Uncategorized

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
Uncategorized

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

Academia, Leadership

Why do we not have more leadership development programs in law school?

By Stephen Rispoli

Law is a Leadership Degree

For starters, we must recognize that as lawyers, as professionals, we are expected to be leaders in society.  “A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.[1]” 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.  

In 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.

We 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 – intellectual curiosity – 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.

The 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. Don’t we owe it to them to equip them with more than just the ability to critically analyze an issue? Don’t 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?


[1] The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Preamble: A Lawyer’s Responsibilities,

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

Why do we not have more leadership development programs in law school?

By Leah Teague

Leadership development programs are part of the standard operating procedures for business schools but not so for law schools, at least historically. At a Group Discussion during the January 2017 AALS Annual Meeting, we met with about 50 faculty members from all over the country and we asked them to share thoughts about challenges and roadblocks to creating leadership development programs and courses. Here are some points from the conversation:

  • What is leadership development anyway? How do we explain it to our skeptical colleagues?
  • Some lawyers and law students resist instruction in “soft skills.” The very use of the term when describing leadership development adds to the problem. For many lawyers the soft stuff is the hard stuff.
  • Many still think leaders are born not trained. You either have it or you don’t, they would say.
  • Doctrinal law faculty (especially those who have not been in formal leadership roles) feel uncomfortable with the subject and certainly do not feel equipped to teach it.
  • Current law students think they have already done leadership development … in high school and in college. “What could possibly be added in a law school leadership class?”, they might wonder. Some faculty and administrators probably share these thoughts.
  • For those that believe in the benefit of leadership development programming, how can we scale up the programming to insure all students are exposed to leadership development in a meaningful way?

These 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.

– LT

Academia, Leadership

Professor Jeremy Counseller’s Commencement Address

By Leah Teague

Baylor Law School held its winter commencement on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019. The graduating class selected Professor Jeremy Counseller to address the graduates as the commencement speaker. Over the years, Professor Counseller has been selected on many an occasion as a favorite speaker. On this day, he tied two important topics together during his speech: civility and leadership. You can view his speech below, or at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZC495AXXtA. It is only nineteen-minutes and well worth it!

Professor Counseller is always entertaining. This occasion he was particularly inspiring, earning him a standing ovation. His message began with laughter as he announced to the audience that his intent was not to impart wisdom as is expected of graduation speakers. “Don’t you think that I should have shared it with you by now,” he quipped. Instead he offered a request – really a challenge of sorts. His request was for the graduates and all those of their generation to address to two important issues: lack of civility and lack of strong leadership to solve the problems that older generations left unanswered. Issues such as the national debt, climate change, and politics. “As lawyers, you will play an outsized role in bearing that responsibility,” he added.

He noted that civility means more than formal pleasantries. He emphasized the need for the next generation to be “good citizens, especially in the way we conduct our public and political discourse.” He observed that the graduates’ generation will be forced to make the tough choices to solve hard problems that previous generations could not. He blamed the lack of progress on “an erosion of civility and the quality of our public and political discourse.”

Your generation has what it takes to improve civility in this country and solve the big problems.”

Professor Jeremy Counseller

Professor Counseller denounced negative descriptions of the graduates’ generation. Instead, he offered his endorsement. “I do think you do have the courage to walk the hard paths.” His advice in dealing with the criticism of their generation: “I hope the criticism of you puts a chip on your shoulder… Your generation has what it takes to improve civility in this country and solve the big problems.”

He ended by expressing his faith in our Baylor Law graduates. “Baylor Law School doesn’t give diplomas to snowflakes,” he noted. “So, I want you to… show us how it is done. Become the leaders we all need you to be.”  

-LT

Academia, Leadership

Benefits of Leadership Development Programming in Law Schools

By Leah Teague

Five important benefits to our students when law schools are more intentional to provide leadership development for our students: (1) Insure our students not only understand their obligation to give back to society, but inspire them to seek opportunities to use their legal training and skills to positively impact their communities as well as their clients; (2) Guide students through a self-assessment and discover of their own leadership characteristics and traits and provide appropriate training so that they are better equipped for success when those opportunities are presented; (3) Expose our students to specific leadership language, theory and skills necessary or helpful to be more effective in those roles; (4) Provide experiential learning through case studies, role playing and problem solving allowing students to practice assessing different situations and different personalities to best strategize effective approaches in each situation; and (5) Give students opportunities to experience, and to reflect upon the broader ramifications of how ethical considerations should affect the way lawyer-leaders make decisions.

Law schools will benefit as well. Highlighting leadership skills gained from legal training will help applicants see that law school continues to be a great investment in their future as they seek a path of significance and fulfillment through helping people and effectuating a better future for organizations, communities and societies.


As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program. 

Leah Teague

As of June 2018, we are aware of thirty-one law schools that have some type of leadership program. Seven of the thirty-one have a specific focus as indicated, including business law, cybersecurity, government, transitional justice, and women. Twenty-three law schools have at least one course which has leadership in the title or a course description that includes leadership development as a significant objective. Leadership development courses are in the planning stage in at least one additional law school. Other law schools likely have courses with elements of leadership development even though not in the title or description. Schools with leadership programs generally offer non-credit workshops, seminars and other leadership activities. Other law schools likely have or had leadership workshops or forums.

The majority of the programs and courses were created in the last five years. Leadership programs or courses at Elon, Harvard, Ohio State, Maryland, Santa Clara, Stanford, Stetson and St. Thomas are at least ten years old. For a list of known programs and courses, see https://baylor.box.com/s/v53753qbp8xdta2xqdh7nvcf4wgng8u4. If you have a leadership program or course, please let us know so we can add you to the list!!

-LT

Leadership

Why Leadership Development for Lawyers?

By Leah Teague & Stephen Rispoli 

As the co-founders of the Baylor Leadership Development Program and early adopters of the leadership movement in legal education, we established this blog to address several questions:

(1) What do we mean by leadership development? 

(2) Why are these efforts important and relevant to individuals – law students, lawyers, and law schools? 

(3) As guardians of the rule of law and defenders of our democracy, how can these efforts benefit our profession and our country? 

(4) What does leadership development look like for lawyers and how is it different from leadership development for other professions?  

All of us who have started a leadership development program or class (as well as those who attempted to do so) are commonly faced with questions and preconceived notions such as: Aren’t leaders born not made? Why should law schools devote attention to leadership when so few lawyers will serve as a managing partner of their firm? How is a leadership course in law school different from the leadership program or course from their high school or college days?

These are all important and difficult questions. We will address these questions (and more) in this blog. For those who have leadership programs or classes, we hope you will share your challenges faced and wisdom gained. We hope all will join in the conversation. Just as we know civil discourse results in better outcomes, we know that engaging in robust discussions around these questions can lead to more effective conversations and programming in law schools, bar associations and legal offices throughout the nation.

-LT & SLR