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
Five important benefits to our students when law schools are more intentional to provide leadership development for our students: (1) Insure our students not only understand their obligation to give back to society, but inspire them to seek opportunities to use their legal training and skills to positively impact their communities as well as their clients; (2) Guide students through a self-assessment and discover of their own leadership characteristics and traits and provide appropriate training so that they are better equipped for success when those opportunities are presented; (3) Expose our students to specific leadership language, theory and skills necessary or helpful to be more effective in those roles; (4) Provide experiential learning through case studies, role playing and problem solving allowing students to practice assessing different situations and different personalities to best strategize effective approaches in each situation; and (5) Give students opportunities to experience, and to reflect upon the broader ramifications of how ethical considerations should affect the way lawyer-leaders make decisions.
Law schools will benefit as well. Highlighting leadership skills gained from legal training will help applicants see that law school continues to be a great investment in their future as they seek a path of significance and fulfillment through helping people and effectuating a better future for organizations, communities and societies.
As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program.
As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program. Seven of the thirty-one have a specific focus as indicated, including business law, cybersecurity, government, transitional justice, and women. Twenty-three law schools have at least one course which has leadership in the title or a course description that includes leadership development as a significant objective. Leadership development courses are in the planning stage in at least one additional law school. Other law schools likely have courses with elements of leadership development even though not in the title or description. Schools with leadership programs generally offer non-credit workshops, seminars and other leadership activities. Other law schools likely have or had leadership workshops or forums.
The majority of the programs and courses were created in the last five years. Leadership programs or courses at Elon, Harvard, Ohio State, Maryland, Santa Clara, Stanford, Stetson and St. Thomas are at least ten years old. For a list of known programs and courses, see https://baylor.box.com/s/v53753qbp8xdta2xqdh7nvcf4wgng8u4. If you have a leadership program or course, please let us know so we can add you to the list!!