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:
“ lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
 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.
 … 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.
 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!
As I reflect upon the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting, I am struck by the number of conversations about helping law students figure out who they are as lawyers and what they want to do with their careers. When I started attending the AALS Annual Meeting 10 years ago, there were not nearly as many conversations about these topics. The discussions focused primarily on substantive areas of law and ways that we could better teach students about the law. It has been refreshing to see that these conversations are now being bolstered with discussions regarding how law students can use the tools that they are learning in substantive classes and combine them with their passions and interests in order to make a difference for an individual or their community.
Although I was not able to attend as many sessions about Standard 303 as I would have liked (just too many good programs this year!), I did get to attend some that addressed professional identity formation, how it can be taught, and how to get buy-in from others at your school. Generally, the advice was to look for your champions and those who recognize the value of the new standard beyond what is simply required for compliance. Other advice included considering your resources and your capacity for new programming; identifying target audiences and data sources; assessing program, surveying participants, and summarizing results; getting feedback from other departments in the law school; and working collaboratively to develop programming. Some schools are also considering breaking it down into different focuses by year: Self-assessment for 1Ls, Self-direction for 2Ls, and Leadership for 3Ls.
It must be more than helping them form their identity as a lawyer – it must also help them understand the role of the lawyer in society, the benefits of diversity, how to be well in order to reach their capacity for doing good (i.e., self-actualization), and how they can serve their communities in addition to their families and clients. This is the essence of leadership, and we believe it is important that it does not get lost as schools figure out how to comply with Standard 303. Professional Identity Formation is important, but we cannot stop there.
As a sample of what law schools are doing in this Professional Identity Formation and Leadership space, Aric Short, from Texas A&M Law School, shared the four dimensions of professional identity that are covered in his award-winning required course at Texas A&M:
Personal Identity: Personal values, life goals, strengths, passion.
Values of the Legal Profession: honesty; integrity; continuous personal development; respect for the judicial system, the rule of law; and diversity, equity, and inclusion
Competencies Expected by Employers: self-directed; grit, resilience; diligence; work well on teams/with others; well-being; leadership
Right Fit in the Practice of Law: practice setting, practice area, skills utilized, opportunities for development, overall positives and negatives
What sessions did you attend? What did you learn from them? Where do you see the potential for teaching leadership as law schools work to incorporate the new standards?
As always, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out at any time.
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.
As the end of summer nears and return to school looms, we are returning to the basics. For me, that means back to the beginning of this effort to support the growth of leadership development programming in legal education. I remember the early morning breakfast at the 2016 AALS meeting where Deborah Rhode and I hosted a small but enthusiastic group in the first conversation about this effort to encourage law schools to better prepare students as leaders. Encouraged by the energy at that gathering, we planned a formal Group Discussion for the 2017 AALS Annual Meeting entitledIntroducing Leadership Development into the Law School Curriculum(see notes linked).The room was packed and over-flowing! The appetite for action was exciting. We all agreed that it was time! Lawyers are leaders and leadership development should be an integral part of legal education and training.
After all manner of justifications for why we need to emphasize leadership development in legal education, we identified and acknowledge challenges and we generated ideas. Two of the challenges identified at that time were:
How do we get colleagues to support the creation of leadership development initiatives?
How do we help professors and staff colleagues incorporate leadership development into all aspects of their legal education (class, clinics, professional identity formation, career development, etc.).
For readers in the legal academy: Help at least two colleagues find ways to incorporate leadership development in their classes, programs, or other work within the school.
For readers who do not hold a full-time position in a law school: Inquire about leadership programming at your alma mater or one with which you have a relationship and offer to help.
In a case of colleagues who still think “leaders are born, not made,” victory may be convincing them that leadership development is relevant and important and can be done in law school. Even if they are not yet comfortable that they can effectively include discussions or lessons of leadership in their classrooms, maybe they will be supportive of leadership development efforts of other colleagues.
In future posts, we will discuss some suggestions for influence and action, which is after all our definition of leadership.
“It’s a shameful irony that the occupation that produces the nation’s greatest share of leaders does so little to prepare them for that role.”[i]
Deborah Rhode often repeated this observation as we launched this movement in legal education to better equip law students for future leadership roles. She challenged law schools to be more intentional about inspiring law students to be difference-makers in the world around them.
As you undoubtedly know by now, the legal community suffered a heart-breaking loss on January 12, 2021, with the passing of Deborah Rhode, who served as the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School. Even more grievous is the loss to society of her unfinished business. She had much more wisdom, insight, and guidance to share (as well as her cajoling and agitation at appropriate times) pushing us forward to form that more perfect union envisioned in the foundations of our democracy.
“She was a titan of the legal profession—one of our nation’s preeminent voices on legal ethics, but also a champion for the interests of the underserved and a pioneer in the cause of gender equality,” shared Dr. Amalia Kessler, Stanford. [ii]
Her former Dean Paul Brest said, “Deborah was a pioneer and leader in every field she touched—sex discrimination, professional responsibility, pro bono legal practice, women and leadership, and just plain leadership. She aspired to be the very best in every endeavor, including racquetball, where she professed not to care about winning but played with focus and drive and truly loved to win. We will all miss her, but her imprint on the legal profession and academy will endure.” [iii]
Stanford Law Dean Gillian Lester shared, “Her books and articles centered on a constellation of subjects that she linked together in important ways: professional responsibility, lawyer-leadership, gender equality. She wrote beautifully, in an accessible, policy-relevant, and often humorous style, but one never mistook her use of humor for a lack of urgency, nor the accessibility of her work for lack of rigor.”
“This slight, seemingly delicate woman was a gigantic figure in the study of the legal profession and in movements to reform it. She was one of a small handful of pioneers who in the 1970s and 80s began to transform the study of the legal profession and legal ethics into a serious field of scholarship,” added her colleague Professor Robert W. Gordon.
Added another of her co-authors, Scott Cummings, Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, “Deborah defined new fields and redefined old concepts: legal ethics, leadership, access to justice, antidiscrimination law, and many others. She founded the field of legal ethics, infused it with intellectual rigor, and insisted that it stand for values of justice, access, and equality. She not only made it legitimate to study lawyers, and their role in society, but made it possible to demand that they live up to their very highest principles—and never hesitated to call them out when the failed.” [iv]
Deborah was a world-renowned scholar with 30 books and over 200 articles to her credit. I found her both awe-inspiring and intimidating when I first met her in 2014 as we served on a panel to discuss women’s leadership in higher education. When we finished, I gathered the courage to approach her, to share my ideas, and to seek her help with another reform needed in legal education. At that time, I did not know about her what others experienced in her presence:
“Luminary that she was, she somehow always found the time and energy to extend herself on behalf of others,” offered Professor Engstrom. [v]
“As soon as I arrived on the Stanford faculty, she took me under her wing, providing a sounding board, mentorship, tough love, and steadfast devotion. She had a huge heart, a quick wit, and a spine of steel,” shared Professor Shirin Sinnar. [vi]
I came to know that spine of steel softened by the generosity of time and spirit she lent to an effort she recognized as imperative to the future of the legal profession. Because she well understood the critical role of law in society, she also realized the importance to our democracy in preparing lawyer-leaders who are ready, willing, and able to step into action.
Others shared stories of the time with Deborah as she walked and talked while mentoring and collaborating. For example,
“Rhode walked the walk with mentoring—quite literally. Her walks were legendary; she regularly invited colleagues, especially more junior colleagues, to walk with her to provide support and mentorship. I always admired the candor, authenticity, warmth, care for one’s well-being, and commitment to service that Deborah modeled throughout all my interactions with her over the years, including those regular afternoon walks.” [vii]
In her honor, Stanford Law issued a call #WalkWithDeborah to honor her with posts about our walks in her honor last Saturday. I created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of honoring her with a walk and a picture in tribute to her leadership textbook.
Not only did she have tremendous sway within the academy and the practicing bar, leaders from a multitude of disciplines and backgrounds listened and learned and answered her calls to action. Mark Chandler, Chief Legal Officer, Chief Compliance, Officer and EVP at Cisco Systems shared, “She had an almost unique ability to bring together scholars, law firm leaders and corporate counsel to confront challenges and take advantage of opportunities to do more. From my first meeting with her, through today, she made me better at what I do.” As Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar, Justice of the Supreme Court of California, stated, “Deborah was a sterling example of the very best that both of her professions offered the world. As a scholar she was honest, creative, accessible and prolific; as a lawyer she was devoted to public service and integrity.”[viii]
I was one of the privileged to know Deborah. I will forever treasure my time working side-by-side with her to find those kindred spirits across the academy and to grow the body of believers as we created the AALS Section of Leadership. Without question, because of her leadership and her stellar reputation within the academy the study of leadership has grown quickly to be recognized as a serious field of legal scholarship and a foundational and teachable subject in law schools. It is up to us to continue her legacy.
Based on what we are witnessing in our nation, our work is more important than ever. Our mission is to encourage law students and lawyers to embrace their obligation to serve clients and society, to better equip students for positions of leadership and influence, and to inspire law students and lawyers to boldly seek opportunities to be difference makers. We will honor Deborah’s legacy with each leadership lamp we light.
[i] Deborah Rhode, Raising the Bar: Lawyers and Leadership, Forward Vol. 69 Stanford L Rev.(2017).
Caught up in my own little world last Wednesday, busily working on my tasks, I had no idea what was happening until a student shared the news during a phone conversation that evening. My thoughts and feelings as I tried to catch up on the events of the day:
• Shock at the images of violence
• Saddened for the victims and their families
• Disbelief at the disrespect by Americans for the sanctity of our nation’s house of government
• Concern for our democracy
• Embarrassment for our country
• Shameful lack of leadership by a man this country entrusted with the Presidency
• Sad, dark day in our history
And then the images of our elected representatives determined to do their job in spite of the events. Their resolve to ensure our democracy strengthened because of the actions of those who chose to violate our nation’s Capitol.
As we celebrated the ending of 2020, many of us thought we were turning the page in history to a better year – surely 2021 would bring a new and brighter day – only to be confronted on January 6 with the destruction and chaos and loss of life that occurred in the Capitol. May we each do all in our power to prevent that from ever happening again.
As teachers, trainers, and mentors of the next generation of lawyer-leaders, we hope you will join us in renewing our commitment and re-doubling our efforts to:
• inspire our law students to willingly acknowledge, and eagerly accept, their obligation as lawyers to serve the public and protect our democracy,
• encourage our law students to courageously seek opportunities, using their legal knowledge, training, and experience, to wisely and justly lead in their communities, and
• better prepare our law students to be leaders for change that will move our nation toward becoming a more perfect union.
Please let us know how we can help you in your work. Please also share your ideas for how we can work together to increase and grow leadership development initiatives across all law schools.
The American Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Leadership has announced aÂ Call for PapersÂ from which one additional presenter will be selected for the sectionâs program, âLearning from Lawyer-Leaders Throughout the Profession,â to be held during the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington on Friday, January 3, 2020 at 1:30pm.
For more information and to submit, view theÂ Call for Papers,Â here.
Information about the Section on Leadership’s 2020 program and co-sponsored sessions is available on the AALS Section on Leadership website, here.
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.