Uncategorized

The Role of General Counsel: Influential Members of the Team or Merely Bit Players?

The Author, Leah Teague (Center) with Baylor Lawyers Lee Roy Calderon, JD ’12 (L)
and Justin Chakrabarty, JD ’12 (R)
Leah Teague

Recently I was in front of about 150 lawyers who work in a general counsel’s office at one of the Texas public university systems – mostly Longhorn lawyers within the University of Texas system but a few Aggie lawyers mixed in. To my surprise and delight, 4 Baylor Lawyers also were in attendance. The topic was Lawyers as Leaders. The invitation was the result of an article I wrote for the Texas Bar Journal and a podcast interview with Rocky Dhir, CEO & President, Atlas Legal Research, LP and host of State Bar of Texas Podcasts, who read that article. Rocky and I were invited by Omar Syed, Associate Vice Chancellor & Deputy General Counsel for The University of Texas System and chair of the annual gathering of general counsel lawyers in Austin (who also read the article and listened to the podcast) and wanted us to present the conversation at their annual gathering. I was honored and humbled to have that opportunity to share our work and our passion for our students and the future of our profession.

In preparation, Rocky and I were encouraged to include discussions about the role of lawyers as trusted advisor and leaders. We included such advice as “get to know the departments and schools you advise,” “ask about their work and their goals before trying to solve their legal issues.” We recommended they try to understand enough about the work of the “clients” so that when they have to tell them no, they can say “You can’t do that, but…” and then work to find a solution that will meet their goals when possible. In other words, try to be a problem solver and trusted adviser who adds value – be more than a legal technician.

As the conversation continued, questions were submitted to the host electronically – nothing fancy, simply texted to his phone. One of the questions has stayed with me weeks later, almost haunting me. It went something like this, “But what if the general counsel has instructed you to NOT do anything more than strictly answer the legal question asked?” The question was not: “What if the department does not ask for more than an answer to the legal question presented?” We had addressed that scenario. Attentive lawyers often must use that request for legal advice as the springboard for probing to get the information they need (background, issues, goals, costs, etc.) to help craft an option or two or three.

As soon as the question was asked, in my lawyerly way, I began to wonder what else was behind the question. Being part of a university, I well know how territorial life can be on a campus. Had the young lawyer (at least I assumed her or him to be) overstepped and been dressed down, i.e. stay in your lane? Had the general counsel given that instruction in a particular situation for which that command made sense? Was the office so overwhelmed with work that such an instruction was necessary for survival? Was the lawyer still inexperienced, unproven or perhaps not yet trustworthy?  I don’t know but we were grateful for the validation we received when a lawyer in the audience (who had a seasoned look and demeanor) stood and basically summarized all that we had shared about the need for us, as well as society, to view lawyers as more than “bit” players only to be engaged on the periphery. We need lawyers to be valued members of the team – to be part of the group trying to solve the problem, accomplish the goal or protecting the university – not merely legal specialists.

 We ended our response with the hope that all the general counsel offices have, or work toward, an office culture in which lawyers are encouraged to reach beyond the naked legal question to establish relationships that allow the client (department, school, etc.) to view their lawyers not as nay-sayers, deal killers or legal assistants, but as valued and trusted advisors and university partners. 

Leadership entails influence and impact in positive ways. We all need to help our students see themselves as leaders who have an obligation to serve and who will have many opportunities to help and to make a difference.  To that end, I was encouraged to see several hands go up when I asked who all in the audience serves on a non-profit board or volunteers in a service or pro-bono legal organization.  Part of law school must include a call to arms to all law students, encouraging them to roll up their sleeves and help their communities, thereby showcasing lawyer leadership at a grassroots level.

-LWJT
Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Engaging Students: What We’ve Learned in Developing and Teaching a Leadership Development Course (Part 2)

 By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli
Title Image - Engaging Students: What We've Learned in Developing and Teaching a Leadership Development Course - Part 2

Leadership Development Syllabus Series • Part 2: Engaging Students

Part 1 of our LEAD Course Series can be found, here.

In this second post of our LEAD Course series, we share our thoughts on interesting methods to engage law students. This year marks the sixth year of teaching this course and we are constantly making adjustments to the syllabus and our teaching methodologies. In addition to carefully selecting topics, exercises, and speakers, below we discuss three ways we engage the students.

1. Journaling

As noted in a previous post, we require students keep a journal throughout the class. We have come to believe this is one of the most beneficial elements of the class. Not only does it help them personalize and internalize the lessons, it allows us to evaluate their progress in real time throughout the course. We use Box as a file management system and create individual folders for each student. At the end of each class, students are assigned two or three journal entries which are then added to the class syllabus. Students answer these questions and prompts before the next class which allows us to read their answers and gauge understanding and progress.

2. Leadership Quote, Video, or Short Story

Each student signs up to present a quote, video, or short story about leadership in the first three-to-five minutes of a class. This fun exercise allows students to use their creativity (and sometimes add some humor) to present about leadership. The students – both the presenters and the rest of the class – seem to enjoy the activity before jumping into the topic of the day. Interestingly, most students chose topics for their presentation that fit well with the topic for the day.

3. Blog Post

From the beginning we required them to select and read a book about leadership. This year, instead of a book report, they will write a blog post based on the book – a short review or why someone should read (or not read) the book. We think they will be more engaged with the book of their choice and it will allow us to showcase the best ones on this blog!

In our next post in this series we will share the main components of our syllabus. Posts that follow in this series will include a discussion of how we teach each class, PowerPoint presentations, exercises used in class, topics presented by our guest speakers, prompts for journals and feedback from our students.

We know that many of you present similar topics in your courses and want to hear from you. We encourage you to post how you present these topics in the comments to this post. Our hope is that this blog becomes a discussion forum for best practices in teaching leadership in law schools. By going through the syllabus step-by-step, we can have a detailed conversation and share ideas.

Without further ado, our syllabus is here.

To help with the collection and distribution of what other law school leadership programs are doing, we created a repository for syllabi, programs, exercises, articles, presentations, and other leadership development materials. You can view and download the materials, here.

Please add your materials and syllabus!

(You can also upload by emailing AALS_Se.u8s6qo11r8rljvdf@u.box.com and attaching the document you want uploaded.)

How do you consistently engage with your leadership students? Have your tried something that didn’t work at all as planned? As we continue this series, we invite your feedback and input in the comments!

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

The Top Three Things We’ve Learned in Developing and Teaching a Leadership Development Course

 By Leah Teague

Leadership Development Syllabus Series • Part 1: Introduction

One of our goals for this blog is to advance the conversation of teaching leadership in law schools. We offer this blog-post series about specific parts of our Leadership Engagement and Development Course to hopefully spark ideas and further conversation. We begin with the top three things we’ve learned over the last five years teaching this course.

First, engaging the students calls for more experiential learning and effective use of guest speakers.

The first year, we used a more traditional pedagogy, assigned heavy readings and relied on a Socratic method to engage the students with the readings. We quickly discovered this material called for a different approach if we want students to internalize the topics and embrace it as a journey of self-discovery and growth.

We knew bringing in speakers would be beneficial. Our guest speakers are assigned to cover specific topics and asked to provide context to the concepts. They help the students see application of the concepts within a real-world professional setting. Students more easily envision themselves in those situations someday, and they connect with those lawyer leaders.

In the beginning, we scheduled guests near the end of the course. Over the next few years, we experimented with how many guest speakers and when. We found it best to have the two of us lead off the first week with an introduction to leadership and an overview of the class. After that, we try to bring a speaker for one of the two meetings each week. We purposefully invite speakers to cover specific topics. We recognized that is a lot of guest speakers so we set the syllabus early. We send the syllabus and assigned reading to each speaker so that he or she can see where we started, what we’ve covered, and how his or her topic fits into the overall picture. From there, each speaker chooses how to cover the topic and work his or her personality and stories into the material. Students like this weekly balance and they enjoy hearing from practicing lawyers and leaders. It is also a great way to connect with alumni!

Early on we shifted to a more experiential approach. Even during the sessions when we simply lead a discussion on a topic, we want the students to “struggle” with the material at least to a certain degree to create ownership of the material. We also constantly relate it to real-world situations. For example, after a discussion on dealing with the media, we run a mock press conference where students either assume the role of a media correspondent or the general counsel for a company in crisis. The students apply what they’ve learned in a controlled environment.

Second, the best class sessions include meaningful discussion among the students.

As noted above, we started with a more traditional pedagogy but the students were not engaged in thoughtful interaction. As a result, many students struggled to internalize the material and they could not identify how the information would be useful in the future. In other words, we were ineffective in leading them on a personal journey of self-discovery and growth.

Now, we are mindful of the need to include plenty of opportunity for students to actively engage with the material during class and after. If we don’t have time for, or if a topic doesn’t lend itself to, an exercise, we involved the class in small and large group discussions. We have a better balance of techniques leading to much better results. We hope we are helping them establish a life-long practice of intellectual curiosity and creative problem solving.

Third, journaling is essential.

When we created the class, neither of us believed in the power of journaling. With that said, since we did not believe that an exam was appropriate for this class, we required a journal to ensure that our students were getting through the material and completing the assignments. That first year, we did not see their journal until the end of the class.

We have seen the light! We now firmly believe that journaling is critical to a student’s development and growth. We tailor the journal prompts after each class to connect with the conversation in class and desired outcomes. Students must post journal entries to their personal Box file before the next class so that we can review. This enables us to determine if they are learning what was intended and allows us to make adjustments as appropriate. It provides the students a mechanism for wrestling with concepts and exploring the application to their lives. We hope our students create a habit of continual self-assessment and development.

-LT

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Baylor Law’s Leadership Fellows Program

Baylor Law’s Leadership Development Program continually strives to prepare students to become exemplary leaders, both in the legal profession, and in their communities. We make a concerted effort to find ways to increase student engagement with our Leadership Development Program. One way we’ve done so is through the development of the Baylor Law Leadership Fellows designation.

Leadership Fellows are Baylor Law students that have met the strenuous requirements of the Leadership Development Program. In order to earn the designation, a Baylor Law student must:

  • Take the Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) class and complete the personal development and team-building course (the Baylor Ropes Challenge Course).
  • Complete of a minimum of 23 hours of Professional Development Programming.
  • Serve as an officer of a Baylor Law student organization for a minimum of three quarters. While serving as an officer, the student must perform a minimum of 25 hours of service related to activities of the organization.
  • Complete of a minimum 25 hours of community service.
  • Serve as an intern for a charitable or community organization’s director or management team, or as an extern for a legislator, working a minimum of 45 hours.

The number of students who have received designation as a Leadership Fellow has been limited, and we are currently seeking new ways to engage with our students earlier in their Law School careers to involve them more fully in the Leadership Development Program. We hope to report back to you soon about our efforts.

Our most recent designee is Taylor A. McConnell (JD ’19). From our news story:

McConnell has been a dedicated volunteer at the Baylor Law Veterans Clinic, where he assisted at the legal advice clinics, drafted wills for Central Texas veterans, and has represented several clients in litigation. He served as the President of the Baylor Law Military & Veterans Legal Society and was Secretary for LEAD Counsel. He won the Spring 2019 Bob and Karen Wortham “Mad Dog” Competition and received both the Best Speaker and Best Advocate Awards in the Fall ’18 Dawson and Sodd Moot Court Competition. In addition to volunteering for the Veterans Clinic, McConnell volunteered with Baylor Law’s Trial Advocacy Clinic, helping juveniles at their initial detention hearings in district court. Working with Baylor Law Veterans Clinic Director Josh Borderud, McConnell assisted the 74th District Court in developing the first Veterans Treatment Court in McLennan County.

Does your law school have a designation or award for students who complete a specific leadership program or have demonstrated specific leadership characteristics during their law school career? If so… share your program with us in the comments.

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

In Case You Missed It…

Professor Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas School of Law, has written a fantastic article about developing law student teamwork and leadership skills – to be published soon in the Hofstra Law Review, and available now on SSRN.

Here’s the abstract:

Skills of teamwork and team leadership are foundational for many types of law practice, but how much instruction, supervised experience, assessment, and guided reflection on these two skills did each reader as a law student receive? Law schools’ formal curricula, in the author’s experience, historically have not given much attention to the development of these skills. There also has been little legal scholarship on how most effectively to foster law students’ growth toward later stages of teamwork and team leadership. Legal education must do better.

What is the next step for the 58 law schools that have adopted a learning outcome on teamwork or team leadership (plus those that will later adopt this type of outcome)? In Part II, this article outlines the next steps that competency-based education requires for a law school to implement a teamwork and team leadership learning outcome. In Part III, the article presents a stage development model for law student teamwork and team leadership skills. Part IV explains how to use the stage development model in the curriculum so that students can understand the entire range of stages of development of teamwork and team leadership. The students can then self-assess their own current stage of development, and faculty and staff and a student’s team members can use the model to observe and assess a student’s current stage of development and give feedback to help the student grow to the next stage. Reflecting on self-assessment, teamwork experiences, and others’ feedback, a student can create a written professional development plan to grow to the next stage of teamwork and team leadership and get coaching on the plan. The student can also assess the evidence the student has to demonstrate his or her level of development to potential employers.

For a link to Professor Hamilton’s article, click here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3417396.

Way to go, Neil!

-LT and SLR

Leadership, Uncategorized

Texas Capitol Trip

Victoria S. Feather, Baylor Law J.D. '17
Research Assistant

Recently, Stephen Rispoli and I escorted eleven first-year Baylor Law students to Austin, Texas, to spend a day at the Texas State Capitol observing the 86th Legislature in session. This trip was made possible due to the generosity of Baylor Lawyer and legendary Texas lobbyist, Joe B. Allen (or, as his friends call him, simply “Joe B.”).

Baylor Law Students with Joe B. Allen, J.D. ‘67

The purpose of the trip was to expose law students to potential leadership positions through public service. As they learned during the trip, leadership occurs at all levels in the Texas Legislature – from the Members themselves to each of their staff members. Each person plays a critical role in our state’s government and many of the students’ eyes were opened to the possibility of using their law degree in this public sector.

Students Observing the House in Session From the Gallery

The students began the day by observing both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate in session. While in the House gallery, as they observed members debate and discuss the Education bill on the House floor, students acquired a greater understanding of the legislative process and the role that public finance laws play in matters affecting public education. Students also had the opportunity to engage in discussions with various Senators and Representatives.

Students with Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, J.D. ’81

One of our current students, Sarah Beth Toben, J.D. ’20, is interning for Senator Kirk Watson this session. Sarah Beth said that she has realized how important “service” is to leadership from her experience with Senator Watson. “It is one thing to be an elected official, but it shows true leadership to day in and day out serve your constituents. That is what I have learned through working with Senator Watson. His constituents love him and it is because he takes the time to listen to them and tries his best ensure that their voices are heard.”

Students with Texas State Senator Larry Taylor, B.B.A ’82
Students with Texas State Senator Larry Taylor, B.B.A ’82

To round out their view of life at (or near) the Texas Capitol, they also met with lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s office to learn about the various matters that the AG’s office oversees and how lawyers are involved behind the scenes in many facets of Texas life.

Students at the Texas AG’s office with Joe B. and Kelsey Warren, J.D. ’15

After the trip, students were asked to write a short paragraph about what they learned and their thoughts from the legislative adventure. Here are a few excerpts:

  • Overall, I loved the trip. I consider myself very well informed when it comes to politics, but I learned more than I ever had before about the hands-on activities of the House and Senate. Everyone we met was kind and patient in discussing their work and experiences with us.
  • I consider it an absolute privilege that I was able to attend such a historic process, the effects of which will echo into the future for literally generations to come. I have become interested in the future the legislature has created for this next generation of children who will benefit from it.
  • I personally loved the trip to Austin, and I learned a lot about how Texas politics works. I was able to take part in many great exchanges of differing policy and political ideas.
  • This entire process that I was able to witness was illuminating and inspiring.
  • Without this trip, I may have found it easy to sit idly by behind monolithic political tenants. Now, however, I see the people behind the curtain: people driven to benefit their community both now, and later. The legislature appears to be the stewards of the future. Without strong leadership, the stewards can let infinite ruin blaze across Texas. With strong leadership, the stewards can let the fruits of prosperity blossom.

We greatly appreciate Joe B. for sharing his vast knowledge of Texas history, politics, and the legislature with our students. But more importantly, he shared his story – initially getting involved in the Legislature to change a minor provision on behalf of a local government client, to finding he liked the work, to ending up working on (and positively influencing) most of the local government legislation for several decades. Having this guide to the famous halls of the Texas Capitol was a memorable experience for the students. They got to hear first-hand stories of how a law degree served Joe B., and Texas, well. (To learn more about Joe B., please read this great story from the Houston Press: https://www.houstonpress.com/news/its-joe-bs-world-6567749. He has also been using his skills and connections to help Houston recover after Harvey. He recently received the Wild Life Award by Houston Wilderness: https://www.baylor.edu/law/news.php?action=story&story=208868.)

Students outside the North Entrance of the Texas Capitol

We believe that this trip was highly beneficial to our students. Subsequent conversations with some of them indicate that they may be re-thinking their career trajectories based on that trip. Even for those that don’t, I suspect that this trip broadened their horizons, showed them the power of a law degree, and how it can be wielded to help others.

If you’re interested in learning more about the trip or would like to discuss the logistics of organizing it, we would be happy to visit with you or send you the schedule from our day at the Capitol.

-VSF

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Learning from UTK Law’s Leadership Development for Lawyers Conference

 By Stephen Rispoli  

On April 4th and 5th, Leah and I were in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law’s Leadership Conference. Doug Blaze, Dean Emeritus at UTK, put on an excellent conference highlighting the good work that law schools are doing around the country in leadership programs and courses.

The program was well designed, the flow was good, and the speakers were inspiring. Beth Ford, Director of the Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee, already wrote a piece for Doug’s blog, Leading as Lawyers, and it is a great recap of some of the highlights of the program. Here’s a link: https://leadingaslawyers.blog/2019/04/18/reflections-on-the-leadership-roundtable/.

Like Beth, we came away with a lot of new things to implement at Baylor Law and some wonderful ideas to consider. Here were some of our key takeaways from the conference:

  • How can we improve the framing of leadership at Orientation for our students? Should it be through a session or through an immersive experience? Although we haven’t made a final decision, this is something we are turning our attention to improving.
  • The whole building can be more involved in the leadership development process. Not just faculty, but each department – admissions, career development, alumni relations, pro bono clinics, externships, etc. – can play a role in helping law students understand their leadership potential and reach it.
  • Tagging other courses in the curriculum that have leadership components, such as ADR and Professional Responsibility.

In short, Doug’s conference will be a hard one to follow. As we are planning our own 2020 leadership conference, what we learned at UTK will shape our program and what we hope each attendee takes home.

-SLR

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Professor Liz Fraley’s Fall 2018 Commencement Speech

By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli 

Hearing the insightful and inspiring speech given by Professor Counseller at the Winter 2019 commencement, got us thinking about the speech Professor Fraley made at the Fall 2018 commencement ceremony.

Photo of Associate Professor of Law Liz Fraley Speaking at Baylor Law's Commencement, Fall 2018
Associate Professor of Law Liz Fraley Speaking at Baylor Law’s Commencement, Fall 2018

 Professor Fraley gave a less than conventional commencement speech, addressing the topics of failure and fear. She began by recasting failure not as a character flaw, but as part of life– that failing is proof that we are trying. She told the graduates, “Social media paints this glossy picture of a life where no one fails, no one doubts, no one struggles, no one even has a pimple, but that is not real.” Failure does not mean that you cannot succeed, but rather that you were trying something daring in order to make a change. “For a firework to light up the night sky, it has to explode. And so, too, will you need to spontaneously combust on occasion to see how bright a light you can be in this world.”

Professor Fraley told the graduates a story about the first case she lost. She had been on a streak of winning cases and thought she was invincible. Representing a defendant in a case with bad facts for her clients, an East Texas jury reminded her that no lawyer can win them all. She then told the graduates that she was feeling sorry for herself but had to get up the next day and had to go right back to work. At her first meeting the next day with an expert witness, she saw a daily quote calendar on his desk. “The quote for that day was, ‘success is not about how high you bounce, but high how you bounce back after you hit bottom.’” Professor Fraley told the graduates that she asked if she could have that page, he graciously agreed, and she kept it taped inside her top desk drawer as a reminder about what failure means and what success is really about.

Professor Fraley talked about how fear is failure’s best friend; that fear is there to tell you failure may always be around the next corner. Fear is there to make us doubt ourselves and think that we cannot do it, whatever “it” is. Knowledge and fear of failing comes because we care, and we dare. She credited Nelson Mandela for three principles she uses as guides for her life: 1) Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it, 2) the greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall, and 3) there is no passion to be found in playing small.

Professor Fraley told the graduates that “Out of this willingness to take risk and to fail and to fear comes growth.” Professor Fraley spoke to the graduates about watching them in class where they had to face fear and failure every day.  She noted, “you came back for more day after day. I don’t know whether you were brave or whether you were too afraid not to, and it doesn’t matter.” Professor Fraley left the graduates with a few final words of wisdom. “Fail mightily. Laugh at yourself when you do. Get back up and fail and laugh again and embrace the glorious mess that is being alive.”

Professor Fraley’s speech is embedded below:

-LT & SLR

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Why do we not have more leadership development programs in law school?

By Leah Teague

Leadership development programs are part of the standard operating procedures for business schools but not so for law schools, at least historically. At a Group Discussion during the January 2017 AALS Annual Meeting, we met with about 50 faculty members from all over the country and we asked them to share thoughts about challenges and roadblocks to creating leadership development programs and courses. Here are some points from the conversation:

  • What is leadership development anyway? How do we explain it to our skeptical colleagues?
  • Some lawyers and law students resist instruction in “soft skills.” The very use of the term when describing leadership development adds to the problem. For many lawyers the soft stuff is the hard stuff.
  • Many still think leaders are born not trained. You either have it or you don’t, they would say.
  • Doctrinal law faculty (especially those who have not been in formal leadership roles) feel uncomfortable with the subject and certainly do not feel equipped to teach it.
  • Current law students think they have already done leadership development … in high school and in college. “What could possibly be added in a law school leadership class?”, they might wonder. Some faculty and administrators probably share these thoughts.
  • For those that believe in the benefit of leadership development programming, how can we scale up the programming to insure all students are exposed to leadership development in a meaningful way?

These are some of the challenges we face. If you have encountered others, please share. As we continue this blog, we will address these issues and offer suggestions for overcoming.

– LT