We recommend to you an articlecoming 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:
Law schools must prepare students for formal and informal leadership;
Leadership education must focus hard on values education, and engage students in difficult, concrete discussion exploring personal, institutional, and universal values;
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
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.”
“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).
On April 1, I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar hosted by Live with Kellye and Ken. The web series posts monthly hour-long discussions between invited panel guests over a wide array of topics affecting legal education and the legal community. This monthâs episode was titled Law and Leadership. I was honored to be included on a panel with Professor Deborah Rhode from Stanford, Dean Garry Jenkins from Minnesota, Dean D. Gordon Smith from Brigham Young, and Dean Matthew Diller from Fordham.
the discussion, each panelist briefly talked about the leadership programs at
their respective schools, as well as the value of implementing leadership
training in law schools. The panelists agreed leadership development programming
gives our student the opportunity to practice assessing different and difficult
situations and determine their role and that of others as they seek the best
approach to a positive outcome. Everything that we are all doing in these
Leadership Development Programs assists students to more effectively represent
their clients, add value to their future organizations and live more fulfilling
lives. As Dean Jenkins expressed, at its core, âleadership is really about
developing a set of skills over a period of time as opposed to the idea that
once I do these five things, Iâm a leader.â
Jenkins added, âI reject thinking of leadership as an on/off switch. I think
there’s a misnomer that either you’re a leader or you’re not, either you have
it or you don’t.â He suggested the best analogy is that of learning music. âWe
could all study the cello. We could all get better. Some will improve faster
than others.â His point is that âa combination of natural ability and
inclination and effortâ¦ all play roles. We might not all end in the same place
but we’d all improve.â Professor Rhode confirmed that âstudies show that most
leadership skills are learned skills.â
Smith noted that we need to help our students become good team players with an
entrepreneurial mindset and an understanding that every person has value and is
worthy of respect. Dean Dillard echoed this sentiment by explaining that his
leadership class is âfocused on framing (leadership development) not so much as
law and leadership, but law and being a good organizational and institutional
citizenâ¦ and the professional is not the center of everything. The professional
is a servant and works in the service of others.â
the end of the day, Dean Smith said it
best, âwe all want something really similar from our institutions and from
legal educationâ¦ we want to make the world a better placeâ¦we want to make it
better for all people and leadership is the mechanism to get that sort of
result.â Everything that we are all doing in
these Leadership Development Programs is going to help our students add value
to their future organizations, to their clients, and their communities. Implementing
Leadership development programs is a win-win situation for all our schools!
Join hosts, Deans Emeritus Kellye Testy (LSAC CEO) and Ken Randall (iLaw President), as they lead a live dialogue about the state of legal education.
Lawyers lead our country. Yet law schools traditionally have not trained their students for leadership. With both the roles of lawyers and the value of a law degree evolving, how should legal education adjust to educate capable and ethical lawyers? How can deans, administrators, and faculties not only successfully lead their own institutions but also reflect leadership models for students to emulate? What are the opportunities for students to gain leadership opportunities while in law school? A panel of five effective leaders and experts will explore how legal education should embrace the growing field of leadership. Professor Rhodeâs seminal work â Lawyers as Leaders â provides an invaluable framework for the discussion.
Joining the discussion are:
â¢ Dean Matthew Diller, Fordham â¢ Dean Garry Jenkins, Minnesota â¢ Professor Deborah Rhode, Stanford â¢ Dean Gordon Smith, Brigham Young â¢ Associate Dean Leah Teague, Baylor
This engaging one hour discussion will include a Q&A period at the end. The event will be recorded. If you register but cannot attend, you will receive a link to watch at a later time.
If you do not already have or do not wish to download the Zoom app, you may view the event through a browser by clicking the “Join from your browser” link when attempting to join the event.
Monday, April 1, 2019 4:00 PM (Eastern Time – US and Canada)