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High Expectations

By Pat Wilson

But wait, If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy
Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?

Perhaps you recognize these lyrics from the song “Surface Pressure,” from the Disney movie, Encanto, which is a profound yet utterly entertaining movie for both adults and children, in case you missed it. This song in particular captures what it can mean when the expectations we have for ourselves or that others have for us start to weigh us down. 

High expectations are especially true for lawyers and the law students with whom we interact. We and they were the high achievers through grade school, high school, and college. Of course, the expectations are high because we are the ones that gained admission to law school, and law school is nothing if not an environment teeming with pressure. Law school is only the beginning as the pressure on lawyers continues to grow for them to represent their clients well and bring their matters to a successful conclusion while juggling the myriad obligations of family, household, community service, and on and on.

Of the 13,000 attorneys surveyed by the American Bar Association as part of a study it conducted, 21% qualify as problem drinkers, which is nearly double the rate for other highly educated professionals. Twenty-eight percent struggle with depression, while 19% have symptoms of anxiety. The survey found that two-thirds of women reported severe stress as compared to 49% of men; some 23% of women reported moderate or severe anxiety compared to 15% of men.

The statistics for law students are similarly grim. A survey of 3300 law students, summarized in the ABA report, disclosed that 53% of law students got drunk in the prior 30 days and 45% binge drank at least once in the prior two weeks. Seventeen percent of students reported suffering from depression, while 14% reported severe anxiety, and 23% reported mild or moderate anxiety.

The ABA study does not suggest the cause for these various results, but one has to wonder if they are not due in part to the pressure of being a lawyer or a law student. 

So where does this lead us? Possibly to the obvious conclusion but one that bears repeating: we must strive to have more realistic expectations for ourselves and to model for our students the importance of not trying to do it all and have it all. I am of the strong belief that we can’t have it all, and no one should expect us to try. Much like a prix fixe menu, one can choose among the various options, but a choice here forecloses a different choice there. The fact that one opts for the prix fixe menu does not signal weakness. Rather, it means that one is much less likely to overeat to a state of discomfort. 

Maybe the best we can do for our students is to encourage our students to set high goals but strive to be realistic—not everyone will grade on to law review or snag the “high A” in every course, and that’s okay. It seems we also have an obligation to continue to remind students of the importance of taking care of their own mental health and being alert to the stressors that may be affecting their peers—we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in that regard. Of course, we need to take care of our own mental health and be sensitive to students who may be struggling.

Finally, as trite as it seems, we need to encourage our students to stop and smell the roses. We ought to, and our students should be encouraged to, seek things that bring them joy or simple pleasure. It might help relieve some of the pressure we face.

– PW

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One Law Firm – 23,000 Pro Bono Hours

As a follow-up to our recent blog posts on the importance of Pro Bono,

We wanted to share with you the following article from Law360 on how the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler LLP clocked more than 23,000 hours of Pro Bono legal services in 2021:

How Lowenstein Managed 23K Pro Bono Hours Last Year

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The Business Case for Pro Bono

By Stephen Rispoli

Lawyers are regularly asked to serve in their communities, and we hope lawyers do so with a servant’s heart. When asked to join local boards, help with civic needs, and take on pro bono cases, young lawyers can benefit beyond the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing they are doing these things for the right reasons. These efforts also can be helpful to their careers with intention and planning. In 2016, Matt Czimskey, one of my law school classmates, Jeanine Rispoli, my wife and the current President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, and I presented at the ABA Young Lawyers Division Fall Conference. The topic for our presentation was “Growing Your Network: Ethics and Professional Conduct that Builds Relationships.” In the paper that was given to the audience, we highlight the importance of community service and three questions that every young lawyer should consider:

Community involvement should have a positive impact on your community and your career. Thus, there are three fundamental questions that you must ask yourself: (1) who am I and what do I want to do; (2) how can I best inform people who I am and what I do; and (3) what decisions must I make to make myself known and build a reputation for my practice?

The full paper can be read here.

There are always too many demands for our time. Our experience has been that by answering these questions and being intentional about serving the community, young lawyers can live up to the aspirational goals of the profession and benefit their careers at the same time. In Chapter 22 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we give some further guidance to students about their service paths and some thoughts to consider as they explore options.

We’d like to hear from you about how you address this subject. When students ask you why they should get involved in the community, what do you tell them? Are they seeking aspirational reasons? The practical side of actually getting involved? Or do they want to know whether it is worth doing given their billable-hour minimums at the law firms? Tell us what you say in the comments below.

– SLR

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Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 3

By Leah Teague

As discussed in our last two posts, several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that were 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.

Part 1 was a discussion of 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 addressed the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” In this Part 3, we focus on the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).


Part 3: Caring for One’s Well-Being is Critical to Success as Lawyer and Leader

The amendment to ABA Standard 508(b) requires law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources.” The proposal also calls for the law schools to work to remove the stigma of accessing mental health and well-being supports on campus and within the legal profession.

New Interpretation 508-1 reads:

Law student well-being resources include information or services related to mental health, including substance use disorders. Other law student well-being resources may include information for students in need of critical services such as food pantries or emergency financial assistance. Such resources encompass counseling services provided in-house by the law school, through the university of which the law school is a part, or by a lawyer assistance program. Law schools should strive to mitigate barriers or stigma to accessing such services, whether within the law school or larger professional community.

New Interpretation 508-2 reads:

Reasonable access, at a minimum, involves informing law students and providing guidance regarding relevant information and services, including assistance on where the information and services can be found or accessed.

This addition to the Standards signals the importance of law schools’ effort to care for all aspects of our students’ development. For students to use their legal knowledge, skills and competencies to achieve their goals (i.e. self-actualization), they must learn to care for themselves and tend to issues related to mental and physical health. Law school is our opportunity to help students develop the healthy strategies they will need to deal with the stress of the practice of law, maintain healthy relationships with family and friends, and manage their time wisely so that they can continue to enjoy the hobbies and passions that are important to them.

Leadership development programs recognize the importance of well-being and provide opportunities for students to identify and adopt healthy practices that will benefit them as they enter the profession. In Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 11 (The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession) discusses the dimensions of health and shares resources and techniques for long-term practices and habits. In Leadership for Lawyers Chapter 2, Rhode discusses the evolution of well-being, the underlying causes of stress in the legal profession, and suggestions for positive strategies.

Modern law schools are called to go beyond teaching law students to “think” like a lawyer to preparing them for success as whole or complete lawyer (i.e., how to “be” a lawyer) – and a healthy one at that! The efforts to increase professional identity/formation and leadership development programming at law schools are national efforts to address the Carnegie Report’s description of the third stage or apprenticeship of the development. See Growing Number of Leadership Programs and Courses Supports Professional Identity Formation for a further discussion about developing well-rounded lawyers who will be find meaning, satisfaction and success in life using knowledge and skills that are learn (or at least introduced) in law school and developed throughout their careers.  


Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah

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Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 2

By Leah Teague

As discussed in our last post, several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that were 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.

Part 1 was a discussion of the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  This post is Part 2 of this series and focuses on the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” Part 3 will be a future post to discuss the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).


Part 2: Valuing Diversity and Inclusion, Understanding Bias, and Developing Cross-cultural Competency are Fundamental Aspects of Leadership Development

New efforts to encourage diversity, inclusion and cultural competency education resulted in the addition of ABA Standard 303(c), which reads:

(c) A law school shall provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism:

(1) at the start of the program of legal education, and
(2) at least once again before graduation.

For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second occasion will take place before, concurrent with, or as part of their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.

The updated Standards also include new interpretations. New Interpretation 303-6 reads:

With respect to 303(a)(1), the importance of cross-cultural competency to professionally responsible representation and the obligation of lawyers to promote a justice system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in the law should be among the values and responsibilities of the legal profession to which students are introduced.

New Interpretation 303-7 reads:

Standard 303(c)’s requirement that law schools provide education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism may be satisfied by, among other things, the following:

(1) Orientation sessions for incoming students;
(2) Lectures on these topics;
(3) Courses incorporating these topics; or
(4) Other educational experiences incorporating these topics.

While law schools need not add a required upper-division course to satisfy this requirement, law schools must demonstrate that all law students are required to participate in a substantial activity designed to reinforce the skill of cultural competency and their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.

New Interpretation 303-8 reads:

Standard 303 does not prescribe the form or content of the education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism required by Standard 303(c).

Many find this important but sensitive subject difficult to teach but these topics have been a mainstay in lawyer-leadership programs from the beginning. Leadership courses and programs have already developed methods for teaching these concepts in a respectful and meaningful manner designed to engage students and prepare them for the future. For example, Chapter 17 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership is titled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence” and combines the coverage of diversity and inclusion with bias and cross-cultural competency. We also include several exercises and discussion prompts in our Teacher’s Manual to assist with these conversations. Chapter 8 of Leadership for Lawyers is titled “Diversity in Leadership.” These issues have always been present in Deborah Rhode’s leadership books but the recently released third edition textbook includes additional material on diversity and inclusion, as well as updated exercises, problems, and media resources.

We note that we are adopting a term we learned from Professor Neil Hamilton. We now refer to this topic as “Diversity and Belonging” which calls us as leaders to seek ways to help each member of our team or group or organization, especially those who have different backgrounds and life experiences, feel valued as a contributing member of the effort. Together we can make a difference as we positively influence those around us, seek ways to meaningfully impact our communities and inspire our students to do the same!


Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah

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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

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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.

https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/four-black-bar-association-leaders-reflect-on-historic-moment


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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.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/diversity/resources/celebrating-heritage-months/black-history-month/


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

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Leadership Training Discussion on EdUp Legal


If you’re not already aware of Dean Patty Roberts’s fantastic Podcast, EdUp Legal, on the EdUp Experience Network, we hope you’ll add this Podcast to your listening queue. About once a week, Dean Roberts explores the opinions and prognostications of leaders in legal education regarding the future of legal training and considers the value proposition of law school.

Dean Roberts recently interviewed Professor Leah Teague. The duo, who share a commitment to preparing law students for their important roles as leaders in society, discussed Professor Teague’s work in fostering a national movement of intentional leadership development in law schools.

Dean Roberts’s Podcast can be found, here: https://lnns.co/kWUeRhMXJd8

And the episode with Prof. Teague, is here: https://lnns.co/kPC2NJqEbuO

Are there other legal training, law school, or other podcasts that legal educators should be listening to? Add your suggestions in the comments, below.

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Emotional Intelligence: “Leadership: Agility in the Face of Fragility”

By Stephen Rispoli

This article, posted in the November 2020 Leadership Issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, examines the concepts of agility and fragility in uncertain and ever-changing times. Although it deals with the stresses of the pandemic as they relate to the need for agility and recognizing fragility within teammates, these lessons in emotional intelligence are applicable to nearly every situation where the outcome or future is not guaranteed. As the pandemic drags on nearly a year later, it is perhaps more crucial now that ever as we deal with the effects of a long-term crisis.

The article also touches upon two other concepts that I like to discuss with students – efficiency and effectiveness. As the article notes, while many firms focus upon efficiency, they should also be focused upon efficiency’s necessary twin – effectiveness. Checking in on your colleagues to make sure that they are getting their work done in stress times is focusing upon efficiency. But effectiveness is also making sure that your colleagues are doing well. As the saying goes, “you must be doing well to do good.” This approach works with all constituencies, not just work colleagues – family, friends, and clients. We can use our emotional intelligence skills to connect with those around us and help them through difficult situations.

Finally, a note about fragility. Although “fragility” often takes a negative connotation, I really liked it in this context. It does not encourage fragility, but rather helps us look for symptoms of stress and anxiety in others when they are outwardly projecting confidence and positivity. It encourages us to look for moments and ways to help others when they may be struggling. If that’s not using emotional intelligence to make the world a little better, I do not know what is.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.

– SLR