As we celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to share with you a fantastic resource put together by the American Bar Association. Although some of these may be familiar to you, they are wonderful resources when looking for example for leadership classes or presentations. We hope that you can take a few moments to check these out and consider working them into your presentations.
Students say that they love feedback. But that’s not completely true. They love feedback that they believe in.
Put yourself in the student’s shoes. They want to hear what they’ve done right (or wrong), and they want to do better. When the feedback begins, though, what they hear is often criticism. As justified as the criticism might be, it’s hard for anyone to hear that the effort they expended was not really very good. Instead of feeling that they are closer to being a lawyer, the student feels they are getting further away. The challenge is to present the feedback so that it is received with appreciation and so that stimulates the mind – not so that is depresses the spirit.
One effective way to motivate is to delay your feedback. Let the student talk first. Ask: What did you find challenging? Did you think you did some part poorly? Where would you like to improve? What was the hardest part of the work?
Those answers and the self-reflection they require opens the discussion with the student’s own concerns, instead of the instructor’s critique . The instructor’s critique comes from a person of experience and expertise. That can be intimidating. Let the student tell you what they need help with first. When they get the help they wanted, they are ready to talk about improvements they didn’t know were necessary, and improvements they never considered.
I recently talked to a student who had turned in a required assignment – the first draft of an appellate brief. In my opinion, this student was just awful at proofreading. Obvious spelling mistakes, repeated words, odd spacing and poor grammar plagued his brief – so much so that I had a hard time reading the thing. When he came to my office, I asked him, “What was the one thing you think you could do better?” He spoke up quickly, “I have a hard time with the details.” That led to a discussion about a trait he and I have in common – we love to have someone else check our work. That wasn’t possible with this assignment, so he needed some different tools. Grammarly and Brief Catch are both available to all students at Baylor Law, and we walked through using those as an electronic proofreader and style coach. Software is not perfect, but it was just the tool he needed. I wonder if we would have ended up sharing a common trait and worked on a good solution if I had started our conversation with “You know, I don’t think you did any editing and proofreading on this brief,” or “You need to spend some time editing and proofreading before you turn in the next draft.” Either would have been truthful and constructive. But, had a professor told me that, I would have recoiled a bit, and maybe wondered if I was cut out for this profession.
There is a time to be brutally honest. There are more times when we should seek to inspire.
In one of my earliest days teaching, I was in the courtroom grading students as they gave their first-ever opening statement. Nerves are common in this setting, and so we give feedback on both the structural and performance aspects of the exercise. The last pair of students took their spots at counsel table, and I instructed the plaintiff’s attorney to proceed with her opening statement. She stood in the center of the courtroom, spoke three words, and completely broke down. These were not leaky tears; these were body-wracking sobs. I confess to being caught unprepared for this. I could not imagine what about this exercise had her emotionally distraught. I did know, however, that I could not let her stop; I believed that would irreparably damage her confidence that she could complete the exercise. I told her to get a drink of water (always a good move) and to continue. She would get a few lines out and then cry again. I kept prompting her with statements like “and then what happened” until she completed the exercise.
After all the other students left the courtroom, she asked to talk to me about what had happened. I readily agreed since I was mystified. She shared that when she was a first year student, she had attempted suicide. Thankfully, she had gotten help and was much better. However, the case packet used for opening statement by the students prior to her exercise involved an insurance dispute over death benefits: had the decedent died accidentally or by suicide? Hearing the previous students give opening statements in a case discussing suicide triggered the emotional response in this student. I had not dealt with a “trigger” event like this before. She assured me that having her continue and using calm, measured tones had been the right response for her. She successfully completed my class and the bar, and happily seems to enjoy a good career.
Triggers present a lawyer-leader challenge, both in law school and in practice. As fiduciaries, our own personal triggers cannot prevent our putting a client’s interests ahead of our own issues. We cannot realistically expect a law firm to change its business to adapt to our triggers. In other words, we cannot be fragile in this profession. We have a job to do, and we must do it to the best of our abilities. This certainly puts the onus on us as professionals either to seek the mental health help we need to manage our triggers or to be intentional about the type of practice setting we seek. A lawyer like my young student probably does not need to work in a field where she would be likely to encounter suicide issues as part of her work.
In the law school setting, training lawyer leaders may require us to provide support and guidance to student who have unresolved trauma. We do not serve students well by suggesting the world will adapt to their triggers, but we can help them understand both their professional obligations and how their own experiences can actually make them a more empathetic and wiser counselor. In many settings, client have significant emotional responses to their legal issues: sadness, anger, despair over the events and their lack of control over difficult and upsetting situations. Transforming negatives into a positive enhancement for emotional intelligence makes a better lawyer. This type of work in law school also reinforces the internal locus of control skills that are needed for good leaders.
Identify a situation like mine when a student reacted in an unexpected manner to the discussion.
If you did not engage the student to discuss the situation, consider what possible reasons might have existed.
How might you handle similar situations in the future?
I would also love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you agree or disagree with my take on triggers?
Leadership Development Syllabus Series â¢ Part 2: Engaging Students
Part 1 of our LEAD Course Series can be found, here.
In this second post of our LEAD Course series, we share our thoughts on interesting methods to engage law students. This year marks the sixth year of teaching this course and we are constantly making adjustments to the syllabus and our teaching methodologies. In addition to carefully selecting topics, exercises, and speakers, below we discuss three ways we engage the students.
As noted in a previous post, we require students keep a
journal throughout the class. We have come to believe this is one of the most
beneficial elements of the class. Not only does it help them personalize and
internalize the lessons, it allows us to evaluate their progress in real time throughout
the course. We use Box as a file management system and create individual
folders for each student. At the end of each class, students are assigned two
or three journal entries which are then added to the class syllabus. Students
answer these questions and prompts before the next class which allows us to
read their answers and gauge understanding and progress.
2. Leadership Quote, Video, or Short Story
Each student signs up to present a quote, video, or short
story about leadership in the first three-to-five minutes of a class. This fun
exercise allows students to use their creativity (and sometimes add some humor)
to present about leadership. The students â both the presenters and the rest of
the class â seem to enjoy the activity before jumping into the topic of the day.
Interestingly, most students chose topics for their presentation that fit well
with the topic for the day.
3. Blog Post
From the beginning we required them to select and read a
book about leadership. This year, instead of a book report, they will write a
blog post based on the book â a short review or why someone should read (or not
read) the book. We think they will be more engaged with the book of their
choice and it will allow us to showcase the best ones on this blog!
In our next post in this series we will share the main
components of our syllabus. Posts that follow in this series will include a
discussion of how we teach each class, PowerPoint presentations, exercises used
in class, topics presented by our guest speakers, prompts for journals and
feedback from our students.
We know that many of you present similar topics in your
courses and want to hear from you. We encourage you to post how you present
these topics in the comments to this post. Our hope is that this blog becomes a
discussion forum for best practices in teaching leadership in law schools. By
going through the syllabus step-by-step, we can have a detailed conversation
and share ideas.
To help with the collection and distribution of what other law school leadership programs are doing, we created a repository for syllabi, programs, exercises, articles, presentations, and other leadership development materials. You can view and download the materials, here.
How do you consistently engage with your leadership students? Have your tried something that didn’t work at all as planned? As we continue this series, we invite your feedback and input in the comments!
Baylor Lawâs Leadership
Development Program continually strives to prepare students to become exemplary
leaders, both in the legal profession, and in their communities. We make a
concerted effort to find ways to increase student engagement with our
Leadership Development Program. One way weâve done so is through the
development of the Baylor Law Leadership
Leadership Fellows are Baylor Law students that have met the strenuous requirements of the Leadership Development Program. In order to earn the designation, a Baylor Law student must:
the Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) class and complete the personal
development and team-building course (the Baylor Ropes Challenge Course).
of a minimum of 23 hours of Professional Development Programming.
as an officer of a Baylor Law student organization for a minimum of three
quarters. While serving as an officer, the student must perform a minimum of 25
hours of service related to activities of the organization.
of a minimum 25 hours of community service.
as an intern for a charitable or community organization’s director or
management team, or as an extern for a legislator, working a minimum of 45
The number of students who have received designation as a Leadership Fellow has been limited, and we are currently seeking new ways to engage with our students earlier in their Law School careers to involve them more fully in the Leadership Development Program. We hope to report back to you soon about our efforts.
Our most recent designee is Taylor A. McConnell (JD â19). From our news story:
McConnell has been a dedicated volunteer at the Baylor Law Veterans Clinic, where he assisted at the legal advice clinics, drafted wills for Central Texas veterans, and has represented several clients in litigation. He served as the President of the Baylor Law Military & Veterans Legal Society and was Secretary for LEAD Counsel. He won the Spring 2019 Bob and Karen Wortham “Mad Dog” Competition and received both the Best Speaker and Best Advocate Awards in the Fall â18 Dawson and Sodd Moot Court Competition. In addition to volunteering for the Veterans Clinic, McConnell volunteered with Baylor Lawâs Trial Advocacy Clinic, helping juveniles at their initial detention hearings in district court. Working with Baylor Law Veterans Clinic Director Josh Borderud, McConnell assisted the 74th District Court in developing the first Veterans Treatment Court in McLennan County.
your law school have a designation or award for students who complete a
specific leadership program or have demonstrated specific leadership
characteristics during their law school career? If soâ¦ share your program with
us in the comments.
starters, we must recognize that as lawyers, as professionals, we are expected
to be leaders in society. âA lawyer is a
representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen
having special responsibility for the quality of justice.â
We have an obligation to serve not only our clients but also society. Our legal
training and professional status afford us daily opportunities to influence
individuals, organizations and communities.
many ways, legal training is implicitly leadership development training. Faculty
are teaching and modeling leadership in the classroom and beyond; however, we are
not teaching leadership intentionally. We must help our students understand
that their professional obligation is to serve their clients and their communities. Their
professional opportunities will enable them to lead and to be change-makers. If
we see ourselves as problem solvers and trusted advisors instead of deal
killers and hired guns, maybe the public will see us that way too.
can start developing lawyer-leaders intentionally by reframing the way we think
about leadership development training. Law faculties are equipped to
participate. Because they are lawyers, they have served in a variety of leadership
roles, including as professors in the classroom. Leadership goes on every day,
in every classroom. Faculty can more intentionally model leadership and help students
see themselves as leaders. Students, from observing our interactions and actions,
learn how to address colleagues and classmates, how to treating others with
respect, and what it means to be a professional. But faculty can also encourage
one of the most fundamental aspects of leadership â intellectual curiosity â as
a way of life. Law professors can equip students with knowledge, skills and
strategies that will help them be successful in dealing with, and leading,
people and organizations.
majority of law school applicants provide personal statements that express
their desire to go to law school because they want to make a difference, to
advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, or to make our
communities better. Donât we owe it to them to equip them with more than just
the ability to critically analyze an issue? Donât we want to make sure we set
them up for success, not only in the practice of law but also in the many other
arenas in which they will serve?
 The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble:
A Lawyer’s Responsibilities,
Amber Shanafelt Myers, Baylor Law JD â14, Leadership Development Fellow
Lawyers are in a unique position when they enter the workforce. We usually donât start at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. Most start somewhere in the middle.Â Â Many new lawyers are even tasked with supervising other employees. For most traditional law students who have completed law school right after college, this is terrifying! How can you know how to manage without training, but beyond that, how do you take it a step further and lead?
The ever-changing legal market makes this
problem bigger than it did in years past. Today, only a slim majority of
graduating law students will go to work at a large firm, organization, or
company with a structured training program and career ladder. Companies, and
even government organizations, have opted for a leaner approach, requiring that
lawyers who come on board jump right in the deep end.
There are so many different things that my law
school leadership training taught me that has served me well in this
environment. Some skills that have helped me the most are understanding how to
talk to people, identifying different personality types, and learning how to
adapt and be flexible. These skills have been invaluable. Even though I spent
time in leadership classes and seminars before I went to law school, I couldnât
have guessed how to apply those concepts to the legal field until I had some
legal education under my belt.
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)
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 âsoft skills.â 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 donât, 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 â¦ in high school and in college. âWhat could possibly be added in a law school leadership class?â, 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.
The State Bar of Texas Podcast – available on the Legal Talk Network – recently interviewed Leah Teague, associate dean at Baylor Law, about the importance of enhanced leadership training of future lawyers – and how many law schools are stepping up to the plate and revamping curricula and extra-curricular activities to make this a reality.