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Training Students in Civil Discourse: New Public Deliberation Workshop Developed as Part of ABA Standard 303 Efforts

The recent amendments to ABA Standard 303(b) (development of a professional identity) & (c) (education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism) did not require major adjustments to our programming at Baylor Law. Still, a 303 Committee was appointed to ensure and document our compliance. With a mission to “train lawyers who are able to practice law with competence, serve with compassion, and provide effective and ethical leadership,” we have long been dedicated to the notion that our job does not end with teaching basic concepts of law and legal analysis. With a tradition of incorporating a significant amount of practical skills training, the concept of professionalism is baked into the DNA of a Baylor Law education. With that said, we recognized eight years ago that we needed to be more intentional in our professional development training. In 2014, we created our Professional Development Program and our Leadership Development Program to be more intentional in preparing students for the modern challenges of being a member of our time-honored profession.

The 303 Committee’s review of our curriculum and programming confirmed numerous ways in which Baylor Law develops law students’ professionalism. But the Committee did not stop there. More can and should be done and we spent the summer exploring enhancements and additions to our programming. This post highlights one of those new programs. Beginning with the Fall 2022 entering class, all entering students will participate in a public deliberation workshop.

What is public deliberation and why should law students learn how to do it?

The public expects lawyers to be zealous advocates for their clients, but sometimes a lawyer’s conduct goes beyond zealous advocacy and crosses the line of civility. Not only does ill-mannered conduct reflect poorly on our profession, but it also contributes to the normalizing of disrespectful, uncivil, and polarizing reactions to viewpoints and statements with which a person does not agree.

Lawyers’ professional obligation extends beyond individual clients to our system of justice and to society. As stated in the preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct: A Lawyer’s Responsibility, “[a] lawyer is a representative of the clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Since the beginning of this nation, lawyers have recognized that their special status comes with a professional responsibility to address pressing issues facing society. A lawyer’s legal education and training provide the opportunity to be change agents and difference makers not only for their clients but also in their communities and across the nation. These professional obligations and opportunities for influence call for lawyers to model civil discourse and to be able to facilitate deliberation in a calm and respectful manner.

This workshop teaches our students a different way to approach advocacy – one that helps them embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively.

“Deliberation involves the best parts of dialogue (conversational) and debate (argument) to offer an experience where participants can learn from one another by talking through different perspectives and approaches to local and global issues and working together to come up with community action steps.

BAYLOR PUBLIC DELIBERATION INITIATIVE

We want this experience to occur early in law school so they recognize that civility and professionalism are not antithetical to zealously representing a client. We also hope the experience will inspire and enable students to approach some of the most potentially heated issues debated in the public square (e.g. race, religion and its role in society, sexual orientation, gun rights or gun control, among others) with a desire to build community through shared values, solve problems and build a better tomorrow.

Public Deliberation Workshop Required for Entering Students

Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, each entering student at Baylor Law will be introduced to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative.  Dr. Joshua Ritter, Director of the Public Deliberation Initiative, described the workshop as a “partnership for training law students as active deliberative citizens with democratic skillsets they can implement within their own communities and leadership.” 

The 1 ½ hour workshop began with a video from the Dean to explain the importance of the effort and to give some context. After some initial remarks and instructions by Dr. Ritter, the law students were divided into groups of 10-12 and given an issue for discussion. Different topics can be used but it needs to be one that generally elicits a wide range of differing views. We used food insecurity for our first workshop.

Facilitating each group is a second- or third-year law student who participated in a 2- hour training session with Dr. Ritter. The facilitators keep the group on task while remaining neutral. The goal is not to change anyone’s mind on the particular issue, but simply for each participant to hear and to be heard on the issue.

Through this interactive exercise, we hope to demonstrate to students that individuals with diametrically opposed positions often share common values but they may prioritize those values differently.  We also recognize the benefit to the law school environment. Creating a culture of respect for colleagues with different life experiences and perspectives will enrich our classrooms and programs.

Please contact us for more information on this program. 

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New Professional Identity Book Guides Law School Faculty and Staff

Neil W. Hamilton and Louis D. Bilionis continue their all-star efforts to guide and support law school faculty and staff tasked with meeting the new requirements in ABA Standard 303. Their new book, Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals (Cambridge University Press, 2022) is now available to help those charged with providing substantial opportunities for the development of their students’ professional identity, as well as education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism. The book has received praises and endorsements from many deans and professors, including Professors Patrick Longan, Daisy Hurst Floyd, and Timothy W. Floyd who just published a book review in the July/August NALP Bulletin (viewable by members only). As explained in that review, “[t]he book is aimed primarily at law school professors and administrators who understand professional identity and appreciate its importance but who are at schools where professional identity formation has not yet taken root. For members of that audience, the book provides wise advice about how to proceed step-by-step and a detailed look at the best practices for promoting professional identity formation.”

Highlights of the Hamilton and Bilionis book were shared in a two-part article published in the May and June NALP Bulletins. Because of the importance of the topic and the value of their work, those two articles are available to the public as NALP Bulletin highlights: Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 1: Understanding the New Requirements, and Revised ABA Standards 303(b) and (c) and the Formation of a Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Part 2: Action Steps to Benefit Students, Law Schools, and the Legal Profession. I understand Part 3 will be published soon!

In their work, Hamilton and Bilionis encourage law schools to start with a group of enthusiastic faculty and staff who are already interested and then empower them to engage in professional identity work that will meet the students “where they are.” Their book provides a plan for creating programming that will benefit “students, legal employers, clients, the legal system, and the law school.” Their goal is to assist law schools as they effectively and practically address the new 303(c) requirement. They note ABA Standard Interpretation 303-5 which recognizes that the work of “developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time,” and therefore, law schools should provide students with “frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.”

As Longan, Floyd and Floyd add, “[i]n Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals, Professors Hamilton and Bilionis have done legal education a tremendous service by setting forth the opportunities for professional identity formation in this moment and providing a practical playbook for taking advantage of those opportunities, even in the face of some expected institutional resistance.”

This is critically important work in legal education!  We appreciate all of you for your dedication to better preparing law students for their future work as professionals and leaders.  

– Leah

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Leading Without Authority

Have you ever been in a situation where your ideas or concerns, as expressed to those in authority, did not lead to action? Did it leave you feeling dissatisfied and powerless? Many of us have found ourselves in these frustrating situations– or even hopeless– because we had no authority to change the situation. Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Leading Without Authority, is written to encourage and empower us as leaders and influencers, especially in situations where we have no title, position, or power of authority to act.

Ferrazzi frames a new dynamic for leadership that encourages those in a follower position, and even those in a leadership position, to use collaborative approaches to problem-solving that redefine the traditional power paradigm. Ferrazzi places this new framework on our ability to create our own team, identify our own goals, and effect change. It is packed with strategies and approaches to leading without authority, not only for those who teach leadership but particularly important for law students and young lawyers who have not reached a point in their career to hold traditional leadership power or positions.

We highly encourage you to pick up or download a copy and recommend it to your law students. The lessons in it will help them, starting with their internships and clerkships this summer.

– Liz and Stephen