Message from the Chair – November, 2019

Dear Leadership Section Members,

I hope you are having a fabulous fall! We have a lot happening in the next weeks and months and we hope you will join us for all that you can. In this newsletter you will find information for the following upcoming events, including 2 this week:

We want to thank each of you for your ongoing interest in, and work on, efforts to better prepare our students for the opportunities to make a positive difference in society using their legal training and law degrees. Momentum is building in legal education! Each month we gain new members to our Leadership section and we discover new information about more leadership development programs and courses around the country. The continued growth is reported in an article to be published soon in a special leadership symposium issue of the Tennessee Law Review. We are now aware of at least 85 law schools that have at least one leadership development program, course or designation for their students. Included as an appendix to the article will be a chart listing the mission statements of all ABA-approved law schools. Highlighted are 91 of those law school mission statements that specifically use the words “lead,” “leader(s)” or “leadership.” That chart also includes learning outcomes with indications of leadership as a learning objective. This chart not only documents the growth of leadership development programming but provides resources for those seeking to create new courses and programs and to enhance existing programming.

We have much to celebrate but we also know much more needs to be done. As a section, we need to continue to find ways to support each other and to help others interested in creating or expanding leadership development. Please join us at our section breakfast on January 3 in Washington, D.C. to discuss our future efforts. Register for the AALS annual meeting by November 14 to receive best pricing.

In this newsletter we continue our highlight of leadership courses and programs by featuring programs at University of North Carolina School of Law and Washburn University School of Law. Please let us know about your new courses and other ventures and enhancements to your leadership programs.

We hope to see you soon!

All the best, Leah Teague, Chair


What LSSSE Data Can Teach Us About Developing Our Law Students for Influence and Impact as Leaders

November 5, 2019, at 10:00 am Pacific/12:00 pm Central/ 1:00 pm Eastern

Presented by Chad Christensen, Ph.D., Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) Project Manager Research Faculty, School of Education, Indiana University

As established by a number of studies and reports spanning the last twenty-plus years, law schools need to expand educational programming beyond the traditional primary focus on intellectual training to better prepare students for their professional obligations and leadership opportunities. A commitment to leadership development efforts in law schools not only benefits law students but also is essential for the future the legal profession and the preservation of the rule of law in our society. To promote scholarship, teaching, and other activities focused on equipping lawyers and law students for effective leadership and service, the AALS Section on Leadership was established in 2018.

This webinar will utilize LSSSE data to explore opportunities for leadership development in legal education. Dr. Chad Christensen, LSSSE Project Manager, will share key survey findings with a focus on maximizing leadership skills along various metrics, including teamwork, intrinsic motivation, and professionalism. Participants need not be familiar with LSSSE, quantitative data, or curricular development. Join us as we facilitate a discussion on how to more effectively build leaders in law school and beyond.

To participate in the webinar, RSVP by email to lssse@indiana.edu. You will receive log-in instructions once you are signed up.


Sponsored by:
AALS Section on Leadership

Co-sponsored by:
Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE)

AALS Section on Empirical Studies of Legal Education and the Legal ProfessionAALS Section on Law and the Social Sciences


Leadership Course Spotlight: Leadership for Lawyers at UNC School of Law & Washburn University School of Law

For a change of pace in this edition of the spotlight section, we will be looking at leadership courses at two schools to get a feel for how others are treating the topic of leadership in the classroom.

The University of North Carolina School of Law offers Leadership for Lawyers in the fall semester and has been doing so since 2014.  This is a three-credit course which meets once a week for three hours.  According to the course description, topics for the course include “adjusting leadership styles based on context, seeking and providing mentorship, cultivating and managing diverse teams, resolving conflict, strategic planning and goal setting, delegating tasks, and managing programs, projects and events.”  While there are no prerequisites for the course, permission is required for enrollment to confirm students have leadership experience in their background.

The current instructors for the course are John Kasprzak, Assistant Dean for Student Development, and Jared Smith, Programming and Engagement Associate, NC Equal Access to Justice Commission.  Additional information on the Leadership for Lawyers course at UNC Law can be found at http://www.law.unc.edu/academics/courses/leadership/.

Washburn University School of Law also offers a course entitled Leadership for Lawyers, with the class first offered in the Spring of 2018.  The Washburn version is a two-credit course also meeting once a week.  For the first iteration, the class was capped at 30 students and was at capacity within the first few hours of registration.  Leadership for Lawyers covered many of the same topics as the UNC Law version, with additional topics including HR issues, different generations in the law firm setting, and succession planning.  Assessment came in the form of case study write ups with an additional assignment involving a service project.  For the service project, students were asked to pick a non-profit organization and either describe their volunteer efforts for the organization or create a hypothetical event to help market the organization.

Thomas Sneed, Associate Professor and Director of the Law Library, was the instructor and plans to continue to offer the course in future Spring semesters.  Additional information on the Leadership for Lawyers course at Washburn Law can be found at http://washburnlaw.edu/academics/courses/k-m.html.


Newsletter Message
July 2019

By Leah Teague, Baylor Law

We hope you all had a productive spring term and are in the middle of exciting and fun summer plans before turning your attention to the fall. Thank you for staying in touch with us!

In this newsletter are highlights from the inspiring and informative conference at University of Tennessee. Our heart-felt thanks again to Doug Blaze and his gracious team for their superb job of hosting!

Other news we wanted to share with you:                                .

  • A Call for Papers and Program Announcements for the 2020 AALS Annual meeting
  • Invitation to Leading Differently Through Difference Conference at Hofstra University
  • Follow-up Articles from the Conference at the University of Tennessee

I want to pick up on something that Dean Blaze said in the closing session of the UT leadership conference as he and Deborah Rhode recounted some recurring themes. “This conference was preaching to the choir,” he said. He was right! He encouraged us to work together to expand our numbers and our influence. Again, he was right! And we should do so, but not just for our own gratification or because we think teaching “soft skills” to the millennials and Gen Z students is more necessary than it was for previous generations. The legal profession needs all of us in legal education to better prepare our students for the challenges they will face as they enter the workforce. We know leadership development programming does that.

Even more important than the need to better equip our graduates for their own success after graduation is the need to help them understand and embrace our obligation as lawyers to serve society. Our students need to know that their professional obligation does not end with their clients.  From the Preamble of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, “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… Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society.” Leadership training can instill in our students a sense of obligation to serve and opportunity to make a difference.

Also discussed during the conference was the need to establish a “whole building” approach to leadership development with everyone playing a role – from deans and tenured faculty to clinicians and professional staff. To make that a reality, we need to help our colleagues see not only the value to our students and the profession but also to our nation. Most will readily agree that society is in desperate need of more leaders who are trained in analyzing complex issues, problem solving, civil discourse, conflict resolution, active listening and negotiation. We, of course, need to make sure our students not only have those skills but also are committed to establishing their reputations built on integrity, competency and diligence. Our country needs us.

Our students come to us we the desire to use their legal training and law degree for good – to make a difference. Law schools need to feed that desire, not kill it and replace it with a purview of lawyers as hired guns driven by profit to commoditize legal services. Don’t get me wrong – we need to help our students to be successful financially in order to pay off those large student debts. However, we know from Professor Larry Kreiger’s work that lawyers’ happiness and well-being are not the result of external success factors (money, position) but rather from internal factors such as a sense of purpose and human connection.  

We have the opportunity to impact the future success and well-being of our students by being more intentional about developing them as leaders. We have an obligation to insure our graduates recognize the legal profession’s duty as guardians of our system of democracy. We have the opportunity to help our profession navigate the transition from the role lawyers played in society during the last two decades to what our role will be in the next.

Returning to themes of the UT leadership conference, we need to collaborate more, to inspire innovation and to support one another through the ups and downs of this effort to firmly establish leadership development as a fundamental aspect of legal education. Together we are building the foundation for leadership development for law students and lawyers.

Our country IS experiencing a leadership gap. We should be the profession to help fill it! Our students want to be part of the solution. Let’s provide the skills, knowledge and resources for them to do so.

Please join us by sharing with us your new courses, programs and other activities, by sending us other ideas for activities for the section, and by attending the next gatherings:

November 8, 2019 • Hofstra Law • New York, NY  

January 2-5, 2020 • AALS Annual Meeting • Washington, D.C.

March 26, 2020 • Baylor Law • Waco, TX

Have a great summer!

All the best,
– Leah Teague


AALS Annual Meeting 2020

AALS Section on Leadership Meeting

Learning from Lawyer-Leaders Throughout the Profession • Fri. Jan. 3, 2020, @ 1:30pm

As more and more law students and lawyers find themselves holding positions other than in law firms, law schools must prepare our students for a wide variety of leadership roles they might play in both the public and private sector. Lawyers, through their legal education and training, are especially needed to lead in these challenging times. The 2020 Section on Leadership’s program will feature conversations with lawyers who serve in a variety of roles, including government, public interest, judiciary and professional associations. The panel will discuss the need for law schools to better equip law students for the challenges they will face as leaders in an ever-increasingly complex and challenging world.

Scheduled panelists:

  1. Hon. Cheri Beasley, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of North Carolina
  2. Judy Perry Martinez, President, American Bar Association
  3. Anthony Thompson, Professor of Clinical Law, NYU School of Law and author, “Dangerous Leaders: How & Why Lawyers Must be Taught to Lead”

The Section on Leadership is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which one additional presenter will be selected for the section’s program, “Learning from Lawyer-Leaders Throughout the Profession,” to be held during the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington on Friday, January 3, 2020 at 1:30pm.

For more information and to submit, view the Call for Papershere.

Programs Co-Sponsored by the AALS Section on Leadership

Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section • Sat. Jan. 4, 2020, @ 8:30am

This all-star panel will discuss the funding issues facing organizations such as the Legal Services Corporation and state Access to Justice Commissions, how this impacts pro bono and access to justice issues, how pro bono is effective at closing the access to justice gap, and what law schools can be doing to help. 

Scheduled panelists:

  1. Betty Balli Torres, Executive Director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  2. David Bienvenu, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service
  3. Darcy Meals, Assistant Director of Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State University College of Law
  4. Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation

This panel will be moderated by Baylor Law’s Assistant Dean Stephen Rispoli, recipient of the State Bar of Texas 2019 Pro Bono Coordinator Award.

Pro Bono and Public Service: Pillars of Democracy and the Legal Profession

Lawyers have an obligation to uphold the rule of law and be the guardians of our legal system and society. Pro bono and public service are essential elements to the profession remaining a profession – helping those who cannot help themselves. These historical roles of the lawyer have been critical in protecting our society through cases for individual clients, serving as advisors for non-profit organizations, or serving in public office. Moreover, this service is not just good for clients and society, it is also good for the lawyer doing it.

However, these traditional roles face modern challenges. This session will discuss funding issues that the Legal Services Corporation and state Access to Justice Commissions face, how defunding them may affect pro bono around the country, and how legal education can help. Finally, this session will provide some practical tips and sample programs that attendees can implement at their home schools.

AALS Section on the Empirical Study of Legal Education and the Legal Profession: An Empirical Look: How Well Are We Preparing Law Students to Become Ethical Leaders Who Serve Others • Thurs., Jan. 2, 2020 @ 2pm

This panel will feature research conducted on the ways in which law schools provide law students with skills and competencies, and encourage values that are central to leadership, public service, ethical conduct, and fulfilling responsibilities to others. Moreover, we envision that the panel will discuss newly emerging empirical research, often building on prior efforts, which focuses on the interest of law students in public service when applying to law school, and the impact of experiences such as clinical training, and pro bono and public interest opportunities within law school, on the leadership and public service that legal professionals undertake within our communities. Finally, we will highlight work that informs our understanding of the changing nature of leadership roles undertaken by lawyers both in government and the private sector.


Leading Differently Through Difference • Conference at Hofstra University

The Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics in conjunction with NYU School of Law, Columbia Law School, other law schools and law firms will sponsor a one day conference addressing the need for law schools to train lawyers to be leaders, specifically to focus upon equity and inclusion as essential to leadership training.   

November 8, 2019 • New York, New York

Click Here For More Conference Information

The legal profession and law schools exist in a time of profound changes in the culture and in lawyering across various fields. This conference asks and seeks to provide answers to: how do we promote Leadership Training in Law Schools in a more inclusive and forward- thinking manner? How does the profession and the academy confront the need to develop cultural competence, deal with gender, race, and other identities affecting full participation, and address generational differences? Why have we not done better in equity and inclusion? These questions call for navigating a set of tensions that must be addressed as part of both lawyer-leadership development generally and building the capacity to navigate across difference. Law may be reactive, but leadership is proactive. Lawyers learn to be risk averse, but leadership requires risk-taking. These, among the many tensions of legal training, present profound challenges to a profession that must drill down to learn to promote skills, and competencies necessary to enable the next generation to confront the challenges facing the profession and the democracy.

National and locally recognized leaders in law and in business will participate on various panels throughout the day.  This includes leaders in law firms and non-profit organizations, federal and state judges, government lawyers, academics, and business leaders. The conference will produce materials for law school curricula as well as volume of the law review dedicated to advancing the research on leadership theory and experience.

Participants include national leaders in the field including the Law Professors Leaders who are on the Planning Committee and have authored books, articles and training materials about these issues:

• Doug Blaze               Tennessee

• Akilah Folami             Hofstra

• Leah Teague             Baylor

• Gary Jenkins               Minnesota

• Susan Jones                 George Washington

• Don Polden                 Santa Clara     

• Deborah Rhode           Stanford

• Anthony Thompson    NYU

Click Here For More Conference Information


Integrating Wellbeing into Leadership Development Curricula

By R. Lisle Baker 1 and Candace Reed 2

A summary of some of the key points at a presentation at a Conference on Leadership Development for Lawyers:  Increasing our Impact, Roundtable on Leadership Development at the University of Tennessee College of Law, April 4-5, 2019

Psychology has long involved the study of how to help people in emotional difficulty get better, but more recently research out of the field of positive psychology has turned to how to help people flourish, focusing not only on getting well, but being well.

Indeed, a recent ABA report argued that well-being should be considered part of the lawyer’s duty of professional competence, which is even more important when lawyers act in leadership roles where they need to be at their best. 3

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. A 2016 study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs found that a third of practicing U.S. attorneys are problem drinkers; 28% of lawyers struggle with depression; and 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.4 The 2016 Survey of Law Student Well-Being suggests that these problems may originate in law school, where nearly half of those law students surveyed admitted to regular binge drinking, 17% of respondents screened positive for depression, and more than one-third were diagnosed with anxiety.5

How can those of us in leadership development respond to these statistics?

 While it is important to acknowledge the problem and seek ways for those that need counseling help to get it, we can also look for ways to enhance lawyer and law student well-being.

Dr. Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association, has articulated five dimensions of well-being in his book Flourish, which he called PERMA, shorthand for Positive Emotions; Engagement; Positive Relationships; Meaning; and Achievement.6

We each teach courses at our law schools which draw on this framework, and if you are interested in ways to get started in your own courses, here are three topics and related exercises which can help enhance the PERMA elements of wellbeing for law students.

1. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Ask students to keep a journal each day for three weeks recording three things/events/people for which they are grateful and consider how they contributed to each item listed. Research indicates this exercise may help provide a balanced perspective and prompt students to begin looking for good things that they encounter every day (thereby increasing their positive-to-negative ratio of emotions).7

2. Celebrate with good news shared.  

Suppose a law student excitedly tells a friend, “I just got a clerkship!” There are four possible responses the student might receive: (a) “Oh, that’s nice.” (b) “You know those jobs do not pay well. How will you afford to take it with your student loans?” (c) “Did I tell you about the time I was a clerk?” and (d) “Congratulations! You must feel great!”

If a client told us good news, many of us might instinctively go to the second response to point out the pitfalls, but that is likely to be suboptimal in other relationships – like with a friend or a spouse – where research indicates that an “active constructive” response, like (d), works much better.8

3. Remember your strengths and your purpose.

A recent Gallup survey showed that American workers gained a boost in positive emotions and energy the more they used their strengths.9 Law students and lawyers can do the same so long as they are aware of their strengths. One way to begin is to ask them to write a short story (or positive introduction) about when they were at their best. Then ask them to share their stories with their classmates and ask the classmates to listen for the strengths that they display. They can complement these insights with a free character strengths questionnaire available at www.viacharacter.org, and then explicitly consider ways that they could use their top strengths to excel in law school or law practice.10 You can also ask students to prepare a “strengths resume” where they recall specific examples of how they have used their strengths well in the past.11

Finally, it is helpful to remind students about the sense of purpose that brought them into the law and a leadership role. Knowing the why, to paraphrase psychologist Viktor Frankl quoting Frederick Nietzche, can help make the how worthwhile.12

For more information, please see the endnotes below or contact the authors about their courses.


University of Tennessee and Leadership Section Co-Host Roundtable: Leadership Development for Lawyers: Increasing Our Impact

By Doug Blaze, The University of Tennessee College of Law

In April, the Institute for Professional Leadership at the University of Tennessee hosted a major conference on leadership education, co-sponsored by the AALS Section on Leadership and the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy.   The two-day roundtable, Leadership Development for Lawyers: Increasing Our Impact, attracted well over a hundred participants including legal educators from twenty-four law schools, judges, lawyers, and law students. 

Designed to promote robust discussion and exchange of ideas, the success of the event reflected over a year of hard work by the planning committee consisting of Deborah Rhode, Lou Bilionis, Leah Jackson Teague, David Gibbs, Buck Lewis, Don Polden, and Doug Blaze.  A remarkable team of law students led by Charlotte Houser, the 2019 Hardwick-Woods fellow in the leadership institute, assisted the planning team by ensuring that the entire event ran smoothly.

The opening afternoon featured four workshops designed to enhance existing leadership courses and programs and to assist schools newly interested in leadership development efforts.   Topics included A Whole Building Approach to Leadership Development, Integrating Well-Being into Leadership curricula, Designing Effective Leadership Skill Development Exercises, and Getting a Leadership Course Started.  

The workshops were followed by a welcome dinner highlighted by a keynote address from ABA President Bob Carlson.  President Carlson emphasized that lawyers need to provide leadership now more than ever.  He noted, “our institutions are strong, but they are not invincible. They require the support and protection of each and every one of us to endure.”

Keynote remarks by Cheri Beasley, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and Tennessee Law alumna, kicked off the second day of the conference.  Chief Justice Beasley applauded the work of all the attendees to develop future leaders while challenging everyone to rethink what we mean by diversity and inclusion.  She also emphasized that our pipeline efforts need to begin far earlier than they do now.

Following Chief Justice Beasley’s remarks, the morning session provided insights from three perspectives:  legal educators, the profession, and law students.  The first panel discussion, moderated by Leah Teague, provided an overview of existing law school leadership development efforts.  Professor Susan Sturm (Columbia), Dean Gordon Smith (BYU), and Dean Garry Jenkins (Minnesota) described their innovative work and shared their thoughts about what had proved most effective. 

Turning from leadership development in law schools to the profession, Don Polden assembled an impressive panel to talk about what the profession is, or should be doing, to develop effective lawyer leaders.  Buck Lewis and David Gibbs shared their thoughts based on leadership work in both law schools and the profession.  Loreen Schaefer, a former General Counsel of GE Transportation, shared her insights from the in-house perspective.   The final panelist was Professor Tony Thompson (NYU), author of the recently published book – Dangerous Leaders: How & Why Lawyers Must Be Taught to Lead – who talked about the five components of leadership focusing particularly on race and inequality.  A panel of law students and recent graduates from Tennessee, Santa Clara, and Cincinnati law schools, moderated by Chris Davis (Tennessee ’19), concluded the morning by presenting very thoughtful comments on what the students found to have been the most effective in enhancing their leadership development.  

An underlying theme that developed during the conference was how to address equity and inclusion issues in leadership training. The final panel further developed the importance of these issues. Moderated by Paula Schaefer (Tennessee), the impressive panel included LSAC President Kellye Testy, Professor Jane Aiken (Georgetown and incoming dean at Wake Forest), Judge Deborah Stevens (Knox County, TN), Dean Mark Alexander (Villanova), and Veta Richardson (CEO of Association of Corporate Counsel).  The insightful comments from the panelists, coupled with the robust discussion following, was one of conference highlights.

Deborah Rhode, the moving force behind the section and our first chair, was joined by Doug Blaze to lead the all the participants in a discussion about “where do we go from here.”  Deborah spoke eloquently about the impact, or legacy, of our collective effort to develop lawyer leaders capable of providing need leadership in these turbulent times.   The ensuing discussion identified at least three other important themes.  First, the group agreed that a focus on experiential leadership skills development is critical.  Second, and building on an earlier workshop, our work needs to play a key role in addressing the well-being challenges faced by students and lawyers.  Third, the discussion underscored the need to develop effective assessment tools to evaluate the efficacy of all of our work in an effort to increase our impact.  

Finally, the everyone agreed that these conversations needs to continue.  The good news is that two future conferences are already scheduled – Hofstra in November and Baylor next spring – to ensure that happens.  In addition, articles by a number of presenters will be forthcoming later this year in an issue of the Tennessee Journal of Law and policy.  For those that were unable to attend, conference materials remain available, here.


Leadership Lessons from the ABA

by Bob Carlson, President, American Bar Association

It is a tremendous honor to lead the American Bar Association, and it has been a joy to serve the organized bar thanks to the many hundreds of bright, dedicated people with whom I’ve worked during this journey.

Friendship through service leadership is the best kind of friendship there is. Together in the bar, we call attention to the legal needs in our communities, and we call public attention to the value of lawyers. Last October, for example, legal communities across the country during the National Celebration of Pro Bono collectively shined a proud spotlight on more than 1,400 events, hosted by more than 700 organizations, from all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and even Hong Kong.

Activities during the National Celebration of Pro Bono highlighted the continued need for pro bono services on behalf of veterans, the elderly, domestic violence survivors, people who are homeless, and others who need a lawyer’s help, including this year’s focus, disaster survivors.

In addition to the valuable service to clients these activities provide, they can also be the impetus for lasting relationships and friendships among lawyers that service in the bar fosters.

With the National Celebration of Pro Bono, we stand together as a unified voice for the values that our profession is rightfully proud of. We need your support—every lawyer’s support—in such efforts, so I encourage you to join us in October 2019 and future celebrations.

Another opportunity for lawyers to support pro bono is Free Legal Answers, which conveniently enables low-income people who submit civil justice questions for pro bono lawyers to answer. Nearly 60,000 client questions have been posted to Free Legal Answers since its launch in 2016, and more than 5,700 lawyers across the country are registered to volunteer to answer them. Anyone who is licensed to practice in one of the 40 or so jurisdictions that have adopted Free Legal Answers can sign up at abafreelegalanswers.org.

We also promote disaster legal services through our Young Lawyers Division and its longstanding agreement with FEMA to provide invaluable expertise to state and local organizations to quickly implement Disaster Legal Services hotlines.

With our leadership on disaster legal services, the ABA demonstrates that we are an important part of the American fabric as well as an essential part of the lives and livelihoods of every single lawyer, every single day—whether it’s through our Model Rules of Professional Conduct, our accreditation of law schools, our governmental advocacy, and so many other aspects of the legal profession and justice system.

Our House of Delegates, which sets ABA policy, consists of 596 members from across the United States. A majority of our delegates proportionately represent state and local bar associations from every state and the District of Columbia, plus most territories.

The balance of delegates represent ABA sections, divisions, and forums—including the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and our Law Student Division–along with other bar and legal associations, including the Association of American Law Schools.

Through endeavors that only the ABA carries out, we represent lawyers well beyond our more than 400,000 members. If you consider all the lawyers who belong to the multitude of bar associations and other organizations that send representatives to our House of Delegates, the ABA speaks for more than a million lawyers across the country. Our voice for the profession is an undeniable and indispensable part of America’s culture of justice.

The ABA’s democratic, representative structure—embodying the best of diverse and inclusive institutions— ensures that our policies are rooted not in partisan politics, not in narrow political ideology, but in the values that lawyers across America share.

The participation and involvement of our members fortifies the ABA’s united and respected voice of the profession—a voice that stands for professional excellence, for equal justice, for due process, and for our liberties protected by the rule of law.

We share values as lawyers no matter where we’re from, no matter what area of the law we work in, no matter what our politics may be..Lawyers throughout the ABA, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, contribute to our national, collective voice as so many other powerful voices ridicule equal justice under law, mock due process, and scorn our independent judiciary.

We stand united in the understanding that our justice system does not function properly when vulnerable people who are poor are forced to appear in court without a lawyer. This is why the Legal Services Corporation and the legal aid agencies it supports is so critical. The ABA was there for Congress’s creation and initial funding of the Legal Services Corporation in the 1970s, and we will always be there to advocate for the access to justice it provides.

Again this year, for the third straight year, the Administration has proposed closing down the Legal Services Corporation. And again, the ABA is leading the charge to advocate for the need for legal aid funding in our communities.

In addition to advocating for funding for the Legal Services Corporation, our delegations will meet with their members of Congress to promote public service loan forgiveness, because we know that a healthy republic must foster government and public service by lawyers and other professionals.

As the voice of America’s lawyers, it is also our duty to support the nation’s dedicated judges when public officials at the highest levels use their bully pulpit to crudely cast doubt on the judiciary’s professionalism. And it is essential that we stand up when strident, out-of-control politics create a crisis of public confidence in our courts and the selection process for lifetime positions on the federal bench.

At the same time, the ABA’s nonpartisan evaluations of the professional qualifications of federal judicial nominees contribute immensely to our voice and leadership for fair and impartial courts. Members of our Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary each volunteer many hundreds of hours to this valuable public service.

The ABA stands up not only to preserve America’s rule of law and the credibility of our justice system. We also stand up to maintain our credibility with other nations that routinely look to the ABA for guidance on issues of law. Our authority was recently recognized by George and Amal Clooney’s Foundation for Justice, which is partnering with the ABA,  Columbia Law School and Microsoft to monitor trials around the world that pose a high risk of human rights violations, including trials that could oppress vulnerable groups, silence speech, or target political opponents.

The ABA also provides leadership opportunities for public education about the law and legal system. Our theme for Law Day this year is central to our constitutional rights, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.” And we’re already planning for next year around the centennial of a landmark for American democracy, the ratification of the 19th Amendment assuring women the right to vote. Toolkits and planning guides for Law Day are on the ABA website. Please lend your leadership to these important public education efforts and help ensure that your communities are involved.

ABA members are contributing their leadership to another important area – lawyer wellness and well-being. We are raising awareness of the high incidence of alcohol and other substance abuse problems among lawyers and law students, of reducing the stigma of mental illness in our profession, and of encouraging and supporting our colleagues as they need and seek help.

These issues have taken an unbearable human toll. We must act.

Please spread the word about the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession—resources are at ambar.org/wellbeing. We need to work together and stick with this movement as long as it takes to save the lives of those we care about and make our profession stronger.

As we aspire to be the best lawyers we can be, we are practicing in an age when the profile of lawyers in America and around the world is improving. Law school applications are slowly increasing. The Meriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2018 was “justice.”

At the same time, many Americans of all political stripes believe our national values face historic threats. We do face challenges as a nation. At times, it seems that compromise is beyond reach, and our great experiment in democracy could falter.

I submit to you that the powerful institutions of our democracy—an independent judiciary, the rule of law, free speech and a free press—have helped us weather political scandal and extremism that tested the central philosophies and traditions of America’s society. In the end, the rule of law has prevailed. Our system of checks and balances held. When some checks failed to work, others ensured that our democracy was protected.

Our institutions are strong, but they are not invincible. They require the support and protection of each and every one of us to endure. They need our leadership. They require us to instill these values in our law students, to shape them into the public citizens that our Rules of Professional Conduct call on us to be. As it is written in the Preamble to the ABA Model Rules:

  • As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.
  • As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education.
  • In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority.
  • A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance.
  • Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel.
  • A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest.

I believe these words should be underscored among law students and lawyers at every opportunity.

We need a strong, vibrant bar to promote our professional excellence as we face a changing economy and practice landscape.

We need a strong, vibrant bar to advance America’s culture of justice and due process under the rule of law.

The world is watching us. Aspiring lawyers, law students, and young lawyers are watching us. Whatever the storms around us, we must always demonstrate civility, maintain our dignity, and encourage respect for our institutions of law and values of justice. The world is watching us, and it is our professional duty to deliver.

When forces both inside and outside this country attack the judiciary and seek to marginalize our justice system, when they ignore due process and the rule of law, the ABA will speak out.

We will do this from a position of strength, bolstered by the support of our 400,000 members and the 1 million lawyers our affiliated organizations represent.

We will bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

We will not be driven by fear but by hope.

We need everyone’s talents. We need everyone’s commitment. We need everyone’s friendship. We need everyone’s leadership. We need the example law professors set for their students, and we need to encourage law students to get on board and see themselves as part of a big picture of justice for all—a path that has been so rewarding to me throughout my career.

With the support of lawyers across America, the ABA will continue to work hard every day, and we will be the champion of hope for due process and the rule of law.