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Leading Through Victory and Defeat

By Liz Fraley

As I write this, our nation waits anxiously for who will win the presidential election. I use the word ‘win’ advisedly, as it seems difficult to conceive of a result that will be accepted with grace and unification by those on the ‘losing’ side. Bitter disputes make for more difficult times after resolution, and this is as true in a legal setting such as a trial as in this electoral cycle. The participation trophy does not apply; these are binary situations in which there is a winner and a loser. The challenge for leadership, then, lies in how to proceed in such a deeply divisive and potentially disappointing time.

For the winner, leadership requires modeling grace and conciliation. While victory feels good, the real challenge is moving forward in a way that recognizes the struggle and humanity of your opponent. We learned the lesson of punitive victory following World War I with the Treaty of Versailles. WWI’s victors felt the need to exact retribution from the Germans, placing a crushing burden on the country both financially and emotionally. This was an understandable desire given the unbelievable toll of the war, but the consequence was another more horrific war. We will never know how world events would have unfolded with a more conciliatory plan to move forward; we know with irrefutable evidence the damage that a cruel victory exacted.

Lawyer are experienced in situations where there are winners and losers.  Whether in trial or negotiating a deal, there likely will be a winner, and the party on the losing side may reel at the impact of that decision. Sometimes the impact is financial; sometimes it is emotional; oftentimes it involves both. Lawyers can play a vital role in helping colleagues, friends, families, and communities find a graceful way to move forward and bring healing to what is a difficult situation for both sides.

What of the losing party: how do you deal with difficult news you did not want to hear? How as a lawyer do you advise a client or bolster the morale of a team? This requires true courage and thoughtfulness. First, you have to help the team and client accept the outcome, especially if it represents the true end of the road. In many ways, accepting a known outcome, albeit difficult, is easier than one which remains uncertain. Second, debrief and learn the lessons of the loss. This may mean examining processes or leadership decisions; it may simply require an understanding that lawyers are not in the outcome control business. Either way, help your team learn, accept, and move on. Finally, have a plan for going forward. More senior lawyers can help younger lawyers, and law students, learn how to bounce back and developing resilience as a team strength happens most effectively following a loss. Success is not about how high you bounce, it is about how high you bounce back after hitting bottom. A team that cannot bounce back is fundamentally flawed; leading your team back to confidence is vital.

Our country will need to internalize these leadership lessons in the coming months. No one will ‘win’ this election if we do not learn that we must come together for the country, not for an individual or ideology. Our leaders, whoever they may be, will win only if they reunite the country rather than divide them more deeply. The current course is not sustainable; we must move forward with the help of strong and compassionate leadership.

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Am I enough?

By Leah Teague

During this time of crisis, many are understandably experiencing disconcert, anxiety, and/or a sense of isolation. In an effort to promote the practice of gratitude, we joined #ThankfulThursday and began posting videos of Baylor Law faculty and staff sharing what makes us grateful. As found by ‘positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.’ Harvard Mental Health Letter (updated on June 5, 2019).

I kicked off our first #ThankfulThursday on April 2 by expressing gratitude for the many blessings in my life, from my personal family to my professional family – that which we call the Baylor Law family. Then a few nights later, during a restless interval in the middle of the night, I sent all our students an email. Knowing that we ask much of our students even during normal times, I wanted to share with them a sense of togetherness and an understanding of our common concerns during this unprecedented time. Here is the message I sent them:

‘On Thursday, I shared what I am thankful for. Now for what keeps me up at night…

Am I doing enough? Am I enough?

I battle with these feelings often, but I share what is on my mind tonight.

Am I enough?

To my 83 year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s and other underlying health conditions and doesn’t understand why I can’t give her a hug. She spent her life devoted to caring for others. Whoever needed her most that day – my dad, my three siblings and I, then our kids, and, all the while, other family, friends and neighbors when we were not in need. She would lay down her life for any of us … or you, and yet now she doesn’t understand why I can’t come in and stay when I drop off food or groceries. Why none of us can. The loneliness of that disease is torturous in the best of times.

To my young grandkids who must think I have abandoned them during this time of COVID-19 quarantine. My four-year-old grandson says “Mimi, when you aren’t sick anymore, you can hold me. He doesn’t understand I am not the one who is sick – at least I don’t think so. His brother, the six-year old, just wants to know when he can come over and spend the night again … the way they used to. And I am sure the grandkids in East Texas don’t understand why they didn’t get the box of Fruity Pebbles in the Amazon shipment received when we asked what we could send them. Unlike many of the other popular cereals, it was available, but at  $12.95 a box? Really? Seriously! There ought to be a law, wait, there is!

To other family and friends, who are also struggling with isolation, illness, insecurities and uncertainties. How can I be there for them? I want to! If only I could. Virtual formats can’t replace sitting with someone as they cry while you hold them.

To our students who need someone to ease your anxiety, to reassure you and to help with your burdens. I wish I could be there to do something, to tell you how much we believe in you! That you are a child of God and therefore loved.

In times of uncertainty about my abilities and questioning my insecurities, I often look to others for inspiration. Here are some I found tonight on a website:

Helen Keller:   Lost her sight and hearing due to a mysterious fever when she was only 18 months old. She overcame her deafness and blindness to become a strong, educated woman who   spoke about, and promoted, women’s rights.  

Winston Churchill:   Overcame a stuttering problem and poor performance in school to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and one of the most influential political leaders of the twentieth century. He was also known for his powerful and rousing speeches.

Wilma Rudolph:  The Olympian born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children. She overcame double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio to become winner of three Gold medals in track at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games

. . .

J.K. Rowling:.   Born to a poor family; left a bad marriage with a young baby to live on government assistance; wrote her first Harry Potter book and was turned down by most publishers until Bloomsbury Publishing picked it up. Need I say more?

Determination, resilience, and  persistence   enabled all of these great people to push past their adversities and prevail. If they could do it, surely the rest of us can summon the strength and courage to do overcome our adversities!

From  https://www.essentiallifeskills.net/overcoming-adversity.html

I know this period has been a challenge for all and for some an extremely difficult period. While we know it is temporary, that does not ease the burdens you carry now. Please know that we are here for you to help as we can. It may not offer sufficient solace now, but my many years of experience allows me to assure you that someday this difficult time you are experiencing now will allow you to better serve a client, assist a friend, comfort a loved one or help a community. And we know that as Baylor Lawyers you will do all those and more.

Hang in there. Be safe and be well.’

– LWJT

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Want to Change the World? The Journey Begins Within.

An inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change – So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country, And who knows, I might have even changed the world.”

Before you can lead an organization or community … before you can impact the world … you must first “lead” yourself.  For us, the most important aspect of any leadership development program is to start with a focus on “growing” yourself. Easier said than done!  But why? Could it be that we are too eager to skip ahead to leaving our mark on the world? We can be so focused on doing the “important” and wanting to be remembered for what we accomplish that we forget leadership – like any other subject in law school – begins at the beginning. There is no substitute for the elemental work that feeds our growth layer by layer, branch by branch.

In our leadership development course, we spend about half our time guiding the students on a journey of self-discovery. Since we begin every orientation at Baylor Law with emphasis on the role of lawyers in society (as guardians of our democracy, trusted advisors to their clients and leaders in their communities), we do not start from ground zero in our leadership development class. We begin with a deeper discussion of our obligations to society and the important opportunities they will have to be influencers with integrity. After setting expectations for their future, we introduce them to leadership characteristics, traits, and styles, as well as various scenarios where their leadership will be needed. Starting with these concepts, terms and contexts – the language of leadership development – sets the foundation.

The core of our leadership class is devoted to helping students come to “know” themselves – their preferences, strengths, and areas of challenge. We know this is essential to prepare them for future situations that will require them to act and to make decision, or to offer guidance to those who will.  We guide our students through a series of discussions, self-assessments and self-reflective exercises designed to help them be better prepared, even practiced, for those future actions and opportunities. Just as with other areas, we know that students are more likely to handle a difficult or stressful situation, even a crisis, with competence and integrity if they have seen or at least thought about the scenario, or a similar one, at some time before. That is the wisdom and judgment gained through practice and experience.

We also spend some time in our course on what it means to “lead” others (including working well with others, recognizing the influence lawyers can have on others, and successfully building an inclusive team). We end with an attempt to inspire students to consider the impact they want to have on the world and then to be thoughtful, strategic and adaptive as they plan their next steps.  

Leadership development is a life-long journey to be better at helping others be more and accomplish more. As lawyers, our legal education and training, and our sense of honor and purpose as guardians of our democracy, make us ideally suited to impact those around us … and, yes, maybe even change the world… if we recognize early enough that it all begins with us.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

-LJT
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The legal profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem

In case you missed it: “The legal profession doesn’t have a leadership problem—it has a character problem”, by Charles Edwards. Mr. Edwards post in the ABA Journal is wonderful write-up on the importance of character in leadership. As Leah and I frequently discuss with law students, leadership alone is not enough – ethical leadership is the key to long-term success. By integrating best practices into leadership courses, we are preparing our students for their future roles.

If you haven’t read it yet, Mr. Edwards post is worth the read: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/the-legal-profession-doesnt-have-a-leadership-problem-it-has-a-character-problem

-SLR

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Article Callout: Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success

In case you missed it: “Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success” by Liam Montgomery. In the style of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (authors of Extreme Ownership), Mr. Montgomery translates lessons learned in military service to leadership for lawyers. In this article he focuses upon giving and receiving feedback – a critical skill for any leader. The article is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for more feedback material to give to students: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyer-leadership-secret-to-success

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Article Callout: 3 Steps To Transform From Top Lawyer To Business Leader

In case you missed it: “3 Steps To Transform From Top Lawyer To Business Leader.” To never stop learning is probably the most important lesson that a leader can learn. This Forbes article explores the modern challenges that lawyer-leaders will encounter and what to do about it: to continue to expand their knowledge base, work with other, and understand data analytics. But the underlying message is more important: never stop learning.

Without further ado: https://www.forbes.com/sites/insights-klgates/2019/10/09/3-steps-to-transform-from-top-lawyer-to-business-leader/#2a906890394f

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Baylor Law’s Leadership Fellows Program

Baylor Law’s 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 we’ve done so is through the development of the Baylor Law Leadership Fellows designation.

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:

  • Take the Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) class and complete the personal development and team-building course (the Baylor Ropes Challenge Course).
  • Complete of a minimum of 23 hours of Professional Development Programming.
  • Serve 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.
  • Complete of a minimum 25 hours of community service.
  • Serve 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 hours.

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 ’19). 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 ’18 Dawson and Sodd Moot Court Competition. In addition to volunteering for the Veterans Clinic, McConnell volunteered with Baylor Law’s 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.

Does 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 so… share your program with us in the comments.

Persuasion

Movies

By Lanie Bennett, Baylor Law Student

Legal movies offer an entertaining look into the life of an attorney.

Most of these films center around trial advocacy and the invigorating practice of passionately advocating on behalf of your client. While these movies often provide only entertainment, they can also serve as teaching tools to law students.

Professor Brian Serr uses scenes from legal movies to indoctrinate incoming 1Q students at Baylor Law School. Professor Serr gives a presentation at orientation that involves playing a slideshow with clips from popular legal movies. Professor Serr uses this time to really show the new law students valuable lessons from each of the clips that will carry with them through both law school and into practice.

Through these clips, Professor Serr illustrates persistence, a servant-minded commitment to justice, attention to detail, and passion. Tom Cruise’s interrogation scene in A Few Good Men illustrates an attorney’s need to be persistent while seeking the truth. Tom Hanks describing his love of the law in Philadelphia demonstrates the need for lawyers to have a servant-minded commitment to justice. Both My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde provide examples of an attorney’s need to pay attention to detail. Both Joe Pesci and Reese Witherspoon catch on to a single sentence that a witness makes while on the stand and centers their (ultimately successful) defense on it. Maximilian Schell’s closing statement in Judgement at Nuremberg emphasizes the passion that attorneys must have while zealously representing their clients. Finally, Gregory Peck displays a phenomenal performance during his iconic closing statement in To Kill a Mockingbird.

… these films, and many more not included, serve as both entertainment and an embodiment of the traits that a successful lawyer must have.

Lanie Bennett, Baylor Law Student

All of these films, and many more not included, serve as both entertainment and an embodiment of the traits that a successful lawyer must have. Using movie clips to introduce these necessary characteristics could engage the audience, namely law students, and pique their interest in becoming the best possible advocate for their future clients.

Leadership, Persuasion

Why do you need leadership? It’s all about relationships.

By Stephen Rispoli 

As discussed in a previous post, when people think of the term leadership they often think about what CEOs do. But leadership is about building relationships so that you can rely upon or have conversations with others when you need to. It can be as simple as asking a favor of a friend (“Can you check on my dog while I’m out of town?”) to using your relationship to have a difficult conversation (“I need to talk to you about the comment you made in our meeting yesterday – I know your intentions are good but it can be hurtful to others.”). Or, it may be that you need to convince others in your organization that a particular course of action is the right one (“I want to visit with you on the vote on Tuesday on [X] issue. I believe that [Y] position is the right one because…”). All of these situations will require different approaches, tailored to the person and situation.

Through the study of famous leaders and their styles, skills, and traits, we can learn new techniques to approach different situations. It is through this study that we learn how best to build relationships and achieve our goals.

Stephen Rispoli

If this sounds like you’re “using” your relationship, it’s not. This is what we all do every day – at work, with our friends, and even with our spouses. Leadership is the art of knowing which approach to use for each situation to accomplish your goal. Through the study of famous leaders and their styles, skills, and traits, we can learn new techniques to approach different situations. It is through this study that we learn how best to build relationships and achieve our goals.

To learn more about different styles of leadership, visit: http://www.montana.edu/engagement/organizations/solc/The%20Six%20Leadership%20Styles.pdf

To learn more about different skills of leaders, visit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/12/27/16-essential-leadership-skills-for-the-workplace-of-tomorrow/ – 3c28614154ce

To learn more about different traits of leaders, visit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/03/22/11-powerful-traits-of-successful-leaders/ – 7d545c13469f

-SLR