Uncategorized

Where were you when legal education went virtual?

By Leah Teague

We were on spring break! In past years, I might have been glowing in the sun (literally, glowing from too much sun on my fair skin despite my best attempts to heed my doctor’s warning); in other years, we were skiing in the mountains. But not this year. I was in Waco preparing for the Baylor Law Vision 2020 conference, working on our textbook, and trying to whittle down that ever-growing To-Do pile. It was not going to be a leisurely week no matter what! But a pandemic was not in the plan. Spring Break 2020 will forever be remembered for COVID-19.

On March 11, Dr. Linda Livingstone, our University President, announced the University would take an extra week of Spring Break and that we should be ready to start teaching online March 23rd, making up the lost week before finals. The extra week off caused us concern with only 4 weeks left on our quarter system (we normally have 9 weeks of class with 70-minute class periods). Making up a full week’s worth of classes in the remaining 4 weeks amidst all the other challenges would have been nearly impossible! So, true to the Baylor Law spirit, our law faculty sprang into action and began teaching using online platforms the following Monday with only 5 days to learn technology that most had never heard of (like Kaltura, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams). A few understood WebEx but who knew you could narrate PowerPoints?! Yes, a few classes needed extra days to get up and running, but oh my goodness, did they rise to the challenge! Converting a traditional brick and mortar law school to a virtual one in five days – WOW!

Like all of you, we at Baylor Law are now fully online AND our faculty is serving as the front line for communication with their students to offer help and support for those in need. I have seen hard-nosed professors reach out to individual students to listen, counsel and advise or direct those struggling. They are making a difference in the lives of their students and I am so proud! Together we will get through this!

Kudos to the faculty and staff across the country who are working so hard to make it happen! We are witnessing countless examples of leadership in action!

We’re now in our third week of online classes. Our faculty have been meeting (virtually, of course) every few days to make important decisions. We decided early on to stay with our grading system and to address accommodations on an individual basis. Because we are small – student population of 430 – we are better equipped to manage this decision. We spent the last three weeks determining what adjustments we can make to our policies and procedures to help our students. We quickly extended the exam period and doubled the normal number of reading days. Instead of our typically tight exam schedule, they now have a break every few days during the exam period providing more time to study in between exams.

We committed to giving students easier access to accommodations without having to pay additional tuition to take away that financial burden. We adjusted our policies with regard to drops, withdrawals, and incompletes. We added grade relief through a new tuition-free, retake policy that only applies to courses taken this term. No student will lose any scholarship, now or in the future, because of these grades. These operational decisions were thoughtfully considered and debated during numerous faculty meetings and countless emails in between. The faculty focused on prioritizing the current needs and wellness of our students while balancing the short-term vs. long-term implications to their education and professional training. I truly am blessed to work with colleagues who care so deeply for our students while also remaining dedicated to our mission of preparing our students to be ready to serve and to lead in times such as these!

Our staff also has been amazing! A skeleton crew is here with me every day to support the work of the faculty and staff working from home and to meet the needs of our minimum and essential business operations. Although they are adjusting to working from home, they want to stay connected and to help, especially to support and encourage our students. They are offering tips and advice about best practices. They are reaching out to check in. We are scheduling virtual gatherings and socials for student groups. All the while our colleagues are juggling their own home daycares, schools, delivery services, and whatever else is needed for their loved ones. I am meeting virtually with the staff once a week and our conversations focus on what can they do to help one another and our students. Truly inspiring!

Our Student Relations Committee (student leaders along with appointed faculty and staff representatives) also meet once a week to give voice to the students’ concerns and to brainstorm solutions to issues. We are hosting a leadership summit next Monday to visit with the officers of our student organizations about leading virtual meetings and events focused on their missions.

And oh my goodness has the number of emails, phone calls, and texts exploded! We are using all manner of communication vehicles to attempt to alleviate the anxiety of our students, as well as others (including us!). Faculty and staff are putting in long hours each and every day to assure the well-being, education, and professional training of our students continues, albeit, virtually.

As we tell our students, it is in times such as these that lawyers rise to the occasion. We know our alumni are out there working just as many hours, and more. They are carrying the weight of not only their clients – who are greatly impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions – but also that of their children who must be home-schooled and their high-risk loved ones who must be cared for and protected. We thank them for what they are doing to model for our students what professionalism and leadership looks like.

I had hoped to get this message typed and delivered last Thursday or Friday to mark the time that was supposed to be the Vision 2020 Leadership Conference. We were so looking forward to welcoming many of you to our beautiful city and law center. I knew, however, you would understand that a message from me could wait. A month ago, as we were deliberating what to do about the conference and I really wanted to continue with the conference but convert it to a completely virtual conference. Clearly, one of the silver linings of our current situation is the shove we all got toward acquiring new skills using technology to work and congregate virtually. How innovative it would have been to be the first to host a virtual leadership conference for law schools!

Two realities stopped us from going forward. First, the chaos of the transition for all of us to a pivot on a dime towards a new work dynamic and to learn new tools and techniques to teach and do our jobs. We have all been consumed. We were concerned about the time to pull together such a novel concept and for it be a “wow” event, which is always our goal. Second, and for me even more important, there is great benefit through the personal connections of people gathering in the same room, sharing stories over cocktails, brainstorming during breaks, and focusing on a live speaker rather than multi-tasking at your computer at home. I am not advocating that these benefits cannot occur in a virtual world. Clearly they can. Last Saturday evening I participated in my first virtual Happy Hour and I loved it! The difference is that my Happy Hour was with a small group of people with whom I already have a relationship. Developing relationships that allow for effective sharing of ideas takes time. It is hard to “meet” people and spend any meaningful time getting to know them if they are in a group gathering online with 100 people for a one-time event. This is one of the challenges of this online world of education – how to connect at a personal level when the class is large.

All that to say, we were greatly disappointed that our conference, like the rest of our events and our lives, was disrupted by COVID-19. We will set a date in the Fall as soon as we can. We hope even more of you will be able to attend in person or virtually, but mostly hoping you will be able to travel to our fun city and our beautiful building on the Brazos River to fully engage with one another.

I hope you are all doing well in our new, temporary reality!

-LJT

Academia, Leadership, Uncategorized

In Case You Missed It…

Professor Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas School of Law, has written a fantastic article about developing law student teamwork and leadership skills – to be published soon in the Hofstra Law Review, and available now on SSRN.

Here’s the abstract:

Skills of teamwork and team leadership are foundational for many types of law practice, but how much instruction, supervised experience, assessment, and guided reflection on these two skills did each reader as a law student receive? Law schools’ formal curricula, in the author’s experience, historically have not given much attention to the development of these skills. There also has been little legal scholarship on how most effectively to foster law students’ growth toward later stages of teamwork and team leadership. Legal education must do better.

What is the next step for the 58 law schools that have adopted a learning outcome on teamwork or team leadership (plus those that will later adopt this type of outcome)? In Part II, this article outlines the next steps that competency-based education requires for a law school to implement a teamwork and team leadership learning outcome. In Part III, the article presents a stage development model for law student teamwork and team leadership skills. Part IV explains how to use the stage development model in the curriculum so that students can understand the entire range of stages of development of teamwork and team leadership. The students can then self-assess their own current stage of development, and faculty and staff and a student’s team members can use the model to observe and assess a student’s current stage of development and give feedback to help the student grow to the next stage. Reflecting on self-assessment, teamwork experiences, and others’ feedback, a student can create a written professional development plan to grow to the next stage of teamwork and team leadership and get coaching on the plan. The student can also assess the evidence the student has to demonstrate his or her level of development to potential employers.

For a link to Professor Hamilton’s article, click here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3417396.

Way to go, Neil!

-LT and SLR

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.

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,

Leadership

Why Leadership Training is Important for New Lawyers

Amber Shanafelt Myers, Baylor Law JD ’14, 
Leadership Development Fellow

Lawyers are in a unique position when they enter the workforce. We usually don’t start at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. Most start somewhere in the middle.  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 couldn’t have guessed how to apply those concepts to the legal field until I had some legal education under my belt.

Academia, Leadership

Webinar Invitation: “Law and Leadership: If You Build It, They Will Come”

By Ed Nelson

Topic

Live with Kellye & Ken: 4/1/19

“Law and Leadership: If You Build It, They Will Come”

Webinar Description

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 Rhode’s seminal work – Lawyers as Leaders – provides an invaluable framework for the discussion.

Joining the discussion are:

• Dean Matthew Diller, Fordham
• Dean Garry Jenkins, Minnesota
• Professor Deborah Rhode, Stanford
• Dean Gordon Smith, Brigham Young
• 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.

Time

Monday, April 1, 2019 4:00 PM (Eastern Time – US and Canada)

REGISTER HERE

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

Why is leadership important for the future of the legal profession… and society?

 By Leah Teague 

The need for leaders in our communities, in our country, has never been greater. A survey by the Harvard Center for Public Leadership found that over two-thirds of Americans think the nation has a leadership crisis. Some believe our nation has never been more complex, polarized, and siloed than now. We need leaders who have vision, values, integrity and the ability to see beyond the narrow perspectives of one side. We need lawyers to step up and play more active roles in their communities.

Lawyers offer many skill sets that are helpful in accomplishing goals and effectuating change. Law schools develop students’ proficiencies in identifying and analyzing issues and problems, and in communicating clearly and persuasively as necessary. Lawyers know that negotiation and compromise may be necessary to move past gridlock. Our code of professional conduct establishes an expectation of civility and integrity in our actions.

Will we recognize that lawyers’ highest and best use is not as legal technicians (although that will sure be required)? Will we remember that our role as legal analysts, advocates and problem solvers allow us to effectively counsel and influence clients and organizations?

Leah Teague

But the legal profession is at a crossroads as well. What will be the role of lawyers in society in the future? The profession is forever changed—we have an inkling of what’s to come with technology and the impact of artificial intelligence on our profession, but we don’t really know the full implications. Which of our traditional lawyering tasks will be automated? How will we adapt? Will we recognize that lawyers’ highest and best use is not as legal technicians (although that will sure be required)? Will we remember that our role as legal analysts, advocates and problem solvers allow us to effectively counsel and influence clients and organizations? Will we finally find a way to stem the tide of mistrust in lawyers and lack of faith in the institution that is our system of democracy and its rule of law?

Planning for what society needs from lawyers in the future is why we should begin to think about skills beyond learning substantive law or technical skills, which have been the focus of law schools traditionally. The skill sets needed as counselors and leaders—those who are going to help clients and organizations work through their issues—are going to be even more important to lawyers in the future. They will be just as important as professional responsibility, ethics, and service to the public. Leadership should be equally pervasive in our language as we teach our students about our obligations and opportunities as lawyers.

-LT

Academia, Leadership

How My Thinking About Leadership Development For Law Students Has Changed

By Leah Teague

When I first pitched the idea of creating a leadership development program to our faculty, I focused the need for such a program because we know our Baylor Lawyers are going to serve as leaders in their communities and in organizations. So, shouldn’t we law schools better prepare them for this important role in society? Shouldn’t all law schools incorporate these skills into our core curriculum? As I discussed the concept with faculty and alumni, I got pushback from that, which required me to rethink why I thought it was so vitally important for today’s law students. Then I realized the topics covered in leadership development programming also help each one of us to be a more effective lawyer and more valuable employee. The skill sets and mindsets are advantageous for both roles.

As we think about how to most effectively teach and train this generation of law students, we’re focusing more and more on many different aspects: stress management, grit, resilience, and ability to accept feedback constructively in a healthy manner. All of these are essential parts of leadership development and are not matters that have been part of the law school curriculum or programming in the past.

Perhaps you have heard someone say leaders are born, not made. Perhaps you feel that way. We won’t dispute that not all of us will be THE leader of an organization. Who rises to the top or hired in as the leader of an organization is influenced by many variables – some (or most) may be out of your control. However, one of the aspects of the leadership development work we do is recognizing that all of us have the opportunity to influence, impact and affect those around us from whatever position we occupy and whatever relationships we create. Once we recognize that leadership development is about our own individual journey to improve and expand our abilities then we can get down to the business of growing! There is always room to grow and improve. The characteristics we are born with don’t define us completely unless we let them.

… One of the aspects of the leadership development work we do is recognizing that all of us have the opportunity to influence, impact and affect those around us from whatever position we occupy and whatever relationships we create.

Leah Teague

Students in a leadership development program are collectively going through a journey of self-discovery, assessment, and growth in an environment that allows them the freedom to think about who they want to be and to have some guidelines in place that will help them stay true to that path. Every law graduate will be better equipped for the challenges they will face because they worked on developing skills, vision, and a moral compass that will facilitate their success and enhance their ability to make a difference in the world.

-LT