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Article Recommendation: Stories of Leadership, Good and Bad: Another Modest Proposal for Teaching Leadership in Law Schools

By Leah Teague


We recommend to you an article coming out in the Spring 2021 issue of the Journal of the Legal Profession. Professor Doris Brogan, the Harold Reuschlein Leadership Chair at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, addresses the question of why we should prepare law students for positions of influence and impact as leaders in society. The question was raised by her colleagues during a discussion about curricular objectives and goals. After immediately answering that we should, Prof. Brogan asked herself, “Why did it seem so right to prepare all our students with leadership skills if not all of them would end up in the that necessarily exclusive group we designate leader?” The article is the result of her research and reflection. She recognized that “good leadership education will make our students better lawyers, whether they become leaders or not.” She then addressed the myth that leadership cannot be taught. She proclaimed, “Of course, it can. Indeed it must be taught.”

The article is a delightful read with discussions of leaders who rose to positions of great influence, such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She included stories about companies who lacked moral leadership at critical times, such as Volkswagen and Wells Fargo. I especially appreciated her introduction to Dr. Mary Gentile’s work on Giving Voice to Values (GVV) which she recommends be adapted to law school curricula to provide “an effective platform to structure values-based leadership education.” Using GVV can prepare students to “step up and speak out in the face of actions or decisions that challenge their values,” which is a form of “informal leadership, or leadership without specific authority.”

I also appreciate her tribute to Deborah Rhode’s body of work in the areas of professional responsibility, women’s leadership and finally our movement to encourage leadership development in legal education. See footnote 2 of the article.

In the article, Professor Brogan suggests several imperatives:

  1. Law schools must prepare students for formal and informal leadership;
  2. Leadership education must focus hard on values education, and engage students in difficult, concrete discussion exploring personal, institutional, and universal values;
  3. Leadership education must prepare students to speak up for their values and in service of doing the right thing courageously, and effectively, and to do so strategically, without unnecessarily putting their careers at risk); and
  4. Those in positions of power—those in a position to act— must be prepared to listen and to hear. Few students will find themselves in influential leadership positions straight out of law school; rather, they will evolve as leaders, developing a constellation of skills and approaches and honing leadership aptitudes in an ongoing process of learning “throughout a professional trajectory . . . .”

Professor Brogan opines that “law school offers a safe place to wrestle with these issues—a place where the risks are low and where the student can try out different responses with no concern about real-world consequences. In short, law school offers a venue to help students develop a strong values-based foundation, the incentive to act in defense of values, and skills required to do so.”

For a synopsis of Professor Brogan’s article, see the March 18, 2021 posting by Dean Paul Caron in TaxProf Blog.

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Article Callout: Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success

In case you missed it: “Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success” by Liam Montgomery. In the style of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (authors of Extreme Ownership), Mr. Montgomery translates lessons learned in military service to leadership for lawyers. In this article he focuses upon giving and receiving feedback – a critical skill for any leader. The article is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for more feedback material to give to students: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyer-leadership-secret-to-success