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