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.
Hereâs 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 schoolsâ formal curricula, in the authorâs 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 studentsâ 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 studentâs team members can use the model to observe and assess a studentâs current stage of development and give feedback to help the student grow to the next stage. Reflecting on self-assessment, teamwork experiences, and othersâ 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.
Victoria S. Feather, Baylor Law J.D. '17
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 âJoe B.â).
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 â from the Members themselves to
each of their staff members. Each person plays a critical role in our stateâs
government and many of the studentsâ eyes were opened to the possibility of
using their law degree in this public sector.
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.
of our current students, Sarah Beth Toben, J.D. â20, is interning for Senator
Kirk Watson this session. Sarah Beth said that she has realized how important
âserviceâ is to leadership from her experience with Senator Watson. âIt 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.â
round out their view of life at (or near) the Texas Capitol, they also met with
lawyers from the Texas Attorney Generalâs office to learn about the various
matters that the AGâs office oversees and how lawyers are involved behind the
scenes in many facets of Texas life.
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
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.
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 â 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.)
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 donât, 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 youâre 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.
On April 4th and 5th, Leah and I were
in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Lawâs
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.
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 havenât 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 â admissions, career development, alumni relations, pro bono clinics, externships, etc. â 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, Dougâs 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.
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.
Â 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, âSocial 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.â Failure does not mean that you cannot succeed, but rather that you were trying something daring in order to make a change. âFor 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.â
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. âThe quote for that day was, âsuccess is not about how
high you bounce, but high how you bounce back after you hit bottom.ââ 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 failureâs 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 âitâ 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 âOut of this willingness to take risk and to fail and to fear comes growth.â Professor Fraley spoke to the graduates about watching them in class where they had to face fear and failure every day. Â She noted, âyou came back for more day after day. I donât know whether you were brave or whether you were too afraid not to, and it doesnât matter.â Professor Fraley left the graduates with a few final words of wisdom. âFail mightily. Laugh at yourself when you do. Get back up and fail and laugh again and embrace the glorious mess that is being alive.â
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
What is leadership development anyway? How do we explain it to our skeptical colleagues?
Some lawyers and law students resist instruction in âsoft skills.â 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 donât, 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 â¦ in high school and in college. âWhat could possibly be added in a law school leadership class?â, 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?
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.