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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

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High Expectations

By Pat Wilson

But wait, If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy
Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?

Perhaps you recognize these lyrics from the song “Surface Pressure,” from the Disney movie, Encanto, which is a profound yet utterly entertaining movie for both adults and children, in case you missed it. This song in particular captures what it can mean when the expectations we have for ourselves or that others have for us start to weigh us down. 

High expectations are especially true for lawyers and the law students with whom we interact. We and they were the high achievers through grade school, high school, and college. Of course, the expectations are high because we are the ones that gained admission to law school, and law school is nothing if not an environment teeming with pressure. Law school is only the beginning as the pressure on lawyers continues to grow for them to represent their clients well and bring their matters to a successful conclusion while juggling the myriad obligations of family, household, community service, and on and on.

Of the 13,000 attorneys surveyed by the American Bar Association as part of a study it conducted, 21% qualify as problem drinkers, which is nearly double the rate for other highly educated professionals. Twenty-eight percent struggle with depression, while 19% have symptoms of anxiety. The survey found that two-thirds of women reported severe stress as compared to 49% of men; some 23% of women reported moderate or severe anxiety compared to 15% of men.

The statistics for law students are similarly grim. A survey of 3300 law students, summarized in the ABA report, disclosed that 53% of law students got drunk in the prior 30 days and 45% binge drank at least once in the prior two weeks. Seventeen percent of students reported suffering from depression, while 14% reported severe anxiety, and 23% reported mild or moderate anxiety.

The ABA study does not suggest the cause for these various results, but one has to wonder if they are not due in part to the pressure of being a lawyer or a law student. 

So where does this lead us? Possibly to the obvious conclusion but one that bears repeating: we must strive to have more realistic expectations for ourselves and to model for our students the importance of not trying to do it all and have it all. I am of the strong belief that we can’t have it all, and no one should expect us to try. Much like a prix fixe menu, one can choose among the various options, but a choice here forecloses a different choice there. The fact that one opts for the prix fixe menu does not signal weakness. Rather, it means that one is much less likely to overeat to a state of discomfort. 

Maybe the best we can do for our students is to encourage our students to set high goals but strive to be realistic—not everyone will grade on to law review or snag the “high A” in every course, and that’s okay. It seems we also have an obligation to continue to remind students of the importance of taking care of their own mental health and being alert to the stressors that may be affecting their peers—we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in that regard. Of course, we need to take care of our own mental health and be sensitive to students who may be struggling.

Finally, as trite as it seems, we need to encourage our students to stop and smell the roses. We ought to, and our students should be encouraged to, seek things that bring them joy or simple pleasure. It might help relieve some of the pressure we face.

– PW

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Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 3

By Leah Teague

As discussed in our last two posts, several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that were adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303(b) (professional identity development), 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). These three important topics are fundamental to robust leadership development programs and courses. Satisfying the new requirements can be achieved through adopting or enhancing leadership development at your law school. In this three-part series, we discuss each.

Part 1 was a discussion of the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  Part 2 of this series addressed the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” In this Part 3, we focus on the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).


Part 3: Caring for One’s Well-Being is Critical to Success as Lawyer and Leader

The amendment to ABA Standard 508(b) requires law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources.” The proposal also calls for the law schools to work to remove the stigma of accessing mental health and well-being supports on campus and within the legal profession.

New Interpretation 508-1 reads:

Law student well-being resources include information or services related to mental health, including substance use disorders. Other law student well-being resources may include information for students in need of critical services such as food pantries or emergency financial assistance. Such resources encompass counseling services provided in-house by the law school, through the university of which the law school is a part, or by a lawyer assistance program. Law schools should strive to mitigate barriers or stigma to accessing such services, whether within the law school or larger professional community.

New Interpretation 508-2 reads:

Reasonable access, at a minimum, involves informing law students and providing guidance regarding relevant information and services, including assistance on where the information and services can be found or accessed.

This addition to the Standards signals the importance of law schools’ effort to care for all aspects of our students’ development. For students to use their legal knowledge, skills and competencies to achieve their goals (i.e. self-actualization), they must learn to care for themselves and tend to issues related to mental and physical health. Law school is our opportunity to help students develop the healthy strategies they will need to deal with the stress of the practice of law, maintain healthy relationships with family and friends, and manage their time wisely so that they can continue to enjoy the hobbies and passions that are important to them.

Leadership development programs recognize the importance of well-being and provide opportunities for students to identify and adopt healthy practices that will benefit them as they enter the profession. In Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 11 (The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession) discusses the dimensions of health and shares resources and techniques for long-term practices and habits. In Leadership for Lawyers Chapter 2, Rhode discusses the evolution of well-being, the underlying causes of stress in the legal profession, and suggestions for positive strategies.

Modern law schools are called to go beyond teaching law students to “think” like a lawyer to preparing them for success as whole or complete lawyer (i.e., how to “be” a lawyer) – and a healthy one at that! The efforts to increase professional identity/formation and leadership development programming at law schools are national efforts to address the Carnegie Report’s description of the third stage or apprenticeship of the development. See Growing Number of Leadership Programs and Courses Supports Professional Identity Formation for a further discussion about developing well-rounded lawyers who will be find meaning, satisfaction and success in life using knowledge and skills that are learn (or at least introduced) in law school and developed throughout their careers.  


Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah

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Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 2

By Leah Teague

As discussed in our last post, several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that were adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303(b) (professional identity development), 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). These three important topics are fundamental to robust leadership development programs and courses. Satisfying the new requirements can be achieved through adopting or enhancing leadership development at your law school. In this three-part series, we discuss each.

Part 1 was a discussion of the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  This post is Part 2 of this series and focuses on the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” Part 3 will be a future post to discuss the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).


Part 2: Valuing Diversity and Inclusion, Understanding Bias, and Developing Cross-cultural Competency are Fundamental Aspects of Leadership Development

New efforts to encourage diversity, inclusion and cultural competency education resulted in the addition of ABA Standard 303(c), which reads:

(c) A law school shall provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism:

(1) at the start of the program of legal education, and
(2) at least once again before graduation.

For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second occasion will take place before, concurrent with, or as part of their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.

The updated Standards also include new interpretations. New Interpretation 303-6 reads:

With respect to 303(a)(1), the importance of cross-cultural competency to professionally responsible representation and the obligation of lawyers to promote a justice system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in the law should be among the values and responsibilities of the legal profession to which students are introduced.

New Interpretation 303-7 reads:

Standard 303(c)’s requirement that law schools provide education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism may be satisfied by, among other things, the following:

(1) Orientation sessions for incoming students;
(2) Lectures on these topics;
(3) Courses incorporating these topics; or
(4) Other educational experiences incorporating these topics.

While law schools need not add a required upper-division course to satisfy this requirement, law schools must demonstrate that all law students are required to participate in a substantial activity designed to reinforce the skill of cultural competency and their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.

New Interpretation 303-8 reads:

Standard 303 does not prescribe the form or content of the education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism required by Standard 303(c).

Many find this important but sensitive subject difficult to teach but these topics have been a mainstay in lawyer-leadership programs from the beginning. Leadership courses and programs have already developed methods for teaching these concepts in a respectful and meaningful manner designed to engage students and prepare them for the future. For example, Chapter 17 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership is titled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence” and combines the coverage of diversity and inclusion with bias and cross-cultural competency. We also include several exercises and discussion prompts in our Teacher’s Manual to assist with these conversations. Chapter 8 of Leadership for Lawyers is titled “Diversity in Leadership.” These issues have always been present in Deborah Rhode’s leadership books but the recently released third edition textbook includes additional material on diversity and inclusion, as well as updated exercises, problems, and media resources.

We note that we are adopting a term we learned from Professor Neil Hamilton. We now refer to this topic as “Diversity and Belonging” which calls us as leaders to seek ways to help each member of our team or group or organization, especially those who have different backgrounds and life experiences, feel valued as a contributing member of the effort. Together we can make a difference as we positively influence those around us, seek ways to meaningfully impact our communities and inspire our students to do the same!


Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah

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Amendments to ABA Standards Support the Objectives of Leadership Development Programming, Part 1

By Leah Teague

Several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education adopted on Feb. 22, 2022, reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303(b) (professional identity development), 303(c) (bias and cross-cultural competency & racism education), and 508(b) (student well-being resources). These three important topics are fundamental to robust leadership development programs and courses. Satisfying the new requirements can be achieved through adopting or enhancing leadership development at your law school. In this three-part series, we discuss each.

In Part 1 below, we focus on the new requirement in ABA Standard 303(b) requiring law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for … the development of a professional identity.”  Part 2 of this series addresses the requirement in ABA Standard 303(c) to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” Part 3 discusses the need for law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources” in accordance with ABA Standard 508(b).


Part 1: Professional Identity Development is Now Required in Legal Education

Lawyers’ role as leaders in society IS a fundamental part of lawyers’ professional identity!

ABA Standards 303(b) was amended to require law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for: … (3) the development of a professional identity.  

Also adopted was new Interpretation 303-5 which reads:

Professional identity focuses on what it means to be a lawyer and the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society. The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice. Because developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time, students should have frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.

Leadership development IS professional formation. At the core of leadership development efforts is awakening law students to “the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society.” For a visual model of the development of a law student’s professional identity, see the Holloran Center’s Model for How Law School Learning Outcomes Build on Each Other to Foster Student Development. The model presents five groups of competencies in a visual layered progression of law school learning outcomes to help students “grow[] from being a new entrant to the profession to being an integrated effective lawyer serving others well in meaningful employment.” In Group 5 (complex, compound competencies) is “Leadership and Influence in Organizations and Communities.” For a discussion of these competencies, see Neil Hamilton’s Mentor/Coach: The Most Effective Curriculum to Foster Each Student’s Professional Development and Formation. For a discussion of the role of lawyers as leaders in society, see the Preface and Chapter 2 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership and Chapter 1 of Leadership for Lawyers.

Leadership development goes beyond professional identity to teach students how to work well with others and to encourage students to use their education and training to serve others and benefit society. At Baylor Law we see the broader mission of our values-based leadership development program as three-fold:

  • encourage law students and lawyers to embrace their obligation to serve clients and society,
  • better equip law students for positions of leadership and influence, and
  • inspire law students to boldly seek opportunities to make a difference in their communities and the world.

The proposed amendments to Standards 303 (professional identity), 206 (bias, cross-cultural competency and racism) and 508 (student well-being) align with this mission and are important aspects of a law student’s preparation for professional life after law school. Notably, both of the leadership textbooks for law students address all three of these issues. One, of course, is Deborah Rhode’s Leadership for Lawyers (a third edition has recently been released) and the other is our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership.

These amendments reinforce our duty to tend to whole development of our students’ professional formation through self-assessment, reflection upon values, and focus on techniques for better decision-making and goal-setting, in addition to the teaching of legal knowledge and skills. The amendment distinguishes professional identity from ethics and professional responsibility courses that are already required in law school: “The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice.” This is likely part of a larger scheme to improve lawyer well-being, which is supported by the amendment to Standard 508. The objective is to equip students with knowledge, skills and priorities that will better enable students to become successful, healthy and impactful lawyers.


With every conversation with leaders in our profession, the importance of our efforts and need for leadership development in law schools is confirmed! Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!

– Leah

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The Dark Side of Goal Setting: Ethical Pitfalls for the Unwary

By Leah Teague

The Dark Side of Goal Setting: Ethical Pitfalls for the Unwary

In the last two weeks we applauded the practice of goal setting – whether helping law students create a plan of action for doing their best work or leading colleagues through a formal strategy to imagine the next 12 months or 10 years. Setting goals is important for a variety of reasons. Creating goals furthers one’s professional development and career advancement. Procedures for establishing and assessing goals are necessary for an organization’s efficient operation. Aligning goals with one’s values and passions promotes wellness and can lead to living one’s best life.

Goal setting also can lead to actions that are dishonorable, unproductive, or harmful. There is a dark side to human behavior when goals are unattainable or performance falls just short of what appears to be a reasonable goal. Goal setting that is too aggressive can lead to unethical behavior, including a lack of independent judgement expected of lawyers.

When faced with the possibility of failure, some may cut corners to meet a goal. Meeting an expectation may be more important to a prideful or insecure person than staying true to their underlying principles and values or even the overall or long-term goal. Unaddressed habits of shortcuts will have consequences, sooner or later. An organization with a culture that tolerates a lack of accountability – or worse encourages dishonesty – cannot have a happy ending. The fall of Enron Corporation is a prime example. In Chapter 9: Setting Goals of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, we discuss Enron:

Leading up to [Enron’s] filing for bank­ruptcy, $320 million in bonus payments and other special cash distributions were paid to Enron executives in accordance with performance-based programs. Prosecutors argued that the executives’ unethical decisions and behavior (setting up shell entities to hide financial losses, etc.) could be traced to large bonuses paid based on the finan­cial performance of the organization. The corruption that ruined lives and toppled a global powerhouse organization ensued from incentivized, performance-based goal setting in an environment devoid of ethical leadership at the top.”

In Chapter 12: Integrity and Character, we return to a discussion of lawyers associated with Enron who failed to ask hard questions or take initiative to investigate when something should have been questioned. Mechanical or rigid goals can dehumanize an organization’s operation and treat employees as if they are merely a cog in the wheel with no allowance for independent judgement or individual action. When lawyers work to simply follow orders or approach their duties with an attitude of meeting minimum expectations, our profession is failing to meet our duty in ABA Model Rule 5.4, Professional Independence of a Lawyer. Lawyers have a higher obligation to society to maintain direction and control of our professional judgment, regardless of the goals set before us. Lessons from Enron must not be forgotten.

Missing the mark, falling short of a goal, has other consequences for those who fail to manage failure in a healthy manner. Without this ability to fail gracefully, some internalize failure, even minor shortcomings, as a condemnation of their entire self-worth. These tendencies are exacerbated when cognitive abilities are taxed, as they often are during law school and beyond. Exhaustion and stress can distract us as we struggle to survive, preventing us from checking behavior against values and professional duties. Failure can also be a challenge for individuals who are used to success, as is often the case with law students. Throughout our course we look for opportunities to normalize failure so that students accept failure as necessary to growth. We teach our students to view failure with a growth mindset.

With the right approach, setting goals and measuring performance accordingly allows organizations to improve operations and meet desired objectives. Personal and professional goals establish a roadmap for creating a more intentional, purpose-driven life. But with any plan, roadblocks, detours, or changes in destinations should be expected and accommodated without compromising principles and purpose, regardless of the pressures and influences along the way.

Ethical obligations should be part of any analysis to weigh the costs and benefits of actions. We know our students will face difficult decisions as they enter a stressful, bottom-line-oriented profession. We also know work-life balance is a strong personal motivation. By emphasizing ethics and values, we will better equip our students and young lawyers to make the right, or better, choices. If we teach students to prioritize them, hopefully they will continue to do so when the stakes are high, such as when a lucrative fee, sizeable bonus, or their future is on the line.

– Leah

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Be S.M.A.R.T. With Goal Setting

By Leah Teague


In our last post we encouraged our readers to make time for setting and evaluating goals and to help law students (and young lawyers) do the same. In this post we provide resources for use with the SMART technique (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) for goal setting. We include the SMART technique in our textbook, Fundamental of Lawyer Leadership. In fact, we included it twice. We introduce students to the SMART goal-setting method in Chapter 9, Setting Goals, and we return to it in Chapter 20, How Leaders Manage Effectively, when discussing the importance of delegating and offering suggestions for how to delegate successfully.

Searching for goal setting advice offered to lawyers led to articles also recommending the SMART technique. I particularly liked Lawyer Personal and Career Goals because it starts with the question,

“’[W]hat’s your why?’ What kind of life do you want? … What impact do you want your work to have? Behind all those questions is your ‘why.’ It’s what gets you up in the morning and propels you through your day.”

The “why” should be the basis for setting goals and the control for evaluating actions. 

Other recent articles written for lawyers:

Since the SMART technique is mentioned in all, I did some digging to learn more about its origin. Some sources suggest the renowned Peter Drucker should be credited with its creation based upon his 1954 book “The Practice of Management.” Drucker, credited as the father of modern business management, believed management involved creating systems to set objectives and evaluate performance as part of a wholistic approach to building effective and responsible organizations and institutions. Drucker, born in Austria and raised in Germany, earned a Ph.D. in International Law in 1932 and moved to America two years after some of his work was banned and burned by the Nazi. As with all of us, Drucker’s teachings were influenced by his life experiences. He believed “[m]anagement, practiced well,” was necessary not only for the successful functioning of a company but also as the “bulwark against evil” he witnessed in society. I think Drucker would approve of our efforts to equip law students to be ethical lawyers who own their obligation to be the guardians of democracy.

Works recognizing the benefits of adopting “specific and measurable” goals and objectives can be traced back to Drucker and others in the 1940s and 1950s. Particularly interesting to those of us at Baylor who knew Paul J. Meyer, a report on the History of SMART Objectives credits Meyer with use of the SMART acronym in his work “Personal Success Planner” in 1965. Meyer, a long-time resident of Waco and generous benefactor to Baylor University, was “a pioneer of the personal development industry.” Through his companies, Success Motivation Institute and Leadership Management Institute, Meyer’s programs were produced in more than 70 countries and 27 languages and influenced other renowned leadership authors (such as John C. Maxwell).

The first published article using the SMART acronym appears to have been written by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham for the November 1981 issue of Management Review, titled, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives.” Written for business managers to assist with being more thoughtful about setting out a plan to accomplish an objective, they encourage these 5 considerations for each goal:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Attainable – specify who will do it.
  • Relevant – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

We hope you will share with us the ways in which you incorporate the SMART technique into your work to better prepare law students and lawyers for leadership.

– LEAH

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Setting Goals

By Leah Teague


Here is to a new year that bring less disruption and more togetherness!


January is a time when lots of people contemplate resolutions for the new year – a goal setting exercise of sorts. For those of us whose work calendar is tied to the academic year we have two additional times to routinely consider our goals and set objectives and action steps. We spend time each summer to construct plans for the fall or perhaps the entire academic year. In early winter we plan for the upcoming spring term. We are devoting this month to tips for effective goal setting practices.

Some of us are already regimented goal setters. Using daily planners, some gain a sense of security in the process of organizing daily tasks to be allocated across the precious few waking hours each day. Others prefer to view the weeks and months ahead as milestones to measure progress in the near future. This time of year, some think about last year’s New Year’s resolutions (i.e., whether met or still outstanding) before deciding the focus of efforts for this year. Still others engage in a retreat-like phenomenon to consider their next big direction in life. All these processes are goal-setting exercises, whether recognized as such or not. If any of these describe you, we hope what we offer will provide new resources to consider and a reason to assess your own goal setting routine.

For those who believe life is best lived by embracing spontaneity, we will offer advice for strategic engagement that is comfortable and productive. Dreams of great works without a plan of action can strand you in a state of unfulfilled potential and leave you longing for answer to the question of what if I had done this or that differently. Whatever our personality, we all benefit from setting aside some time periodically to consider our priorities and imagine great accomplishments and meaningful impacts that allow us to leave a desired legacy.

The same is true of our law students. Students commonly and falsely believe that their life will never be busier than their challenging-to-overwhelming time in law school. We know there is little truth in this assumption. As we seek to provide a more holistic approach to preparing our students for success and impact, we should make time to address the benefits of goal setting and offer suggestions for practices.

We already use goal setting techniques when we counsel students. For example, if a student seeks advice about how to make a good grade in a particular class (or a better grade than before), then they have stated a goal. We then help them to create a plan of action to accomplish the objectives that must be met in order to achieve the goal (i.e., sufficiently preparing for each class, reviewing and outlining material, studying for the exam, etc.). Many of our students come to law school with an understanding of the importance of the process and how to do it. Some do not and need additional assistance.

Whether the goal is passing a class, graduating summa cum laude, making a mock trial team, or winning an election as student body officer, providing students with instruction on goal setting is beneficial to them now. They will better manage their time and achieve more success in law school. If we help students develop the habit of setting goals and periodically assessing their progress while in law school, we give them one more tool to use on their journey to success and satisfaction in life after law school.

Stay tuned for practical tips next week!

– LEAH