Stephen Bright Speaks on ‘Leadership in Times of Challenge’ at AALS Annual Meeting

Stephen Bright will speak on “Leadership in Times of Challenge” followed by a panel discussion, Saturday January 5, 2019, 8:30 – 10:15 am.

In no other country do lawyers play as important a leadership role as in the United States. A majority of American presidents have been lawyers, and they dominate in legislatures, government, and non-profit positions. A significant number also become corporate leaders; Stanford Law School alum Brad Smith recently became president of Microsoft after a stint as general counsel. In our local communities, lawyers are often the ones who manage the PTA, or lead neighborhood committees. Yet much of the American public distrusts lawyers and lawyers themselves receive almost no formal education in how to lead. As Center Director Professor Deborah Rhode noted in her recent book, Lawyers as Leaders,“The focus of legal education and the reward structure of legal practice undervalues interpersonal capabilities and ethical commitments that are necessary for successful leadership.” In law schools, although we have expanded the curriculum to include clinical and experiential approaches, we have not focused on developing a structured and disciplined approach to developing leadership skills. The Center’s newly launched leadership initiative hopes to change this at Stanford Law School and set an example for other institutions.

The need for leadership development for lawyers both within and beyond law school is particularly strong in light of two trends in the profession. One is the continued and increasing importance of law and regulation in a swiftly globalizing, information-driven world. International, national, and local laws interact with each other and with each of us in more direct and complicated ways. The role of the lawyer continues to expand in tandem with global and technological developments as the world looks to lawyers to structure these new interactions. Cybersecurity is one example of a new and rapidly changing issue with dramatic international, national, and personal ramifications that requires legal attention. A second trend involves the continued blurring of the line between business and the profession. The in-house bar is growing and today’s in-house counsel is expected to perform in ways beyond traditional legal knowledge and tasks and is expected to contribute actively to the business and strategy decisions of the company. Lawyers in non-profit leadership roles play a similar role.

Leadership education can contribute in a significant way to these expanded legal responsibilities. As Rhode notes, “Formal leadership programs can increase individuals’ understanding of how to exercise influence and what cognitive biases, interpersonal responses, and organizational dynamics can sabotage effectiveness.” Leadership programs can also reinforce ethical leadership through case studies and simulations. The Center’s leadership initiative will address all of these potential avenues of professional development.

The first effort of the leadership initiative is the Lawyers as Leaders speaker series. By bringing to the campus diverse examples of successful lawyer leaders, we seek to expose the students to a more complete picture of leadership possibilities and the challenges that they entail.

The series kicked off this spring with an inaugural speech by Stephen Bright, the President and Senior Counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights (“SCHR”). Bright’s leadership has not only guided the growth of SCHR through its legal battles (most recently successfully litigating the Foster v. Chapman death penalty case before the Supreme Court). It has also shaped social and policy advocacy movements around capital punishment, prison reform, and effective legal representation for indigent criminal defendants throughout the country. Bright explained lawyers’ outsized representation in the leadership arena as follows: “Lawyers have knowledge. They know something about the law and they know how the legal system works, and of course, the legal system affects every aspect of our society, life and liberty, who has custody of children, whether people are evicted from their home, every kind of the most fundamental things you can think of….” He stressed the importance of leaders who start from the “trenches,” close to the “pain and suffering that is going on” so that real understandings of the problems can guide legal and policy advocacy. He recalled his first years as a lawyer working for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (“AppalReD”), as fundamental to setting his course on advocacy for those “who need us desperately.”

Bright identified certain qualities as essential to successful leadership of social justice movements, particularly a deep knowledge of those whom you seek to serve and the factors affecting their lives, an ability to build a team of smart and committed people and to allow them to do their work without interference, and to be unafraid to seek help from others who know more than you do. To an observer, his speech was remarkable for lack of ego and focus on the importance of others to his success. He spoke about the significance of his original mentor Jon Rosenberg at AppalRed, his team at SCHR, the younger lawyers, and particularly the support staff. He spoke very little about his own role in the organization and in fact cautioned against the “cult of personality” that can grow around an inspiring leader.

And yet his speech distilled his singular and personal commitment to the people whom he serves and the issues to which he has dedicated his life. The stories of Bright’s work are shocking, horrifying, and demoralizing: the man whose elderly mother died of starvation while he was held in jail before trial because he could not afford bail; the death row inmate whose case was denied cert and whose lawyers informed him that he would be executed through an impersonal letter; and the legions of black men in prison or sentenced to death with little or no adequate legal representation. When asked how he has kept his energy and focus on these very challenging and emotionally draining issues for so long, he responded simply, “Outrage. Every day, everything I see going on in these cases is simply outrageous.”


Message from the Chair – 2018

Deborah Rhode, Chair, AALS Leadership Section

It is with great pride, pleasure, and appreciation that I welcome readers to this first newsletter of the newly inaugurated AALS Section on Leadership. As you all know, it is a shameful irony that the occupation that produces the greatest number of American leaders has done so little to effectively and intentionally prepare them for that role. Although the legal profession accounts for only about .4 percent of the population, it has supplied a majority of American presidents, and innumerable leaders throughout the public and private sector. Few of these individuals receive any formal leadership training in law schools. This section marks a commitment to do better, and I am enormously grateful to all who have made it possible, particularly our superb executive committee Douglas Blaze, David Gibbs, Rachel Moran, and Chair Elect Leah Jackson Teague.

The section is an outgrowth of a series of symposia, conferences, and informal gatherings at the AALS annual meeting for those interested in teaching,   research, and programmatic ideas in the field. Over a 150 legal academics are now members of the section, and our hope is to expand that membership through the kind of activities described in this newsletter. We all have much to learn from each other, and the section leadership welcomes your ideas for how to enlist and engage faculty and communicate with broader audiences.

We confront a number of challenges. Part of the problem is that the field has only recently emerged, and its reputation has been tarnished by pop publications, which I have elsewhere labeled “leadership lite, ” such as Leadership Secrets from Attila the Hun, and Toy Box Leadership; Leadership Lessons from the Toys You Loved as a Child. A related problem is that to many lawyers, law students, and law professors, the subject seems somewhat squishy– a “touchy feely” curricular “frill,” unlike the more doctrinal courses tested on bar exams. But what that latter objection ignores is a wide array of research indicating that effective leadership requires so- called “soft skills,” particularly those demanding personal and interpersonal skills such as self-awareness and emotional intelligence. And by training and temperament, these are not the skills in which lawyers and law students excel; for many “the soft stuff is the hard stuff.” And a wide variety of research suggest that  that law schools can help students develop some of those capacities, such as decision-making, influence, communication, and conflict management.

A related challenge is that many students are reluctant to advertise an interest in leadership. The term seems to conjure up visions of high school student body presidents or overreaching politicians desperate for power and adulation. Yet many law students who are reluctant to out themselves as ambitious will inevitably exercise leadership, if not as heads of organizations, then heads of teams, committees, task forces, and charitable initiatives. When I was a law student, I never thought of myself as a potential leader and would never have taken a leadership course. But I would have surely have benefited from one, and I deeply regret that I did not know earlier some of what I know now.

Leadership education can also inspire future lawyers to be life-long learners, to recognize the skills that they will need, and to become reflective about their own capacities, limitations, and aspirations. And perhaps most importantly, law school initiatives can encourage students to think more deeply about what they want leadership for. Positions of influence offer many rewards, but those that are most fulfilling are generally not the perks of power, money, and status that individuals often covet. Research consistently finds that satisfaction generally depends most on other, intrinsic factors, such as feeling effective, exercising strengths and virtues, and contributing to socially valued ends that bring meaning and purpose.

As law professors, we have enormous opportunities, and I believe, corresponding obligations to equip future leaders to meet the complex challenges facing our nation and our world. In the final analysis, the question is not whether law schools should prepare students for leadership. Law schools already are developing leaders; they are just not doing it as effectively as they should. We owe it to our students and our communities to do better. I am deeply grateful to all of you who have joined the section to help us become more effective in that mission.


AALS Leadership Section Co-Hosts Conference with Santa Clara Law School on Advancing Leadership in the Legal Profession

The Leadership Section of the Association of American Law Schools, together with Santa Clara University Law School and the Santa Clara Law Review, held a major conference on advancing leadership education and development in the legal profession. The conference featured presentations by the President of the American Bar Association and leadership experts Deborah Rhode, Stanford Law School, and Barry Posner, Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. The conference was held on March 23, 2018, in Santa Clara Law’s new 96,000 square foot building, Charney Hall, and attracted more than 100 lawyers, judges, law students and leadership education training experts.

The conference was the result of almost one year of discussion and planning led Donald Polden, Professor and Dean Emeritus which included Santa Clara Law School faculty and students and several law school educators who helped create the AALS’s new Section on Leadership, including Deborah Rhode, Leah Jackson Teague, David Gibbs and Douglas Blaze. The planning group identified and invited many of the leading educators on leadership development in American law school, law firm lawyers and professionals responsible for developing leadership in lawyers, and leadership experts who worked with lawyers and law firms on leadership skills. For a link to information about the symposium including photographs, the agenda, course syllabi, and other materials, please go to law.scu.edu/leadership

Throughout the day long conference, speakers addressed key leadership issues and challenges facing several groups within the legal profession. Hilarie Bass, a partner in the national law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP and current President of the American Bar Association, gave the opening keynote address. She discussed the significant challenges facing lawyers and the legal profession in today’s global, technology driven law practice and the important initiatives by her and the ABA to address many of those challenges. Clearly and forcibly addressing the challenges facing the legal profession and the ABA requires great leadership.

A second morning session keynote address was given by leadership guru, Barry Posner, co-author of The Leadership Challenge books and training materials and his former student Ausra Deluard, an associate at Jones Day LLP office in San Francisco, and herself a leadership educator. Posner and Deluard discussed the importance of leadership education in many fields, including law, and described the practices of exemplary leadership that permit leaders to do extraordinary things within and for their organizations.

Deborah Rhode, the first chair of the Section on Leadership, directs the Center for the Legal Profession and the Program in Law & Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford’s law school, and she presented the third keynote address of the conference. Professor Rhode spoke about the critical role of legal education and law firms in educating for leadership during times where firms and individuals experience conditions of stresses and challenge. She also provided an overview of the development of leadership courses training in the law schools and in the legal profession.

Santa Clara’s Dean Lisa Kloppenberg moderated a panel of exceptional leaders and leadership development experts, including Dorian Daley, VP and General Counsel of Oracle Corporation, Olga Mack, a former GC and Organizer and Curator at TEDxEmerald Glen Park, Dean Thomas Romig, Dean at Washburn University School of Law and former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army, Dr. Lori Berman, Director of Professional Development at Hogan Lovells, USA, LLP in Washington DC, and Dr. Roland Smith, formerly at the Center for Creative Leadership and Group Head of Leadership Strategy and Development at Interglobe Enterprises. The panel discuss several key issues concerning the importance of leadership to various legal and law related organizations and how they development and demonstrated leadership during their careers.

The symposium also featured several panels of law faculty members who are teaching leadership courses in American law schools or who have developed leadership programs and activities for law students and lawyers.  The speakers discussed their ideas and research on leadership for lawyer subjects and several described articles they have prepared for a summer 2018 issue of the Santa Clara Law Review on leadership for lawyers. According to Professor Donald Polden, who helped organize the conference, “the symposium attracted the top legal educators and lawyer-leaders in the country to discuss the challenges facing the legal profession and legal education and we heard some meaningful solutions to those problems. Lawyers, judges and educators will benefit immeasurably from the forthcoming articles published by our law review.” The academic speakers included:

  • Douglas Blaze, Tennessee
  • Louis Bilionis, Cincinnati
  • Rachel Moran, UCLA
  • Donald Polden, Santa Clara
  • Neil Hamilton, St Thomas (MN)
  • David Gibbs, Roger Williams
  • Robert Cullen, Santa Clara
  • Leah Jackson Teague, Baylor
  • Maura DeMouy, Georgetown
  • Michael Colatrella, Jr., McGeorge (Pacific)
  • Rebecca Lee, Thomas Jefferson

The Conference resulted in a number of insightful articles by the following distinguished authors which thanks to the assistance of the Santa Clara Law Review can be accessed at the following portal.  Please note the articles are in draft form pending final editing and should not be cited until they are final form which will be noted. The articles can be accessed at this link.

Donald Polden, Lawyers, Leadership, and Innovation
Barry Posner, Leadership Development in Law Schools: Myths, Principles, And Practices
Deborah Rhode, Preparing Leaders: The Evolution of a Field and The Stresses of Leadership
R. Lisle Baker, Character and Fitness for Leadership: Learning Interpersonal Skills
Louis Bilionis, Law School Leadership and Leadership Development for Developing Lawyers
Douglas Blaze, Law Student Motivation, Satisfaction, And Well-Being: The Value of a Leadership and Professional Development Curriculum
Neil Hamilton, Leadership of Self: Each Student Taking Ownership Over Continuous Professional Development/Self-Directed Learning
Leah Teague, Training Lawyers for Leadership: Vitally Important Mission for The Future Success (And Maybe Survival) Of the Legal Profession and Our Democracy
Rachel Moran, The Three Ages Of Modern American Lawyering And The Current Crisis In The Legal Profession And Legal Education