Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 1

By Leah Teague

Several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303(b) (professional identity development), 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). These three important topics are fundamental to robust leadership development programs and courses. Satisfying the new requirements can be achieved through adopting or enhancing leadership development at your law school. In this three-part series, we discuss each.

In Part 1 below, we focus on the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  Part 2 of this series addresses the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” Part 3 discusses the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).

Part 1: Professional Identity Development is Now Required in Legal Education

Lawyers’ role as leaders in society IS a fundamental part of lawyers’ professional identity!

ABA Standards 303(b) was amended to require law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for: … (3) the development of a professional identity.  

Also adopted was new Interpretation 303-5 which reads:

Professional identity focuses on what it means to be a lawyer and the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society. The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice. Because developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time, students should have frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.

Leadership development IS professional formation. At the core of leadership development efforts is awakening law students to “the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society.” For a visual model of the development of a law student’s professional identity, see the Holloran Center’s Model for How Law School Learning Outcomes Build on Each Other to Foster Student Development. The model presents five groups of competencies in a visual layered progression of law school learning outcomes to help students “grow[] from being a new entrant to the profession to being an integrated effective lawyer serving others well in meaningful employment.” In Group 5 (complex, compound competencies) is “Leadership and Influence in Organizations and Communities.” For a discussion of these competencies, see Neil Hamilton’s Mentor/Coach: The Most Effective Curriculum to Foster Each Student’s Professional Development and Formation. For a discussion of the role of lawyers as leaders in society, see the Preface and Chapter 2 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership and Chapter 1 of Leadership for Lawyers.

Leadership development goes beyond professional identity to teach students how to work well with others and to encourage students to use their education and training to serve others and benefit society. At Baylor Law we see the broader mission of our values-based leadership development program as three-fold:

  • encourage law students and lawyers to embrace their obligation to serve clients and society,
  • better equip law students for positions of leadership and influence, and
  • inspire law students to boldly seek opportunities to make a difference in their communities and the world.

The proposed amendments to Standards 303 (professional identity), 206 (bias, cross-cultural competency and racism) and 508 (student well-being) align with this mission and are important aspects of a law student’s preparation for professional life after law school. Notably, both of the leadership textbooks for law students address all three of these issues. One, of course, is Deborah Rhode’s Leadership for Lawyers (a third edition has recently been released) and the other is our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership.

These amendments reinforce our duty to tend to whole development of our students’ professional formation through self-assessment, reflection upon values, and focus on techniques for better decision-making and goal-setting, in addition to the teaching of legal knowledge and skills. The amendment distinguishes professional identity from ethics and professional responsibility courses that are already required in law school: “The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice.” This is likely part of a larger scheme to improve lawyer well-being, which is supported by the amendment to Standard 508. The objective is to equip students with knowledge, skills and priorities that will better enable students to become successful, healthy and impactful lawyers.

With every conversation with leaders in our profession, the importance of our efforts and need for leadership development in law schools is confirmed! Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah


Historic Leadership Moment

Pictured (from left) are Judge Carlos Moore, Navan Ward Jr., Douglas K. Burrell, and Reginald Turner.
Photo from the American Association for Justice, as published in the ABA Journal.

As Black History Month 2022 draws to a close, we thought we’d highlight a historic first spotlighted in the ABA Journal.  For the first time in history, African Americans are leading four major national bar associations at once: The American Bar Association, American Association for Justice, the National Bar Association, and the Defense Research Institute.



The Great Resignation…

As law firm leaders grapple with the Great Resignation, this ABA Law Practice Division article emphasizes the importance of relationships and connections as the key to retention. Of course, creating the culture of connection necessarily means that leaders need to be ensuring that all members of the firm are feeling connected and valued, not just the members with whom they feel most comfortable:



Black History Month – Training Lawyers as Leaders

As we celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to share with you a fantastic resource put together by the American Bar Association. Although some of these may be familiar to you, they are wonderful resources when looking for example for leadership classes or presentations. We hope that you can take a few moments to check these out and consider working them into your presentations.


Header image created using materials designed by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com


Leadership Development in Law School in One Week?

Guest Post by Professor Kathleen Elliott Vinson
Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School

If leadership development is a life-long learning process, can a one-week intensive intersession leadership course possibly be effective for law students? Spoiler alert – yes it can!

 “I thought the course would be lectures about lawyers who are leaders.” “I thought the class would tell us we had to adopt a particular leadership style or have a particular talent.” “I thought you had to be born a natural leader.” “I never considered myself a leader before.” These were common myths and comments of students as they reflected back on the Lawyers as Leaders intensive one-week course during the winter intersession.

Instead, after completing the course, students learned that leadership is a skill that can and should be taught in law schools. They discovered that leadership is not an innate ability, title or trait. They began to develop their leadership skills through practice, feedback, and reflection.

The course focused on leading self, leading others, and leading change. Although time was limited, threads throughout the course included self-discovery and relationships. Students realized leadership is personal and requires trust. Students engaged in self-assessments, role-playing, reflections, and working in teams. At the core, students focused on their sense of purpose (their “why”), their values, their identities, their preferences as well as others, their strengths and blind spots, and what they envisioned as their leadership philosophy and legacy.

Class began with students sharing their #ThisIsMe assignment that included their responses (including pictures) to several prompts (what do you find challenging, what are you proud of, what is something that scares you, what is your theme song, what is a fond childhood memory, etc.) Their generosity, courage, and vulnerability in sharing their responses developed trust and connections with everyone in the class that grew stronger each day of the course. They grappled with defining what leadership means and went on to explore leadership theories and styles, personality preferences, well-being, fixed v. growth mindset, grit and resilience, the gift of feedback, emotional intelligence, conflict styles and difficult conversations, characteristics of inspiring leaders, inclusive leadership, and the impact of leadership.

While the breadth and depth of each concept may have been more of an introduction than a deep dive, the one-week course was a start for students on their life-long journey of leadership development — like a train leaving the station and traveling along a track. The journey may be different for each student. I was grateful to be a small part of their leadership journey — like a conductor on a train full of different passengers.

Thus, I ended class with a clip from Polar Express when the conductor (Tom Hanks) punches the train tickets of several children as they board the Polar Express on their way home from their journey to the North Pole. The conductor had previously punched two letters in each of the children’s tickets at the beginning of the journey to the North Pole. Then, when the conductor punches their tickets on the return trip, the holes in the ticket become a word or phrase representing a message the child has learned. As they board the train for the return trip, the first child’s ticket that the conductor punches holes in spells the word “Learn.” The holes the conductor punches in the ticket of the next child spells the phrase “Depend On” then it magically changes to “Rely On” then “Count On.” The holes punched in the ticket of the third child spell out the word “Lead” (“as in leader, leadership, lead the way”). The ticket of the last child spells “Believe.” These tickets summed up several leadership lessons in the course, no matter the length of the journey: leadership can be learned; trust is essential; leadership is not about a title but about the action to lead; and finally, believe you are a leader, that you can continue to develop leadership, and that your leadership will have an impact.

Perhaps because students were immersed every day, all day, for a week, learning about leadership that many remarked that the connections they made, and the impact of the course felt deeper than a semester-long course. It may not be the length of the journey that matters (the journey on the Polar Express was only one night), it is the lessons learned along the way. Don’t hesitate to get on board the train.

– Kathleen Elliott Vinson


The Dark Side of Goal Setting: Ethical Pitfalls for the Unwary

By Leah Teague

The Dark Side of Goal Setting: Ethical Pitfalls for the Unwary

In the last two weeks we applauded the practice of goal setting – whether helping law students create a plan of action for doing their best work or leading colleagues through a formal strategy to imagine the next 12 months or 10 years. Setting goals is important for a variety of reasons. Creating goals furthers one’s professional development and career advancement. Procedures for establishing and assessing goals are necessary for an organization’s efficient operation. Aligning goals with one’s values and passions promotes wellness and can lead to living one’s best life.

Goal setting also can lead to actions that are dishonorable, unproductive, or harmful. There is a dark side to human behavior when goals are unattainable or performance falls just short of what appears to be a reasonable goal. Goal setting that is too aggressive can lead to unethical behavior, including a lack of independent judgement expected of lawyers.

When faced with the possibility of failure, some may cut corners to meet a goal. Meeting an expectation may be more important to a prideful or insecure person than staying true to their underlying principles and values or even the overall or long-term goal. Unaddressed habits of shortcuts will have consequences, sooner or later. An organization with a culture that tolerates a lack of accountability – or worse encourages dishonesty – cannot have a happy ending. The fall of Enron Corporation is a prime example. In Chapter 9: Setting Goals of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we discuss Enron:

Leading up to [Enron’s] filing for bank­ruptcy, $320 million in bonus payments and other special cash distributions were paid to Enron executives in accordance with performance-based programs. Prosecutors argued that the executives’ unethical decisions and behavior (setting up shell entities to hide financial losses, etc.) could be traced to large bonuses paid based on the finan­cial performance of the organization. The corruption that ruined lives and toppled a global powerhouse organization ensued from incentivized, performance-based goal setting in an environment devoid of ethical leadership at the top.”

In Chapter 12: Integrity and Character, we return to a discussion of lawyers associated with Enron who failed to ask hard questions or take initiative to investigate when something should have been questioned. Mechanical or rigid goals can dehumanize an organization’s operation and treat employees as if they are merely a cog in the wheel with no allowance for independent judgement or individual action. When lawyers work to simply follow orders or approach their duties with an attitude of meeting minimum expectations, our profession is failing to meet our duty in ABA Model Rule 5.4, Professional Independence of a Lawyer. Lawyers have a higher obligation to society to maintain direction and control of our professional judgment, regardless of the goals set before us. Lessons from Enron must not be forgotten.

Missing the mark, falling short of a goal, has other consequences for those who fail to manage failure in a healthy manner. Without this ability to fail gracefully, some internalize failure, even minor shortcomings, as a condemnation of their entire self-worth. These tendencies are exacerbated when cognitive abilities are taxed, as they often are during law school and beyond. Exhaustion and stress can distract us as we struggle to survive, preventing us from checking behavior against values and professional duties. Failure can also be a challenge for individuals who are used to success, as is often the case with law students. Throughout our course we look for opportunities to normalize failure so that students accept failure as necessary to growth. We teach our students to view failure with a growth mindset.

With the right approach, setting goals and measuring performance accordingly allows organizations to improve operations and meet desired objectives. Personal and professional goals establish a roadmap for creating a more intentional, purpose-driven life. But with any plan, roadblocks, detours, or changes in destinations should be expected and accommodated without compromising principles and purpose, regardless of the pressures and influences along the way.

Ethical obligations should be part of any analysis to weigh the costs and benefits of actions. We know our students will face difficult decisions as they enter a stressful, bottom-line-oriented profession. We also know work-life balance is a strong personal motivation. By emphasizing ethics and values, we will better equip our students and young lawyers to make the right, or better, choices. If we teach students to prioritize them, hopefully they will continue to do so when the stakes are high, such as when a lucrative fee, sizeable bonus, or their future is on the line.

– Leah


Be S.M.A.R.T. With Goal Setting

By Leah Teague

In our last post we encouraged our readers to make time for setting and evaluating goals and to help law students (and young lawyers) do the same. In this post we provide resources for use with the SMART technique (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) for goal setting. We include the SMART technique in our textbook, Fundamental of Lawyer Leadership. In fact, we included it twice. We introduce students to the SMART goal-setting method in Chapter 9, Setting Goals, and we return to it in Chapter 20, How Leaders Manage Effectively, when discussing the importance of delegating and offering suggestions for how to delegate successfully.

Searching for goal setting advice offered to lawyers led to articles also recommending the SMART technique. I particularly liked Lawyer Personal and Career Goals because it starts with the question,

“’[W]hat’s your why?’ What kind of life do you want? … What impact do you want your work to have? Behind all those questions is your ‘why.’ It’s what gets you up in the morning and propels you through your day.”

The “why” should be the basis for setting goals and the control for evaluating actions. 

Other recent articles written for lawyers:

Since the SMART technique is mentioned in all, I did some digging to learn more about its origin. Some sources suggest the renowned Peter Drucker should be credited with its creation based upon his 1954 book “The Practice of Management.” Drucker, credited as the father of modern business management, believed management involved creating systems to set objectives and evaluate performance as part of a wholistic approach to building effective and responsible organizations and institutions. Drucker, born in Austria and raised in Germany, earned a Ph.D. in International Law in 1932 and moved to America two years after some of his work was banned and burned by the Nazi. As with all of us, Drucker’s teachings were influenced by his life experiences. He believed “[m]anagement, practiced well,” was necessary not only for the successful functioning of a company but also as the “bulwark against evil” he witnessed in society. I think Drucker would approve of our efforts to equip law students to be ethical lawyers who own their obligation to be the guardians of democracy.

Works recognizing the benefits of adopting “specific and measurable” goals and objectives can be traced back to Drucker and others in the 1940s and 1950s. Particularly interesting to those of us at Baylor who knew Paul J. Meyer, a report on the History of SMART Objectives credits Meyer with use of the SMART acronym in his work “Personal Success Planner” in 1965. Meyer, a long-time resident of Waco and generous benefactor to Baylor University, was “a pioneer of the personal development industry.” Through his companies, Success Motivation Institute and Leadership Management Institute, Meyer’s programs were produced in more than 70 countries and 27 languages and influenced other renowned leadership authors (such as John C. Maxwell).

The first published article using the SMART acronym appears to have been written by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham for the November 1981 issue of Management Review, titled, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.” Written for business managers to assist with being more thoughtful about setting out a plan to accomplish an objective, they encourage these 5 considerations for each goal:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable – specify who will do it.
  • Relevant – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

We hope you will share with us the ways in which you incorporate the SMART technique into your work to better prepare law students and lawyers for leadership.



Setting Goals

By Leah Teague

Here is to a new year that bring less disruption and more togetherness!

January is a time when lots of people contemplate resolutions for the new year – a goal setting exercise of sorts. For those of us whose work calendar is tied to the academic year we have two additional times to routinely consider our goals and set objectives and action steps. We spend time each summer to construct plans for the fall or perhaps the entire academic year. In early winter we plan for the upcoming spring term. We are devoting this month to tips for effective goal setting practices.

Some of us are already regimented goal setters. Using daily planners, some gain a sense of security in the process of organizing daily tasks to be allocated across the precious few waking hours each day. Others prefer to view the weeks and months ahead as milestones to measure progress in the near future. This time of year, some think about last year’s New Year’s resolutions (i.e., whether met or still outstanding) before deciding the focus of efforts for this year. Still others engage in a retreat-like phenomenon to consider their next big direction in life. All these processes are goal-setting exercises, whether recognized as such or not. If any of these describe you, we hope what we offer will provide new resources to consider and a reason to assess your own goal setting routine.

For those who believe life is best lived by embracing spontaneity, we will offer advice for strategic engagement that is comfortable and productive. Dreams of great works without a plan of action can strand you in a state of unfulfilled potential and leave you longing for answer to the question of what if I had done this or that differently. Whatever our personality, we all benefit from setting aside some time periodically to consider our priorities and imagine great accomplishments and meaningful impacts that allow us to leave a desired legacy.

The same is true of our law students. Students commonly and falsely believe that their life will never be busier than their challenging-to-overwhelming time in law school. We know there is little truth in this assumption. As we seek to provide a more holistic approach to preparing our students for success and impact, we should make time to address the benefits of goal setting and offer suggestions for practices.

We already use goal setting techniques when we counsel students. For example, if a student seeks advice about how to make a good grade in a particular class (or a better grade than before), then they have stated a goal. We then help them to create a plan of action to accomplish the objectives that must be met in order to achieve the goal (i.e., sufficiently preparing for each class, reviewing and outlining material, studying for the exam, etc.). Many of our students come to law school with an understanding of the importance of the process and how to do it. Some do not and need additional assistance.

Whether the goal is passing a class, graduating summa cum laude, making a mock trial team, or winning an election as student body officer, providing students with instruction on goal setting is beneficial to them now. They will better manage their time and achieve more success in law school. If we help students develop the habit of setting goals and periodically assessing their progress while in law school, we give them one more tool to use on their journey to success and satisfaction in life after law school.

Stay tuned for practical tips next week!



AALS Annual Meeting – Session Invite

Leah Teague, Patricia Wilson, and Stephen Rispoli are presenting about “Developing Law Students and Faculty Who Can Lead Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Efforts” in today’s AALS Associate Deans for Academic Affairs and Research Section session. We will be discussing how leadership development programs can help prepare students for their role as leaders in society. If the proposed amendment to ABA Standard 303 (b) is adopted, all law schools will be required to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … (3) the development of a professional identity.” Lawyers’ role as leaders in society IS a fundamental part of lawyers’ professional identity and leadership programs and courses help with that training.   

A well-developed leadership program also addresses important societal issues. The session today will focus upon the need for law schools to address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism. As part of our presentation, we will discuss proposed amendments to the ABA’s Standards that, if adopted, will require all law schools to provide education to law students on bias, cross cultural competency, and racism.

The virtual session, which includes several panel discussions, takes place today, January 5th, from 3:10-6:00 p.m. ET, and we’re up first! Log in to the AALS 2022 Annual Meeting to join us.


Happy Holidays…

We wish you the happiest of holidays and look forward to ‘seeing’ all of you at the
AALS Annual Meeting in January!

Sessions Sponsored or Co-Sponsored by the Section on Leadership:

Wed. January 5th – 12:35 – 1:50 PM ET – The Deborah Rhode Award Presentation

Wed. January 5th – 12:35 – 1:50 PM ET – Advancing Equality for Clinical Faculty of Color:
Recruitment, Retention, and Support

Wed. January 5th – 3:10 PM ‐ 4:25 PM ET – AALS Open Source Program: The Impact of Deborah Rhode

Fri. January 7th – 11:00 AM ‐ 12:15 PM ET – What Can Research Tell Us About How Law Schools, Lawyers, and
Leaders Can Nourish Democracy?

Fri. January 7th – 3:10 PM ‐ 4:25 PM ET – From Watergate to Insurrection: Fifty Years of Legal Ethics in the U.S.

Fri. January 7th – 4:45 PM ‐ 6:00 PM ET – Anti‐Racism and Clinic Design Choices

Sat. January 8th – 12:35 PM ‐ 1:50 ET – Prioritizing Public Service in Your Role as the Dean: Why it Matters

Sat. January 8th – 3:10 PM ‐ 4:25 ET – Leadership Education as a Component of Anti‐Racist Education in Law Schools