By Leah Teague
Leadership development programs are part
of the standard operating procedures for business schools but not so for law
schools, at least historically. At a Group Discussion during the January 2017
AALS Annual Meeting, we met with about 50 faculty members from all over the
country and we asked them to share thoughts about challenges and roadblocks to
creating leadership development programs and courses. Here are some points from
- What is leadership development anyway? How do we explain it to our skeptical colleagues?
- Some lawyers and law students resist instruction in “soft skills.” The very use of the term when describing leadership development adds to the problem. For many lawyers the soft stuff is the hard stuff.
- Many still think leaders are born not trained. You either have it or you don’t, they would say.
- Doctrinal law faculty (especially those who have not been in formal leadership roles) feel uncomfortable with the subject and certainly do not feel equipped to teach it.
- Current law students think they have already done leadership development … in high school and in college. “What could possibly be added in a law school leadership class?”, they might wonder. Some faculty and administrators probably share these thoughts.
- For those that believe in the benefit of leadership development programming, how can we scale up the programming to insure all students are exposed to leadership development in a meaningful way?
are some of the challenges we face. If you have encountered others, please
share. As we continue this blog, we will address these issues and offer
suggestions for overcoming.
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
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.