Investing in Homegrown Leaders: Here’s How to Develop Effective Lawyer Leadership Skills

Leadership is a teachable skill, writes Yuliya LaRoe, and it’s important that lawyers learn it. In this article, LaRoe urges law practices to invest in team members by developing their leadership skills. To that end, she outlines a five-pillar leadership program, with skills and concepts to learn in each category.


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How to have arguments that change minds- including your own

This article about having better arguments is helpful on two fronts: civil discourse and emotional intelligence. The authors, Scott Aikin & John Casey, discuss why people have heated arguments, how to think more clearly about the positions that the speaker is putting forward, and how to engage with the other person in a way that acknowledges their beliefs and feelings. It is a refreshing, quick read that helps the reader be better prepared for the next verbal conflict. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


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Using Leadership to Teach Professional Identity Formation, Well-Being, and Diversity and Belonging.

Newly adopted ABA Standard 303(b) reinforces the duty of law schools to help their students explore “the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices,” which are considered “foundational to successful legal practice” and fundamental to lawyers’ professional identity. Our Baylor Law Leadership Development Program was created in 2013 to provide structure to teaching law students about the lawyers’ role in society and better preparing them to serve their clients and society. These goals align with Standard 303(b) as well as the professional identity formation work occurring around the country. (See the work of the Holloran Center under the co-director of Professors Neil Hamilton and Jerry Organ).

Our Leadership Development Program addresses two other recent amendments: ABA Standard 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). All three subjects (professional identity, bias and cultural competency, and wellness) are essential topics that need to be addressed as we prepare law students for the important work of lawyers in society. Finding all three topics in the textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, is no surprise and not an accident. With no law school textbook available when we started teaching leadership in 2013, we labored to determine what should be taught in a leadership course and program. Those three topics were recognized as fundamental to a well-rounded legal education.

We wrote the textbook and created the Teacher’s Manual and Resources to help others create a leadership course or present a program in whatever manner makes sense within their system and culture. With this easy-to-use textbook (and teaching materials), we hope more faculty and staff will join the growing movement to better prepare students to become more effective professionals and inspire them to be difference-makers. 

Both the textbook and our own course structure are divided into four aspects of developing leadership. Following an introduction to the concept of leadership, we ask students to look internally first before turning the leadership focus outward. The course is formatted as follows:

  • Part I – Overview of Leadership
    Initial sessions introduce students to what we mean by “leadership” – a process whereby an individual has an influence on another (or a group) to achieve a common goal. Leadership is the opportunity to help and serve no matter what title or position one holds in an organization. Students should also recognize that lawyers in our society hold positions of leadership as they advise clients and organizations, and as they serve in their communities. Leadership is part of our professional identity. For materials relevant to the Standard 303(b) changes, see Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership Preface, Chapter 2 (Why Lawyers Should Study Leadership).
  • Part II – Leadership of Self: Growing into Leadership
    Students are guided through a process of self-discovery and assessment to gain a better sense of who they are and what type of lawyer and leader they want to be. Topics covered include characteristics of leadership (traits, skills, and competencies, including those traditionally developed in law school); growth mindset; grit and resilience; feedback and learning through failure; well-being; integrity and character; preparedness and setting goals. For materials relevant to Standard 508(b) changes, see Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 11 (The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession).
  • Part III – Leadership with Others: Effective Group Dynamics
    To be effective lawyers and leaders, students need to develop their ability to work and interact effectively with others. Topics in this part include emotional intelligence; relationships and influence; strategic communication; diversity and inclusion; unconscious bias and cultural competency; effective management; and working within legal organizations. For materials relevant to Standard 303(c) changes, see Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 17 (Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence).
  • Part IV – Leadership within Community: Service and Impact
    Lawyers are well suited, and expected, to use their legal training and other talents and gifts to serve society. We want to encourage students to seek opportunities to serve in ways that are meaningful to them and that can have a significant impact on others. Students are challenged to consider what legacy they want to leave.  Chapters in this part can be used to emphasize leadership for positive change and encourage law students to use their legal skills to effectuate a desired goal.

This textbook is designed to make leadership and professional formation easy to implement and teach. Each chapter can be used as a module for stand-alone programs or incorporated into other courses. An abundant library of teaching materials (notes, exercises, PowerPoint slides, etc.) is available to accompany class sessions and to complement presentations.

To access the professor resources for this title, you will need a validated professor account on Aspen Publlishing. If you do not yet have a validated professor account, you may register at AspenPublishing.com/my-account/register. Account validation may take 1-2 business days. Once validated, you may log into your account using your own personal login, go to the relevant product page and scroll down to access the Professor Resources.

Thank you for your efforts to prepare and inspire law students to boldly seek opportunities to make a difference in our profession, their communities, and the world. Please let us know how we can help you!


Women in Law Firm Leadership Are Changing The Profession

The legal world is becoming more diverse, but it still has a long way to go. Here, Nick Gaffney interviews Trinae Hall, Kelsey McCann, and Kim Bonnar— all women in leadership roles within the legal industry— about their experiences as women leading in what remains a male-dominated space.

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Training Students in Civil Discourse: New Public Deliberation Workshop Developed as Part of ABA Standard 303 Efforts

The recent amendments to ABA Standard 303(b) (development of a professional identity) & (c) (education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism) did not require major adjustments to our programming at Baylor Law. Still, a 303 Committee was appointed to ensure and document our compliance. With a mission to “train lawyers who are able to practice law with competence, serve with compassion, and provide effective and ethical leadership,” we have long been dedicated to the notion that our job does not end with teaching basic concepts of law and legal analysis. With a tradition of incorporating a significant amount of practical skills training, the concept of professionalism is baked into the DNA of a Baylor Law education. With that said, we recognized eight years ago that we needed to be more intentional in our professional development training. In 2014, we created our Professional Development Program and our Leadership Development Program to be more intentional in preparing students for the modern challenges of being a member of our time-honored profession.

The 303 Committee’s review of our curriculum and programming confirmed numerous ways in which Baylor Law develops law students’ professionalism. But the Committee did not stop there. More can and should be done and we spent the summer exploring enhancements and additions to our programming. This post highlights one of those new programs. Beginning with the Fall 2022 entering class, all entering students will participate in a public deliberation workshop.

What is public deliberation and why should law students learn how to do it?

The public expects lawyers to be zealous advocates for their clients, but sometimes a lawyer’s conduct goes beyond zealous advocacy and crosses the line of civility. Not only does ill-mannered conduct reflect poorly on our profession, but it also contributes to the normalizing of disrespectful, uncivil, and polarizing reactions to viewpoints and statements with which a person does not agree.

Lawyers’ professional obligation extends beyond individual clients to our system of justice and to society. As stated in the preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct: A Lawyer’s Responsibility, “[a] lawyer is a representative of the clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Since the beginning of this nation, lawyers have recognized that their special status comes with a professional responsibility to address pressing issues facing society. A lawyer’s legal education and training provide the opportunity to be change agents and difference makers not only for their clients but also in their communities and across the nation. These professional obligations and opportunities for influence call for lawyers to model civil discourse and to be able to facilitate deliberation in a calm and respectful manner.

This workshop teaches our students a different way to approach advocacy – one that helps them embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively.

“Deliberation involves the best parts of dialogue (conversational) and debate (argument) to offer an experience where participants can learn from one another by talking through different perspectives and approaches to local and global issues and working together to come up with community action steps.


We want this experience to occur early in law school so they recognize that civility and professionalism are not antithetical to zealously representing a client. We also hope the experience will inspire and enable students to approach some of the most potentially heated issues debated in the public square (e.g. race, religion and its role in society, sexual orientation, gun rights or gun control, among others) with a desire to build community through shared values, solve problems and build a better tomorrow.

Public Deliberation Workshop Required for Entering Students

Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, each entering student at Baylor Law will be introduced to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative.  Dr. Joshua Ritter, Director of the Public Deliberation Initiative, described the workshop as a “partnership for training law students as active deliberative citizens with democratic skillsets they can implement within their own communities and leadership.” 

The 1 ½ hour workshop began with a video from the Dean to explain the importance of the effort and to give some context. After some initial remarks and instructions by Dr. Ritter, the law students were divided into groups of 10-12 and given an issue for discussion. Different topics can be used but it needs to be one that generally elicits a wide range of differing views. We used food insecurity for our first workshop.

Facilitating each group is a second- or third-year law student who participated in a 2- hour training session with Dr. Ritter. The facilitators keep the group on task while remaining neutral. The goal is not to change anyone’s mind on the particular issue, but simply for each participant to hear and to be heard on the issue.

Through this interactive exercise, we hope to demonstrate to students that individuals with diametrically opposed positions often share common values but they may prioritize those values differently.  We also recognize the benefit to the law school environment. Creating a culture of respect for colleagues with different life experiences and perspectives will enrich our classrooms and programs.

Please contact us for more information on this program. 


Leadership, Professional Identity, and Student Wellness Programs Honored by ABA

Back in July, we congratulated our colleagues from Texas A&M Law and Ole Miss Law for joining us as recipients of the 2022 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards. See pictures below from August at the Annual Meeting of the ABA in Chicago as we proudly shared the stage for the presentations by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism. Our schools were recognized at the Joint Awards Luncheon of the ABA Division of Bar Services and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. “This Award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and ongoing professionalism programs established by law schools, bar associations, courts, and other not-for-profit legal organizations that help ensure the maintenance of the highest principles of integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public.”

As you develop your plan for professional identity formation and student wellness programs (now mandated by ABA Standards 303 and 508), we encourage you to review and consider aspects of the programs described below that could be adapted for use at your law school. We certainly are!

All three programs recognized with this prestigious award were honored for education, training, and activities already in place before the new ABA requirements. Here are brief descriptions of the 2022 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards Recipients:

Baylor Law School Leadership Development Program

The Baylor Law School Leadership Development Program stands out for its deep commitment to preparing law students for their important roles as leaders in our society, emphasizing that lawyers as leaders have a special obligation to their clients and society to act with honesty, integrity, and civility in all matters. The leadership development program incorporates all essential characteristics and competencies essential to students’ professional identity formation. Created in 2013, Baylor’s Leadership Development Program consists of five major components: (1) an elective two-hour Leadership Engagement and Development course covering various topics including leadership styles and strategies, public service, and professional responsibilities; (2) 18 hours of professional development programming offered throughout the year designed for students to build skills necessary to succeed in practice and help students understand and embrace their responsibilities as a lawyer and leader in society; (3) a Leadership Fellow designation at graduation for a select few students who complete additional requirements in a Fellows program, including 25 hours of community service and serve as an intern for a charitable or community organization working a minimum of 45 hours; (4) an annual Making a Difference (MAD) Conference, featuring speakers selected to inspire students and lawyers to use their legal training to make meaningful contributions to their communities, discussing various topics, including public service, access to justice, and racial disparities; and (5) a national blog, entitled Training Lawyers as Leaders, dedicated further to encourage and support leadership development programming in legal education across the nation.

Baylor Law’s Leadership Development Team holds the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award with members of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. (L-R) D. Nichole Davis, Risk Management Director & Mentoring Program Administrator, South Carolina Bar; Stephanie Villinski, Deputy Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism; Baylor Law Professor Leah Teague, Associate Dean Pat Wilson, and Assistant Dean Stephen Rispoli.

Texas A&M University School of Law Professional Identity Course

Professional Identity (PI), at Texas A&M University School of Law, a required 1L course since Fall 2016, emphasizes core lawyering values, the self-directed development of interpersonal competencies critical to effective law practice, and the importance of well-being. This robust program focuses on helping students develop professional values, competencies, and a professional identity at the beginning of their law school career and provides a meaningful foundation for a successful career in the practice of law by introducing students to the “foundational pillars of the legal profession, including service, justice, and civility.” The PI program meets six times in the Fall and six times in the Spring and is structured into specific class modules centered on various professionalism concepts. Examples of the topics covered in the course modules include identifying lawyering competencies, developing an authentic narrative, well-being with an emphasis on mental health, grit, resilience and strategic pivoting, and leadership for lawyers. Student reflection writing exercises following each module provide students an opportunity to think more deeply about the topics discussed in class and allow the law school to assess the effectiveness of the PI program and make any necessary changes to build the program for the next year.

Stephanie Villinski and Aric Short, Professor of Law and Director, Professionalism and Leadership Program, Texas A&M University School of Law (https://ncbp.org/resource/dynamic/communitygallery/20220902_150808_27493.JPG)

The University of Mississippi School of Law Student Wellness Program

The University of Mississippi School of Law Student Wellness Program is a robust, multi-dimensional program aimed at helping students thrive both in law school and after graduation. Built around the foundational research supporting the recommendations of the ABA National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and the principles of the ABA Well-Being Campaign and Pledge, the Law School established the Student Wellness Program in 2018 with the objectives to promote healthy habits and lifestyles of the students at the beginning of their 1L year and communicate the relationship between wellness and professionalism. The program’s initiatives are designed to help students learn about, practice, or reflect upon six dimensions of personal well-being: intellectual, mental/emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and occupational/financial. Beginning with a Student Wellness Challenge, presented the first week of each new semester, students are encouraged to track the healthy things they do daily, earn points for various activities and events, and are ultimately rewarded with different levels of prizes. The student with the highest total points at the end of the semester receives the first-place prize, a much-coveted parking place in the Law School’s front parking lot. Other programming, activities, and events available to students throughout the student’s law school career also incorporate wellness, including programs on diversity, equity, and inclusion and the recognition of its relationship to wellness. Orientation for first-year students combines programming on wellness and professionalism followed by students taking a professionalism oath. Programs presented on National Law School Mental Health Day discuss work-life balance, financial literacy, psychological resilience, and strategies for coping with the stresses of life in the law. To provide students with the highest-quality well-being resources, the Law School partnered with the University of Mississippi’s Department of Psychology to make available on-site individual, confidential counseling sessions to students free of charge. Counselors are fifth-year doctoral students in clinical psychology and licensed therapists who are supervised by the Department’s clinical faculty.  The Continuation-To-Do Kit with the “1-2-3” framework of the Student Wellness Program makes it easy for the Law School to adapt and expand the program as necessary to reflect rapidly changing student needs and preferences, new environmental factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and staffing changes. The wide acceptance and success of the Student Wellness Program led the University to launch the Chancellor’s Wellness Challenge, modeled on the Law School’s program and available for all University of Mississippi students. 

(L-R) Susan Duncan, Dean and Professor of Law; Brittany Barbee, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs; Alexandra Gilbert, Wellness Counselor;
all from the University of Mississippi School of Law

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism for recognizing and supporting these important efforts to better equip our students for entry into our noble profession. Through efforts such as these across the nation, future lawyers will be better prepared to serve and lead clients, organizations, and communities.


New Professional Identity Book Guides Law School Faculty and Staff

Neil W. Hamilton and Louis D. Bilionis continue their all-star efforts to guide and support law school faculty and staff tasked with meeting the new requirements in ABA Standard 303. Their new book, Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals (Cambridge University Press, 2022) is now available to help those charged with providing substantial opportunities for the development of their students’ professional identity, as well as education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism. The book has received praises and endorsements from many deans and professors, including Professors Patrick Longan, Daisy Hurst Floyd, and Timothy W. Floyd who just published a book review in the July/August NALP Bulletin (viewable by members only). As explained in that review, “[t]he book is aimed primarily at law school professors and administrators who understand professional identity and appreciate its importance but who are at schools where professional identity formation has not yet taken root. For members of that audience, the book provides wise advice about how to proceed step-by-step and a detailed look at the best practices for promoting professional identity formation.”

Highlights of the Hamilton and Bilionis book were shared in a two-part article published in the May and June NALP Bulletins. Because of the importance of the topic and the value of their work, those two articles are available to the public as NALP Bulletin highlights: Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 1: Understanding the New Requirements, and Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 2: Action Steps to Benefit Students, Law Schools, and the Legal Profession. I understand Part 3 will be published soon!

In their work, Hamilton and Bilionis encourage law schools to start with a group of enthusiastic faculty and staff who are already interested and then empower them to engage in professional identity work that will meet the students “where they are.” Their book provides a plan for creating programming that will benefit “students, legal employers, clients, the legal system, and the law school.” Their goal is to assist law schools as they effectively and practically address the new 303(c) requirement. They note ABA Standard Interpretation 303-5 which recognizes that the work of “developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time,” and therefore, law schools should provide students with “frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.”

As Longan, Floyd and Floyd add, “[i]n Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals, Professors Hamilton and Bilionis have done legal education a tremendous service by setting forth the opportunities for professional identity formation in this moment and providing a practical playbook for taking advantage of those opportunities, even in the face of some expected institutional resistance.”

This is critically important work in legal education!  We appreciate all of you for your dedication to better preparing law students for their future work as professionals and leaders.  

– Leah


Leading Without Authority

Have you ever been in a situation where your ideas or concerns, as expressed to those in authority, did not lead to action? Did it leave you feeling dissatisfied and powerless? Many of us have found ourselves in these frustrating situations– or even hopeless– because we had no authority to change the situation. Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Leading Without Authority, is written to encourage and empower us as leaders and influencers, especially in situations where we have no title, position, or power of authority to act.

Ferrazzi frames a new dynamic for leadership that encourages those in a follower position, and even those in a leadership position, to use collaborative approaches to problem-solving that redefine the traditional power paradigm. Ferrazzi places this new framework on our ability to create our own team, identify our own goals, and effect change. It is packed with strategies and approaches to leading without authority, not only for those who teach leadership but particularly important for law students and young lawyers who have not reached a point in their career to hold traditional leadership power or positions.

We highly encourage you to pick up or download a copy and recommend it to your law students. The lessons in it will help them, starting with their internships and clerkships this summer.

– Liz and Stephen


How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge

As a follow-up on the wonderful letter from Dean Brinkley to law students posted last week, I highly recommend How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, by Clay Scroggins, by Clay Scroggins for some summer reading for our law students (and faculty, too!). Better yet, they can download the audiobook and hear Clay Scroggins read it to them. The audiobook really allows Scroggins’s personality and flair to come through while reading an already-entertaining book.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge is a wonderful reminder for all of us, no matter our title, position, or authority, that leadership is built upon relationships. But it is especially helpful for students participating in summer internships. Students can use the book to incorporate the lessons they are learning in law school and apply them in their summer internships to make good impressions and help their organizations. As the least senior team members, this book can give them practical tips and suggestions for discovering who they are and how they fit into the organization, how they can make a positive difference, and even how to challenge, in a constructive and respectful manner, the more senior lawyers with whom they work.

A note about Clay Scroggins: As the lead pastor for North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, this book has a religious slant. Although not overbearing, I did want to mention it so that readers will know going in.

I thouroughly enjoyed this book and am sure that you will too!

– Stephen