In case you missed it: “The legal
profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem”, by
Charles Edwards. Mr. Edwards post in the ABA Journal is wonderful write-up on
the importance of character in leadership. As Leah and I frequently discuss
with law students, leadership alone is not enough – ethical leadership
is the key to long-term success. By integrating best practices into leadership
courses, we are preparing our students for their future roles.
Hearing the insightful and inspiring speech given by Professor Counseller at the Winter 2019 commencement, got us thinking about the speech Professor Fraley made at the Fall 2018 commencement ceremony.
Professor Fraley gave a less than conventional commencement speech, addressing the topics of failure and fear. She began by recasting failure not as a character flaw, but as part of life– that failing is proof that we are trying. She told the graduates, “Social media paints this glossy picture of a life where no one fails, no one doubts, no one struggles, no one even has a pimple, but that is not real.” Failure does not mean that you cannot succeed, but rather that you were trying something daring in order to make a change. “For a firework to light up the night sky, it has to explode. And so, too, will you need to spontaneously combust on occasion to see how bright a light you can be in this world.”
Professor Fraley told the graduates
a story about the first case she lost. She had been on a streak of winning
cases and thought she was invincible. Representing a defendant in a case with
bad facts for her clients, an East Texas jury reminded her that no lawyer can
win them all. She then told the graduates that she was feeling sorry for
herself but had to get up the next day and had to go right back to work. At her
first meeting the next day with an expert witness, she saw a daily quote
calendar on his desk. “The quote for that day was, ‘success is not about how
high you bounce, but high how you bounce back after you hit bottom.’” Professor
Fraley told the graduates that she asked if she could have that page, he
graciously agreed, and she kept it taped inside her top desk drawer as a
reminder about what failure means and what success is really about.
Professor Fraley talked about how fear is failure’s best friend; that fear is there to tell you failure may always be around the next corner. Fear is there to make us doubt ourselves and think that we cannot do it, whatever “it” is. Knowledge and fear of failing comes because we care, and we dare. She credited Nelson Mandela for three principles she uses as guides for her life: 1) Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it, 2) the greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall, and 3) there is no passion to be found in playing small.
Professor Fraley told the graduates that “Out of this willingness to take risk and to fail and to fear comes growth.” Professor Fraley spoke to the graduates about watching them in class where they had to face fear and failure every day. She noted, “you came back for more day after day. I don’t know whether you were brave or whether you were too afraid not to, and it doesn’t matter.” Professor Fraley left the graduates with a few final words of wisdom. “Fail mightily. Laugh at yourself when you do. Get back up and fail and laugh again and embrace the glorious mess that is being alive.”
Professor Fraley’s speech is embedded below:
-LT & SLR
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Why Leadership Development for Lawyers?
As the co-founders of the Baylor Leadership Development Program and early adopters of the leadership movement in legal education, we established this blog to address several questions:
(1) What do we mean by leadership development?
(2) Why are these efforts important and relevant to individuals - law students and lawyers?
(3) As guardians of the rule of law and defenders of our democracy, how can these efforts benefit our profession and our country?
(4) What does leadership development look like for lawyers and how is it different from leadership development for other professions?
All of us who have started a leadership development program or class (as well as those who attempted to do so) are commonly faced with questions and preconceived notions such as: Aren’t leaders born not made? Why should law schools devote attention to leadership when so few lawyers will serve as a managing partner of their firm? How is a leadership course in law school different from the leadership program or course from their high school or college days?
Promoting a National Movement
We will address these questions (and more) in this blog. For those who have leadership programs or classes, we hope you will share your challenges faced and wisdom gained. We hope all will join in the conversation. Just as we know civil discourse results in better outcomes, we know that engaging in robust discussions around these questions can lead to more effective conversations and programming in law schools, bar associations and legal offices throughout the nation.