AALS Section on Leadership – Webinar Opportunities

This year, the AALS Section on Leadership is hosting several Zoom webinars for Section members to get together for fellowship and learning from one another.

On the first webinar, a roundtable discussion was held for attendees and guests to discuss the leadership programming they have implemented at their schools. These conversations sparked ideas for everyone to consider applying to their own programs. The discussion was hosted by April Barton, Dean and Professor of Law, Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University, Aric Short, Professor of Law & Director of Professionalism and Leadership Program, Texas A&M University School of Law, and Tania Luma, Assistant Dean, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Clinical Professor, Loyola Chicago Law School. The recordings will be made available to Section members soon.

Leah Teague and Stephen Rispoli are hosting the second webinar on Monday, June 26, 2023 – 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST. They will be joined by Neil Hamilton, Holloran Professor of Law and Co-director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. The Holloran Center is the national leader in the professional identity formation movement. The conversation will focus on how professional identity formation efforts and leadership development programming align and complement each other. We invite you to join us to share how you are using leadership development programming to satisfy the new ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to provide substantial opportunities for “the development of a professional identity.”  Please click this link to register.

Below are the other sessions this summer and fall. You can register for each by clicking on the date and time:

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 – 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. ESTJoan Heminway, Interim Director, Institute for Professional Leadership, Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee College of Law and Martin Brinkley, Dean and Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina School of Law

Monday, September 25, 2023 – 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ESTLee Fisher, Dean, Cleveland State University College of Law

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 – 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ESTKellye Testy, President and CEO, LSAC and Hillary Sale, Associate Dean for Strategy, Georgetown University


Civil Discourse Training through Public Deliberation Workshops

Civil Discourse Training through Public Deliberation Workshops

Last week, in Training Law Students to Respectfully Engage One Another, I shared a new addition to our extended orientation program for entering students. In the second week of law school, our students participate in a Public Deliberation Workshop to teach better methods for engaging in conversations in law school and beyond. In this post, I want to share some of the feedback from our students through surveys conducted after the workshops.

On the survey, students were asked, “What, if anything, might you do differently as a result of this forum?” I grouped the representative quotes into the following categories of “themes” I saw in the responses:

Listening skills:

  • “Listen to understand rather than listen to be understood.”
  • “Be sure to listen and not just wait to respond.”
  • “Seek to listen fully before speaking; ask more questions.”
  • “I will now listen to others with more intent.”

More sensitivity to others’ perspectives and different life experiences:

  • “I have a new perspective now for understanding others’ opinions.”
  • “I can now see perspectives I didn’t previously consider.”
  • “Be more aware of how big of a problem it is, even though it may not be personally a problem of my everyday life.”
  • “I will deliberate on sensitive topics differently, attempting to listen better.”

Less judgmental and more respectful:

  • “I hope to be more open to listening and responding positively instead of looking for areas of disagreement.”
  • “Really work on “learning” someone instead of judging them.”
  • “I think I will treat opinions with more respect in general.”

More Open-minded:

  • “I’ll try to be respectful and allow others to speak and listen with an open mind.”
  • “I came into the discussion ready to defend an option and my answer, but I came out understanding the other options better.”
  • “Now, I will be more open-minded to solutions that don’t immediately appeal to me.”

Application of skill beyond law school:

  • “I will bring skills learned in this forum to my personal life to communicate with my family better.”

The workshop facilitators guide the participants through a conversation about three possible approaches to the issue. When students were asked, “Are you thinking differently about this issue now that you have participated in the forum,” they responded with answers such as:

  • “Yes, I had little knowledge on the subject, and hearing different experiences changed my perspective on the topic.”
  • “Hearing about others’ perspectives shifted my perspective from starting strongly in Option 3 and shifting more towards Option 1.”
  • “Yes, I am thankful for the opportunity to hear the opinions of others without trying to squash someone’s opinion before we can fully understand the topic.”

We are encouraged by the responses, and we hope these Public Deliberation Workshops will result in students listening more earnestly and respectfully to others with different life experiences and viewpoints. The goal is to help participants find shared values and build a community that can lead to innovative problem-solving together. What a difference we can make if law students enter the profession with this approach to building relationships in their organizations and communities.



Training law students to respectfully engage one another

I write to tell you about a fun and valuable experience we added to our orientation program for all our entering classes. Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, we introduce each entering Baylor Law student to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative. We conducted this workshop for our Summer 2023 entering class earlier this week. You may still be in spring finals, but we just started the second week of our summer term!

Through these Public Deliberation Workshops, we encourage students to adopt a better way to engage in conversations with one another in law school. This skill also can be used in the future as they represent clients or causes.

Public Deliberation training encourages participants to earnestly and respectfully listen to others with different life experiences and viewpoints. The goal is NOT to change others’ minds on the issue at hand; instead, we want students to find shared values and build community that can lead to innovative problem-solving. We desire to help our students embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively. This approach also can create a culture of respect for colleagues with different backgrounds and perspectives that will enrich our classrooms and programs, support our efforts for student well-being, and better equip our students to be difference-makers in society.

Second- or third-year law students serve as workshop facilitators during the sessions. Trained to be public deliberation facilitators during our Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) course, they keep the workshop participants on task while remaining neutral. After training and participation, the law student facilitators receive certificates as public deliberation facilitators. For more information on the program, please see my most recent post on the Professional Identity Formation Blog, titled Training Law Students to Converse Respectfully: Public Disclosure Workshop. You are also invited to contact me. I am happy to help you consider how to offer a similar training at your law school or organization. 



Leading Change in the Legal Profession: Wake Forest Hosts Symposium

This post is an overdue shout-out to Kenneth Townsend, Director of Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools at Wake Forest University, and his incredible team at Wake Forest School of Law for the fabulous job they did in hosting the Wake Forest Law Review 2023 Spring Symposium: Leading Change in the Legal Profession. Honored to be among the speakers and participants, I want to share some key takeaways.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Program for Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools, a part of the Wake Forest Program for Leadership and Character. Elevating our leadership language to tie it directly to “character” is brilliant! Discussing aspects of character already permeate our classroom discussion and our Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership textbook; still, I can and will be more intentional to include references to character formation as an integral part of leadership development.

Kenneth opened the symposium by reminding us of legal education’s challenges, including lack of public trust, poor reputation, lawyers struggling with well-being, disruptions caused by technological advancements, and lack of leadership training. I appreciated his reminder of a book from 30 years ago called The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession and the 2007 Carnegie Report: Educating Lawyers. Both were pivotal in inspiring my mission to be more intentional about leadership development in law schools these last ten years.

Just a few highlights from the wise words and inspirational messages from the speakers all day long:

During the first panel on experiential education, Holloran Center Fellow Kendall Kerew shared the question posed to Chat GPT: What lawyering cannot be replaced by AI? The answer was:

  1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  2. Creativity and Critical Thinking
  3. Advocacy and Persuasion
  4. Ethics and Professionalism
  5. Client Relationship Management

Not only did we find this result interesting, many others did as well when she shared it in a popular blog post on the Holloran Center’s Professional Identity Formation Blog! Another reason why incorporating more leadership development into our legal education programs is so important!

The experiential learning panel also reminded us that best practices for student learning require us to help our students explore their “why” through self-assessment and self-reflection in order to grow. The professional identity panel followed to encourage us to remember Holloran Center Co-Director Neil Hamilton’s mantra to “meet students where they are they are” in order to guide them through reflection, coach them to develop the competencies expected by legal employers, and model and mentor students toward well-being by aligning professional and personal values. Professor Lisle Baker shared practical and clever tips for incorporating well-being practices into classes. 

In her keynote address, Judge Eleni Roumel, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, encouraged the students to commit to practicing civility, ethical behavior, and serving the public. And the panel of women stressed the importance of building relationships and seeking mentorships that grow organically.

Dean Mark Martin shared his vision for creating a new law school at High Point University that builds on principles found in the Carnegie report but is updated for the impact of technological advances. These were points of current emphasis:

  1. Promote diversity & developing strategies to unite us
  2. Enhancing understanding of new and emerging technology
  3. Reassessing pedagogy
  4.  Increasing experiential education
  5. Improve law student wellbeing
  6. Focus on the unmet legal needs of persons of modest means
  7. Financing legal education

The program ended with a reminder that when we are at our best when our students are at their best, we are:

  • more confident;
  • more competent;  
  • better able to stay committed to values we have internalized; and then
  • better able to serve and help others.

Gatherings such as these always energize and inspire me!!

Many thanks again to all of you working to build a better future by enhancing legal education!



New ABA Report on Success of Gritty Teams with a Growth Mindset

The ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession released a report Leveraging Grit and Growth Mindset to Drive Team Success. The report is only 34 pages but for a summary of the information, we recommend Gritty Teams Help Retain Women Lawyers on Law360.com.

The new report is a follow-up to the Commission of Women in the Profession’s 2017 publication of Grit: The Secret to Advancement, Stories of Successful Women Lawyers, which was part of the ABA’s The Grit Project. Created to educate women lawyers about the science behind grit and growth mindset, The Grit Project website provides tools to assess and learn about these two important traits, grit and growth mindset, found to be common in successful women lawyers. We use case studies from The Grit Project in our leadership class.

Although The Grit Project and the new report focus on the importance of grit and growth mindset for women in the legal profession, we believe they are essential to the success of all lawyer leaders! Grit and growth mindset of foundational topics in the Leadership of Self section of our book, as well as in the Leadership of Self segment of our class. Much of our class is spent guiding our students to consider the following as goals in their journey as lawyer leaders: 

  1. Make every decision guided by principled values, emphasizing honor and integrity.
  2. Courageously face challenges to get grittier.
  3. See the world with a growth mindset.
  4. Fail gracefully to see the growth potential.
  5. Gain resilience to bounce back higher.
  6. Seek feedback and embrace the process to gain understanding and progress.
  7. Be inclusive as you nurture relationships.

As always, we invite your feedback and welcome your input! Let us know how we can help.



My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams

Guest Post by Baylor Law Student, Daniella McDonagh

The following post is a book review written by Daniella McDonagh, a student in our Winter 2022-23 Leadership Class. In Chapter 21 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we encourage students to view life as a lawyer as a lifelong pursuit of purposeful learning and growth as they serve, influence, and impact their clients and communities.  Daniella writes about lessons and advice she finds in My Own Words, a biographical collection of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s speeches, articles, and lectures. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

– Leah

Advocate, way-paver, justice seeker, and fighter are all qualities that commonly come to mind when thinking of a successful leader like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But, what may not come to mind as commonly, is the quality of being an eternal student. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg illuminates that besides these common qualities of a leader, the quality of being an eternal student made Bader Ginsburg the “Notorious RBG” and the inspiring leader that she was and continues to be remembered for today.

Bader Ginsburg was a student of leaders who came before her, illuminating little-known historical figures and spotlighting those who helped pave the way for her own opportunities and accomplishments. She appreciated the paths marked by others – others whose names are unknown and overlooked, such as Belva Lockwood, who was the first woman to gain admission to the United States Supreme Court Bar, and Arabella Mansfield, the first woman to gain admission to practice law in the United States; and Florence Allen, the first woman to serve on an Article III federal court. Bader Ginsburg recognized that to be a future leader, and she must study the leaders – both the famously revered and the nameless unknowns – of the past.

Additionally, she studied social movements, like the civil rights movement, to mimic the strategy of educating judicial audiences in measured movements in ways digestible by and appeasing to the decision-makers on the matter. Bader Ginsburg also expanded her studies to other legal systems – she studied what other leaders did well and what could be improved if similar methods were applied to American systems and leaders.

Like any successful leader, Bader Ginsburg was a student of the audience – she studied her audience to best understand how to communicate productively and effect change in dissenting minds. She demonstrated this best when seeking change in contentious areas, such as women’s rights and civil rights, during the peak of controversy. Bader Ginsburg recognized that speaking to all audiences as though addressing one’s home crowd could be counterproductive. She proved that productive communication and effective change only occurs when leaders study their audiences and cater to the specific thought processes, concerns, and priorities of the audience.

Bader Ginsburg was also a student of words – she understood the powerful presence of the right words at the right time and the power of silence. She especially demonstrated this wisdom and balance of speech and silence through her dissenting opinions. Throughout her career on the Supreme Court bench, there were terms where Bader Ginsburg did not author any dissents, but that was not for lack of anything to say. Instead, she recognized that when she did use her voice, her words would be given more weight and garner more attention than those justices whose voices traditionally dominate and overwhelm the discussion. Furthermore, when she did dissent, she emphasized the importance of disagreeing with civility. Bader Ginsburg demonstrated that leaders bring dissenters to the light; leaders do not fault dissenters for being wrong. To put this into practice, she would transform from the student to the teacher and teach the other justices everything she learned and understood on this topic through her experience as an open-minded, absorbent student.

What was noticeably absent from Bader Ginsburg’s My Own Words, was her own words about herself. Bader Ginsburg exemplified a true student leader in that she focused on the achievements of other people, other movements, and other legal systems, but neglected to acknowledge her own remarkable achievements as a leader. I recommend My Own Words for those seeking to improve their leadership skills because Bader Ginsburg does not tell you how to be a leader, nor does she tell you how she herself is a leader; instead, she actively embodied what a leader is with every word she wrote and every word she spoke. This book does not lay out a five-point plan that people are unlikely to follow, nor does it suggest theoretical advice that is impractical to implement. Rather, this book provides a glimpse into the thoughts and opinions of an exceptional leader and demonstrates the remarkable result of dedicating your life to something so simple and achievable – being a student.

Academia, Uncategorized

Leadership development for success, service, and significance: Upcoming Webinar Sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright

While we focus our efforts primarily on legal education, we recognize the need for practicing lawyers and law firms to also encourage and support leadership development in the profession. We are always thrilled to discover kindred spirits who are doing just that! Today I write to introduce one of those to you and invite you to join us for an upcoming webinar.

Brett C. Govett, a Partner with Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, is the creator and host of a series of leadership webinars on leadership. I am honored to be his next guest on Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (1:00 – 1:30 pm ET | 12:00 – 12:30 pm CT | 10:00 – 10:30 am PT) for a conversation about developing leadership skills and seeking opportunities to make a difference. Here is the link for registration for Leadership development for success, service, and significance. We hope you can join us!

We also want to take this opportunity to THANK YOU for your individual and collective efforts to incorporate more leadership development programming in law schools across the country. This important work is now a national movement because of the efforts of so many of you. Together we are making a difference as we better equip our law students for the important obligations and opportunities that await them after graduation. Please let us know how we can help you!

– Leah

Academia, Uncategorized

The Personal Study of Wellness: Using Downtime for Reflection

For all of us, being our best selves takes time and effort to care for our whole being. With the exhausting pressures in our professional lives, are we paying attention to our personal well-being? The statistics tell us that as a profession we are not. Let’s help our students do and be better.

As law schools identify appropriate placement for conversations around wellness, leadership courses or programs provide a perfect opportunity. We recognized the importance of the topic and devoted chapter 11 of our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, to “The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession.” At Baylor Law, discussions of the importance of personal wellness are woven into every offering of the leadership course. Strategies for being more intentional with wellness practices are presented in several class sessions. Through journal prompts, students are encouraged to consider how they might best plan their future with a design for finding harmony of work and life in the practice of law.  

I do believe in practicing what I preach. Yet, the fast pace of life and work often keeps me from focusing on this topic for myself. What am I doing to make sure that I am happy? This Time article discusses the daily habits of happiness experts, with the usual suspects: good sleep, exercise, eating healthy, spending time in nature, engaging in a hobby, and praying, to name a few. But one focus of the article, “is happiness a choice?”, I found particularly interesting. One expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of the online Happiness Studies Academy, said, “part of it is a choice, part of it is innate. . . . And the part that is a choice is the choice to work hard at it.”

This Spring Break, Jeanine and I decided to work at it. We took some rare downtime to discuss what makes us happy. Some of the questions discussed were, “what activities do we enjoy?”, “How can we prioritize them?”, “how do we want to spend our time?”, “where do we want to spend our time?”, “Who do we want to spend it with?” The conversation was enlightening. Not because the answers were surprising, but because we do not go through this exercise often enough.

With trees budding and green grass popping up around us, I am reminded that spring is a time of new growth. What a perfect time to pause and reflect on your own well-being! I hope that your Spring Break allows you some space to consider your personal wellness journey.


– Stephen

Academia, Uncategorized

The future of Professional Responsibility courses should include leadership development!

During the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego in January, I attended the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility as they celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the PR Section with a program, “Looking Forward, Lawyering In The Next 50 Years.”

My motivation to attend was our continuing desire to explore interesting ways to incorporate leadership development throughout law school curricula. We have long recognized the potential for incorporating leadership development into PR courses. It is thrilling to discover that their discussions wholly align with our desire to awaken in our students a recognition of their obligation to serve society (in addition to serving their clients well) and then to better prepare them for those crucial roles. You can listen to the recording of the Section’s conversation at the PR Section’s 50th Anniversary Program.

Professional Responsibility courses are required in all law schools across the nation. These important courses are often under-utilized. We can and should do more in those essential courses! That was a message I heard loud and clear at the Section gathering.

Incorporating more leadership development into PR courses is a natural fit! Just consider the following expressions of a lawyer’s duty in society as stated in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities:

“[1] lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”

 [6] As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system.

[7] … A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.

[13] Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. The fulfillment of this role requires an understanding by lawyers of their relationship to our legal system. The Rules of Professional Conduct, when properly applied, serve to define that relationship.

Lawyers are leaders. It is part of our professional identity. And lawyers’ professional responsibilities include serving well and with honor and using our legal knowledge and training for the greater good!

I look forward to continuing these conversations!

– Leah

Academia, Uncategorized

Wake Forest University Law Review Symposium

I am honored to be part of the 2023 Wake Forest Law Review Symposium, “Leading Change in the Legal Profession,” this Friday, February 24, 2023.  As part of the panel on “Modernizing Legal Education,” I will join Former North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin, the incoming and founding dean of High Point Law School, and Professor Raina Haque, an expert on technology and law, and artificial intelligence.

Here is the description:

The “Modernizing Legal Education” panel will consider the ways that legal education can and should adapt to meet the changing needs of the legal profession as well as the needs of those who rely upon the profession. Emerging technologies are not only reshaping how we deliver educational content but also changing how we perceive the nature and function of law itself. This panel will provide panelists a wide-ranging opportunity to explore challenges and opportunities regarding how we educate law students and practice law.

Here is the link to a full description of the symposium and information on registration.

Look for a summary of the day in an upcoming blog.

– Leah