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Student Perspective on Leadership Development: Philip D. Ricker

Philip D. Ricker graduated from Baylor Law School in April 2019. He is currently working for the family law firm O’Neil Wysocki, P.C. in Dallas, Texas. While at Baylor Law School, he was on Law Review and also involved in a Mock Trial team.

Baylor’s leadership development training taught me not be afraid to speak up to a more-experienced attorney. I feel more confident when voicing my opinions on a legal issue or to walk down the hallway and tell a partner about a problem we need to address.

Gladiators.jpg

Ethics of an Attorney

A consistent theme of our leadership class was how to assert our ethics as attorneys.We talked extensively about the ethics of an attorney and I did not realize how much those discussions mattered until I began practicing. I often joked that lawyers are like gladiators – we go where we are told and fight who we are told to fight. After spending about 6 months in a family law firm with a 3L bar card and going through practice court, I realize how much better of an understanding the class gives gave me about ethics and the law.

Throughout the Leadership class, my classmates and I were given the opportunity to hear from numerous speakers who are leaders in areas outside of the law. I am always fascinated at the interesting twists and turns an individual’s careers take. For me, it was surprising to learn about the many different ways our speakers became leaders. We didn’t have any two speakers who follows an even remotely similar path. This is encouraging that even if you have an untraditional beginning, one can become a leader.

Baylor Law Formative Leadership

As Baylor Lawyers, I feel like we have an opportunity to emerge in leaders amongst our first and second-year peers from other schools. I was able to serve as the Notes & Comments editor of Law Review. This was another formative leadership experience at Baylor Law that helped prepare me in my future career. During that time, I had a team of three to four students who I would work with to get an upcoming article ready to publish. I found it difficult to ask someone to do something that I was not going to do. It felt uncomfortable asking someone to stay up late in the evening to edit an article when I wasn’t required to stay up and edit. Little did I know at the time, that the discomfort was preparing me for something bigger. Now that I am working at O’Neil Wysocki, P.C., I work with paralegals, legal secretaries, and other associate attorneys. Similarly, I have found myself asking someone to do something that I am not doing. For instance, I may ask a legal secretary to prepare a binder for an appellate brief or attach exhibits to a Motion for Summary Judgment. It feels UNCOMFORTABLE; however, my time at law school on law review helped me prepare for some of that discomfort. 

I think all law students need to be exposed to a leadership role. Not every law student is placed into a position of leadership, and Baylor does a good job to equip each student to be comfortable taking a step into the realm of leadership.


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The legal profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem

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.

If you haven’t read it yet, Mr. Edwards post is worth the read: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/the-legal-profession-doesnt-have-a-leadership-problem-it-has-a-character-problem

-SLR

Academia, Leadership

How Do We Distinguish Ethics, Professionalism and Leadership?

 By Leah Teague 

As we work to establish leadership development as a recognized academic pursuit in legal education, we are met with questions of definition, distinction and purpose. An often-asked question, even among us who are pursuing the study of leadership in the context of the legal profession, is what is the difference between professional responsibility, professionalism (also referred to as professional identity, formation or development) and leadership. This is a start. I have no doubt my thoughts will continue to take shape as we continue conversations and work.

Ethics/Professional Responsibility

As lawyers we must abide by a code of professional responsibility. The outer boundaries of unactionable conduct is set by principles established in the code. Law students learn these rules as minimums – that which they MUST do or not do to avoid scrutiny for a violation and to avoid an appearance of impropriety. Students are tested on these rules. Law firms have committees that consider ethical issues and make decisions for their lawyers. Bar associations have committees for reviewing rules, advising lawyers and taking action when lawyers step outside the boundaries. Self-regulation of lawyers’ conduct is essential to maintaining our independence and our privileged status with powers and opportunities.

But as we often discuss in law school, or at least we should, the code of professional responsibility will not determine who you are as a lawyer, what type of cases or clients you will represent, how you will practice law, or how you will be remembered.

Professional Development/Professionalism/ Formation/ Identity

What does it mean to be a member of a profession that has a rich history of status and privilege earned by rigorous intellectual pursuit and legal training?  Here are some of the questions raised as we try to define our professional identity and to better prepare our students to enter the profession that has long been considered a noble pursuit, but also a profession that is perhaps less favored and respected in recent decades:

  • Who are we as lawyers?
  • What is our role in society?
  • What does the public expect of us?

And on an individual basis, we ask our students to consider what kind of lawyer they want to be.

With our legal training & law degree we have an obligation to serve our clients and society.  From the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities, “[a] 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 Alexis de Tocqueville recognized in the 1830s, the role of lawyers as keepers of the rule of law and the special training of lawyers as problem solvers and advocates ensured for us “a separate station in society.” When he labeled lawyers as the “American Aristocracy,” he used that title in the European tradition from which he came – where lords were responsible for their charges. The privilege of wealth and power carried with it a privileged duty to protect. For American lawyers, our charge is our democracy.  Our special status arose because lawyers were viewed as more than mere providers of legal services. We have an obligation to serve not only our clients but also society.

As lawyers, more is expected of us by the public. And by that I mean, with the acquisition of our privilege – law degree and legal training – the public has an expectation of us that obligates us to live up to a higher set of principles and standards than a citizen who is not a member of our profession.

As I tell our students during orientation, the Latin root of profession is professieum – to make a public declaration or to take an oath. When I ask them to name the three vocations considered to be the original “professions,” it does not take them long to name “doctors, lawyers and clergy.” We then discuss what common attributes these three share. Answers include “education and training;” “expectation to live an exemplary live” or at least “higher expectations;” “less forgiveness for human error;” and this is one of my favorites, “doctors take care of the body, clergy minister to the soul, and lawyers take care of live in a community – rights, liberties and property interests.”  What becomes clear to them through the discussion is that our privilege comes with expectations and obligations to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting of our noble profession, which includes service.     

Leadership

Leadership development should go beyond a focus on defining lawyers’ behavior and actions in terms of expectation and obligation to serve clients and communities. Lawyers have the opportunity to guide and influence clients and serve in their communities. Lawyers are leaders and as such that is part of our professional identity. Yet leadership development requires a different type of attention and training than professional development. Leadership development should start with professional development, i.e. self-awareness and self-assessment – the “who am I as a lawyer?” But then we must move to looking at the opportunities we have as lawyers to have a positive influence and impact on society.

Throughout history, lawyers have played a critical role in shaping stable, peaceful and prosperous societies. Leadership seeks to develop lawyers who not only have mastery of self but also are inspired to make a difference. Our legal training, our law license and professional status afford us daily opportunities to influence individuals, behaviors, transactions, organizations, communities and society. Now more than ever, we need lawyers to recognize not only our obligation to serve society, but also opportunities afforded to us because of our professional status and education and then to use our position and training to make a positive difference in the lives of their clients and communities.  We, as the teachers, coaches and mentors to the next generations of lawyers, need to do a better job of equipping them and inspiring them to rise up and seek those opportunities to positively impact society.

-LT

Academia, Leadership

Why is leadership important for the future of the legal profession… and society?

 By Leah Teague 

The need for leaders in our communities, in our country, has never been greater. A survey by the Harvard Center for Public Leadership found that over two-thirds of Americans think the nation has a leadership crisis. Some believe our nation has never been more complex, polarized, and siloed than now. We need leaders who have vision, values, integrity and the ability to see beyond the narrow perspectives of one side. We need lawyers to step up and play more active roles in their communities.

Lawyers offer many skill sets that are helpful in accomplishing goals and effectuating change. Law schools develop students’ proficiencies in identifying and analyzing issues and problems, and in communicating clearly and persuasively as necessary. Lawyers know that negotiation and compromise may be necessary to move past gridlock. Our code of professional conduct establishes an expectation of civility and integrity in our actions.

Will we recognize that lawyers’ highest and best use is not as legal technicians (although that will sure be required)? Will we remember that our role as legal analysts, advocates and problem solvers allow us to effectively counsel and influence clients and organizations?

Leah Teague

But the legal profession is at a crossroads as well. What will be the role of lawyers in society in the future? The profession is forever changed—we have an inkling of what’s to come with technology and the impact of artificial intelligence on our profession, but we don’t really know the full implications. Which of our traditional lawyering tasks will be automated? How will we adapt? Will we recognize that lawyers’ highest and best use is not as legal technicians (although that will sure be required)? Will we remember that our role as legal analysts, advocates and problem solvers allow us to effectively counsel and influence clients and organizations? Will we finally find a way to stem the tide of mistrust in lawyers and lack of faith in the institution that is our system of democracy and its rule of law?

Planning for what society needs from lawyers in the future is why we should begin to think about skills beyond learning substantive law or technical skills, which have been the focus of law schools traditionally. The skill sets needed as counselors and leaders—those who are going to help clients and organizations work through their issues—are going to be even more important to lawyers in the future. They will be just as important as professional responsibility, ethics, and service to the public. Leadership should be equally pervasive in our language as we teach our students about our obligations and opportunities as lawyers.

-LT