or direct those struggling. They are making a difference in the lives of their students and I am so proud! Together we will get through this!

Kudos to the faculty and staff across the country who are working so hard to make it happen! We are witnessing countless examples of leadership in action!

We’re now in our third week of online classes. Our faculty have been meeting (virtually, of course) every few days to make important decisions. We decided early on to stay with our grading system and to address accommodations on an individual basis. Because we are small – student population of 430 – we are better equipped to manage this decision. We spent the last three weeks determining what adjustments we can make to our policies and procedures to help our students. We quickly extended the exam period and doubled the normal number of reading days. Instead of our typically tight exam schedule, they now have a break every few days during the exam period providing more time to study in between exams.

We committed to giving students easier access to accommodations without having to pay additional tuition to take away that financial burden. We adjusted our policies with regard to drops, withdrawals, and incompletes. We added grade relief through a new tuition-free, retake policy that only applies to courses taken this term. No student will lose any scholarship, now or in the future, because of these grades. These operational decisions were thoughtfully considered and debated during numerous faculty meetings and countless emails in between. The faculty focused on prioritizing the current needs and wellness of our students while balancing the short-term vs. long-term implications to their education and professional training. I truly am blessed to work with colleagues who care so deeply for our students while also remaining dedicated to our mission of preparing our students to be ready to serve and to lead in times such as these!

Our staff also has been amazing! A skeleton crew is here with me every day to support the work of the faculty and staff working from home and to meet the needs of our minimum and essential business operations. Although they are adjusting to working from home, they want to stay connected and to help, especially to support and encourage our students. They are offering tips and advice about best practices. They are reaching out to check in. We are scheduling virtual gatherings and socials for student groups. All the while our colleagues are juggling their own home daycares, schools, delivery services, and whatever else is needed for their loved ones. I am meeting virtually with the staff once a week and our conversations focus on what can they do to help one another and our students. Truly inspiring!

Our Student Relations Committee (student leaders along with appointed faculty and staff representatives) also meet once a week to give voice to the students’ concerns and to brainstorm solutions to issues. We are hosting a leadership summit next Monday to visit with the officers of our student organizations about leading virtual meetings and events focused on their missions.

And oh my goodness has the number of emails, phone calls, and texts exploded! We are using all manner of communication vehicles to attempt to alleviate the anxiety of our students, as well as others (including us!). Faculty and staff are putting in long hours each and every day to assure the well-being, education, and professional training of our students continues, albeit, virtually.

As we tell our students, it is in times such as these that lawyers rise to the occasion. We know our alumni are out there working just as many hours, and more. They are carrying the weight of not only their clients – who are greatly impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions – but also that of their children who must be home-schooled and their high-risk loved ones who must be cared for and protected. We thank them for what they are doing to model for our students what professionalism and leadership looks like.

I had hoped to get this message typed and delivered last Thursday or Friday to mark the time that was supposed to be the Vision 2020 Leadership Conference. We were so looking forward to welcoming many of you to our beautiful city and law center. I knew, however, you would understand that a message from me could wait. A month ago, as we were deliberating what to do about the conference and I really wanted to continue with the conference but convert it to a completely virtual conference. Clearly, one of the silver linings of our current situation is the shove we all got toward acquiring new skills using technology to work and congregate virtually. How innovative it would have been to be the first to host a virtual leadership conference for law schools!

Two realities stopped us from going forward. First, the chaos of the transition for all of us to a pivot on a dime towards a new work dynamic and to learn new tools and techniques to teach and do our jobs. We have all been consumed. We were concerned about the time to pull together such a novel concept and for it be a “wow” event, which is always our goal. Second, and for me even more important, there is great benefit through the personal connections of people gathering in the same room, sharing stories over cocktails, brainstorming during breaks, and focusing on a live speaker rather than multi-tasking at your computer at home. I am not advocating that these benefits cannot occur in a virtual world. Clearly they can. Last Saturday evening I participated in my first virtual Happy Hour and I loved it! The difference is that my Happy Hour was with a small group of people with whom I already have a relationship. Developing relationships that allow for effective sharing of ideas takes time. It is hard to “meet” people and spend any meaningful time getting to know them if they are in a group gathering online with 100 people for a one-time event. This is one of the challenges of this online world of education – how to connect at a personal level when the class is large.

All that to say, we were greatly disappointed that our conference, like the rest of our events and our lives, was disrupted by COVID-19. We will set a date in the Fall as soon as we can. We hope even more of you will be able to attend in person or virtually, but mostly hoping you will be able to travel to our fun city and our beautiful building on the Brazos River to fully engage with one another.

I hope you are all doing well in our new, temporary reality!

-LJT