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.


Public Citizens and Greater Fools: Why We Must Teach the Values of Pro Bono Publico

By Buck Lewis , Chair of the ABA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee

In the 2012 HBO series the Newsroom, we begin to get to know the main character, Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, when we see him on a panel discussion on a college campus.  In the first episode, a young woman from the business school asks the panel why America is the greatest country on earth?  The other panelists say freedom, diversity and opportunity.  After a pregnant pause, Will says he doesn’t believe America is the greatest country on earth.  He embarks upon an abusive rant which cites illiteracy, low rankings for math and science, falling life expectancy, rising infant mortality, and incarceration per capita, to name a few.  The rant lands Will in a good deal of trouble with the public and with his cable news network where he anchors the evening news.

I was reminded of the episode recently when interviewing a client at a pro bono clinic.  The woman was able of body and mind, had a college degree and a job but, nevertheless, was on the precipice of becoming homeless along with her children.  She had a low level job for a city school system, but had recently become a teacher’s assistant and was on track to become a teacher.

When she became a teacher’s assistant, she began to be paid once a month instead of every two weeks.  Her take-home pay was so low that after paying her rent and her utilities, she and her children needed to live off about $10 a day plus food stamps.  The change in the cycles of her paychecks had caused her to be six days late on her rent and her apartment manager had immediately moved to eject her from the apartment, notwithstanding the fact that her children’s toilet, her dishwasher and her refrigerator never had worked.  The apartment complex had not made these repairs despite many requests.  To add insult to injury, she lost a voucher from the local housing authority to pay for one month’s rent because when the housing authority came to inspect the apartment on three occasions, her apartment failed each inspection because of the problems with the toilet, the dishwasher, and the refrigerator.

Then something happened I have never experienced at one of these clinics.  We were walking down the hall together and she pointed in the room two doors down from us and said, “I think that’s the lawyer who sued me to have me thrown out of my apartment.”  I asked how she knew what he looked like and she explained that she had gotten behind on her rent a couple of years before and he had given her payment terms, with which she complied meticulously.  We patiently waited until the apartment complex lawyer finished helping the pro bono client he was counseling.  He recognized my client and agreed to sit with us and see if something could be worked out.  When he learned what had happened, especially that she was about to be on the streets with her children and that the apartment complex had never fixed the toilet, the dishwasher or the refrigerator, I could see tears welling up in his eyes.  Right then and there, at that clinic held in a church surrounded by a poor neighborhood on a cold Saturday morning, this chance meeting resulted in her being rescued from homelessness.

We Are All Supposed to be “Public Citizens.”

Law school leadership programs all need to teach our students the “dos” and not just the “don’ts.”  Ask a hundred law professors or law students if much time is spent in their legal ethics course discussing the Preamble of the Rules of Professional Conduct and you will usually get puzzled looks.  That’s because almost 100 percent of the time spent teaching ethics is spent teaching students what they need to know to avoid being disciplined.  Very little is time spent teaching the ideals of the profession.  What does the rule of law mean?  What does it mean to have a fair and impartial judiciary?  What does it mean for everyone to have access to justice?  These are bedrock ideals of our profession which get little or no air time in the average law school curriculum.

The Preamble to the Rules of Professional Conduct makes it absolutely clear that all lawyers are to give of their time, resources, and civic influence to ensure that we all have equal access to justice.  The Preamble discusses the fact that lawyers should be “public citizens.”  Most law students and most lawyers cannot even recall hearing that term before or after law school.  The Rules conduct provide that, “[A] lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibilities for the quality of justice.”

These ideals trace their history back to at least the 1890’s and arguably back to DeTocqeville.  See Reynoso:  The Lawyer As A Public Citizen, Maine Law Review, Vol. 55, No. 2 (2003).  In almost every leadership curriculum, there is some mention of the concept of being a “servant leader.”  This term, of course, also embraces unselfish, public service as an ideal of our profession.  Lawyers have no monopoly over public service, but public service should be an integral part of the life of all lawyers.  Teaching these values will help many beleaguered law students reconnect with the reasons that they went to law school to begin with and give them a road map for feeding their souls throughout their career, as they hop from one job to the other in varying roles as is the custom these days.

A recent report issued by the Tennessee Supreme Court indicates that about fifty percent of my home state’s lawyers do some pro bono, twice what it was ten years ago.  Of course, it is wonderful that Tennessee has come so far, but I find myself simultaneously proud and ashamed of that fifty percent number because that means that there are thousands of lawyers who do nothing.  I just wish these lawyers could experience the joys of using their legal education and their experience to make a profound difference in someone’s life.  I wish those lawyers could have their hearts warmed as we did that cold Saturday morning.  I wish those lawyers could discuss their work with their children and bring their children to pro bono clinics, so they could experience firsthand how it feeds our souls.  I often wonder where that number would be if they experienced that joy in law school.

I suspect that some members of our profession pass on pro bono because of a misguided judgment about why people have low household income.  There are certainly better messengers to give you the statistics, but I can give you the result of four decades of life experiences.  Some think that people are poor because they are lazy.  My experience has been that this is mostly a myth.  In fact, low income people often work harder than medium and high income people.  Some think that people are poor because have alcohol or drug problems.  That is certainly true sometimes, but usually not.  Some even think that certain ethnic groups are not as smart or don’t take as much initiative as others.  I have seen no evidence that this is true.  In my experience, the main reasons that people have low incomes are that (1) they haven’t had an opportunity to get an education, and/or (2) some adverse life event related to their physical or mental health or family has had a profound negative impact on the course of their life.1

My mother’s family was very poor.  Sometimes, they relied on my great-uncle’s grocery store leftovers to feed the family.  I vividly remember my mother and my aunt talking about bringing their pillows, blankets, and sheets downstairs to warm by the fire before going to bed because the family could not afford to burn coal in the upstairs fireplace.  I never realized when I was growing up that there was any difference between Mom’s family and Dad’s family.  They were just as much fun to be around, just as hard working, and just as smart.  With the benefit of hindsight, I still don’t see any difference in their skills and attributes, just the circumstances into which they were born.  Sensitivity to the role of privilege should also be a part of a complete leadership curriculum.

Another reason it’s important to teach how to be a “public citizen” and the importance of access to justice to our next generation of law students is that technology is beginning to give us the opportunity to do a better job with pro bono and access to justice that we have ever done before.  This next generation of young lawyers will likely be the generation which will fully utilize these new technologies for the benefit of the public.

For example, Microsoft has just granted a million dollars to create an ideal modern online portal which each state can use for all types of access to justice resources.  The first legal wellness check-ups have just been developed and are available online.  See e.g. TN.FreeLegalAnswers.org.  The country has its first virtual online clinic, ABA.FreeLegalAnswers.org, which allows lawyers to do pro bono work anywhere and anytime they can access the internet.  Artificial intelligence is now available which will help direct clients to the best resources for them and also help pro bono lawyers give better, more thorough advice, more quickly than ever before.  Efforts are under way to accumulate data collected from many sources, including but not limited to ABA.FreeLegalAnswers and Reddit, to predict which legal problems will afflict which citizens, where, and at which time of the year, month, week, or day.2  This has the potential for finally getting us into the business of preventing legal problems before they occur.3

This technology is not some quixotic wish list.  It’s here today and will be available to our newest law graduates as they progress through their professional years.  But at every turn, we will have to muster the will to devote the resources to make these things happen on a large scale.  That requires that law students and lawyers alike understand the bedrock values of our profession and are ready to lead on the issues of the rule of law and access to justice.  Any law school leadership curriculum without significant time and resources devoted to these ideals, has a gaping hole which must be filled.

The Work of “Greater Fools” and “Public Citizens”

Speaking of Don Quixote, Will’s hero in the Newsroom is his mentor and boss, Charlie Skinner, played by Sam Waterston, a self-described Don Quixote who wants to use the newscast to make television journalism what is was in the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.  As for Will, he prefers the Camelot metaphor and is particularly fond of the scene in which King Arthur meets a young stowaway named Tom of Warwick.  Of course, Arthurs knights Tom and sends him back to England to pass on Camelot’s ideals to future generations.

In the closing scene of the first season of the Newsroom, Will is in his office and sees the same young student from the opening scene across the newsroom.  Confronting her, he asks, “What are you of all people doing here?”  Using business school terminology, she says that she has watched Will and decided that she wants to be a “Greater Fool.”4  She wants to be a “foolish” idealistic young apostle, working to accomplish the goal of effectively informing our democratic electorate.  Will then says, “Ask me the damn question again!”  She sheepishly complies and asks again, “What makes America the greatest country on earth?”  to which Will replies, “You do.”

From coast to coast, our profession is filled with patriotic, idealistic, big-hearted “Greater Fools” and “Public Citizens.”  In fact, America was built on the work of lawyer leaders who were “Greater Fools” and “Public Citizens.”  We need many more of them to join us in this struggle for equal access to justice.  Don Quixote and King Arthur beckon us to the challenge and purposeful leadership in our profession demands it.

Buck Lewis is the Chair of the ABA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee and teaches Lawyers as Leaders at the University of Tennessee College of Law.  This article is based in part on an article first published in the Tennessee Bar Journal, Volume 55, No. 1 (2019)


BYU Law School: Inspiring Leadership Initiative

By D. Gordon Smith, BYU Law School

The Latin word spīro — often translated “to breathe” — is a component part of many modern English words. For example, conspire comes from roots meaning “breathe” and “together”; perspire comes from roots meaning breathe through; expire from breathe out; and aspire from breathe on. But my favorite spīro derivative is the word inspire, which combines roots meaning breathe into. Recounting this etymology, I am reminded of Genesis 2:7, in which God “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life.” In the Latin Vulgate, the word used here is inspirare — God inspired Adam. It is not hard to see how inspire has come to mean, “To infuse some thought or feeling into (a person, etc.), as if by breathing.” (OED) At BYU Law School, we recently launched the Inspiring Leadership Initiative in the hope of infusing our students with a simple but profound idea: we can change the world for the better.

Inspiring leadership demands excellence, and we aspire to be a great law school in the same way that other law schools are great: as a source of great ideas and a training ground for great professionals. While leadership traditionally has been viewed as a natural outgrowth of legal education, we are making leadership training explicit with a suite of innovative reforms based on the belief that leaders are not best understood as heroic individuals guiding a group of followers, but rather as a community of people, each with distinctive strengths and each contributing to the success of the community’s shared mission. Thus, we promote the theme “Excellence Together,” because in our best moments at BYU Law, we learn and serve as a community.

We begin leadership training during orientation for entering law students, with a half day of interactive work on the “outward mindset” by a professional leadership trainer from the Arbinger Institute. Many new law students are focused intensely on personal objectives, and it’s easy for them to view others as vehicles to achieve those objectives, as obstacles to such achievement, or as irrelevancies that can be ignored. The purpose of our orientation training is to help our students see others as people with their own needs, challenges, and objectives. In short, with an outward mindset, our students see others as people who matter like they matter. We believe this training can change the experience of law school from isolating to supporting. 

After the first year, the Inspiring Leadership Initiative is particularly evident in our clinics and field placements, where students turn outward to serve vulnerable populations affected by the legal system. For example, in the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Clinic, our professors and students create conflict resolution systems in contentious environments. In our Legal Design Clinic (aka LawX), we design legal technology solutions to improve access to justice. And in the Refugee and Immigration Initiative and the Community Law Clinic, professors work with students and alumni to represent immigrants. 

We also strive to teach our students the importance of innovation. Managers make the trains run on time, but leaders change the world for the better. Thus, in addition to the courses and clinics already mentioned, BYU Law has created several new programs to promote innovative action. Pro Bono Boot Camps facilitate service in areas such as domestic violence, housing discrimination, debt collection, and elder abuse. BYU LawStories includes a series of storytelling training sessions and a national storytelling event featuring law students. The Leadership Incubator helps students develop legal innovations for real-world implementation. And the Council of Inspiring Leaders is a donor group that supports the Annual Leadership Conference, the Leadership Study Tour, and Law and Leadership Fellowships for our students. 

Many of the components of the Inspiring Leadership Initiative are aimed at applied leadership training, but we believe that an important aspect of this Initiative is the creation of new scholarship relating to law and leadership. We hope that the Law and Leadership Colloquium, launched earlier this year, will inspire original scholarship on law and leadership from faculty and students of the Law School.

Leadership is a crucial factor in creating successful and sustainable institutions, and lawyers are expected to lead. Law students are graduating into an increasingly complex and unpredictable world, and the purpose of the Inspiring Leadership Initiative is to equip them with insights and that will inform their work and their lives after law school. We hope to challenge students to think critically about leadership and to develop their own ideas about ethical leadership as members of the legal profession.


Student Panel Highlights – Institute for Professional Leadership

Students’ Perspectives

Below is a collection of discussion points, responses, and ideas from the Roundtable Discussion: Student and Recent Graduate Perspective on Leadership Development Needs at the leadership conference at the University of Tennessee.

• Christopher Davis, Tennessee ‘19

• Taylor Flake, Tennessee ‘20
• Marisa Martinson, Santa Clara Law ‘19
• Darra Lanigan, Santa Clara Law ‘20
• Sloan Lynch-Davis, Tennessee ‘18
• Jessica Nguyen, Cincinnati ‘19
• Willie Santana, Tennessee ‘14

At the heart of the leadership efforts among law schools is the present investment in the next generation of lawyers.  In few professions is this task more important.  Statistically speaking, lawyers represent a unique class of citizens who comprise a significant number of positions of authority from community leadership efforts to federal service. 

Understanding the effectiveness of these early efforts is most-beneficial through the eyes of those who have experienced the first decade of a deliberate effort to address leadership in the legal profession.  In April, the University of Tennessee College of Law hosted a Leadership Roundtable with the theme “Leadership Development for Lawyers: Increasing our Impact.”  This annual effort spearheaded by a cohort of innovative senior law school professors and administrators are forging a path forward for the profession and its future leaders.  One of the week’s panels focused around current students and recent graduates with experience in the efforts. 

The primary question the panel tackled was to explain what each believed was the most influential thing each learned while in law school or what prepared each best for legal practice?  A collection of those answers can be found below:

1.  Leadership should be taught early.

(Darra Lanigan) Leadership development should be taught early and often. No one has to invite you to the table you can chose to forge your own path.

2.  Leadership is about People. 

(Taylor Flake)  The most influential thing that I have learned and am still learning in law school is how to deal with people. The practice of law is made up of a group of people (lawyers) who went through a rigorous process to learn how to help “people.”  Being immersed in an environment where there are all kinds of personality types, people from all walks of life but minimal effort to train the future lawyers on how to be good people and leaders teaches you how to deal with people.  I like to think you have three options when going through law school. You could (1) be like everyone else, (2) find a way to deal with people in a loving way or (3) completely check out, and not deal with anyone. Option 2 is what is molding me and preparing me for practice.  Learning how to communicate and people with respect, having the resilience to go against the grain are the exact qualities that law schools should add to their curriculum to prepare attorneys for practice. 

Is it more beneficial to hear from peers/students, outside leaders, or a mixture of both?

Absolutely both. It is helpful to hear and discuss with fellow students. We understand each other and it’s great hearing how different people approach leadership. We are all leaders, but we are different types of leaders. It is also helpful to hear from outside leaders and faculty because it shows us how the leadership skills we obtain during law school carries into our careers. They are also able to provide an “outsider’s” perspective on what managers and employers are looking for in young associates.

3.  Leadership Opportunities. 

(Christopher Davis) You only get better at leading, by doing it. “Teddy” Roosevelt: Man in the Arena  

(Sloan Lynch-Davis)  There are leadership roles available to those new to the profession.  I think there is a tendency for many to feel like they are unfit to be leaders until they hit certain milestones or achieve certain titles.  We wait until we graduate, pass the bar, land our first job, get promoted, or make partner.  Not only are there important leadership roles available, but we have a duty as young attorneys to fill them.

4.  Planning is key

(Willie Santana)  In (Blaze & Lewis’) Lawyers and Leaders class, the final assignment is a strategic career plan.  At the time I wrote mine, I never expected that I would really use it. However, I have referred to it every time I was faced with a difficult career question.   Additionally, the whole process of planning and preparation has been instrumental in my practice.  I can’t be the most experienced person in the room at this point, but I can be the most prepared.  It has been incredibly helpful.          


(Sloan Lynch-Davis)   There can be some confusion between what a leadership course offers that is different from a professional development course.  Leadership courses may very well focus on developing some of the same skills as a professional development course, but leadership courses look at those skills from a different angle and for a different purpose.  Leadership courses focus on the student in the context of their peers and the profession.  They focus on how their skills and attributes can be used to be a better lawyer to their clients and to make meaningful contributions to the profession.  Professional development courses focus on the individual and help them succeed, while leadership courses go a step further to show students how to use their accomplishments for good.

Additional Notes

Where do you believe you have been unprepared to handle leadership roles since you began law school?  What might be added to the curriculum to address this concern? 

A lot of students are afraid of speaking up. We are constantly told to be professional but are not told that professionalism does not necessarily mean staying silent and just agreeing with everything our managers say.

(Sloan Lynch-Davis)  One thing I have noticed is that leadership courses and articles often have an internal focus, meaning that they focus on leadership within one’s firm and the bar as a whole.  While leadership in these areas is certainly important, the most important leadership role all attorneys have is often forgotten:  being leaders to our clients.  We are given the unique privilege to know some of our clients most sensitive information.  While we certainly do not serve the same role as mental health professionals, I believe that lawyers need more training in how to help their clients be bigger and better than the problems they face.  Law school is the perfect place to help teach these skills.  Exercises involving active listening, conflict resolution, and effective written communication can help students not just become better leaders overall, but become more effective lawyers for their future clients as well.

What is a leadership course? Versus a Professional Development course?

(Willie Santana) Both are key.  I was a nontraditional student and being able to connect and interact with people at different stages of their career helped me visualize what my own path could look like.  It also helped me break out of the biglaw-is-the-ultimate-goal groupthink that tends to permeate through law schools.

(Sloan Lynch-Davis) Both.  Even more importantly, however, I believe that hearing from a variety of practitioners and students from a wide array of backgrounds is most crucial.  There will always be a certain percentage of law students (and faculty) who unfortunately see leadership curriculum as a waste of the student’s time.  As Deborah Rhode pointed out during closing remarks we have a tendency to forget that we are often “preaching to the choir.”  There is a natural tendency to choose speakers who ascribe to your particular brand of leadership.  Bringing in a diverse set of speakers 1) exposes those who already see themselves as leaders to different skills and perspectives and 2) increases the likelihood the curriculum will resonate better with students who may struggle with the concept of leadership.

Are written assignments helpful?

(Willie Santana) ABSOLUTELY.   The writing assignments absolutely helped me better process what I was learning from the speakers.  The process of reflection upon their stories, synthesizing the concepts and then visualizing how they may be applicable to my own goals and aspirations was very instructive.

(Sloan Lynch-Davis)  Yes.  I think writing assignments force students to take time to reflect and to remember their purpose and passion.  However, I think there is a danger to leaving prompts open-ended too often.  While one or two open-ended prompts give students the opportunity to relate to the material in a way that is most meaningful to them, I think that answers can become repetitive and students aren’t forced to think outside of the box unless prompted otherwise.  When we were discussing different options for the reflection papers for the 1L Lawyering & Professionalism course at UT, we tried to come up with prompts that challenged the students to act on what was covered in class that week. 

(Taylor Flake) Yes!  If I were to be completely transparent, the written assignments were what transformed my thoughts and actions.  Sitting in class, we heard a lot of information.  With the reading the assignments, we read a lot of information.  The written assignments allowed us to synthesize the information and apply it directly to my life.  The more I opened my mind to apply the information absorbed to me personally, the more I began to see my strengths and flaws.  I remember once while writing my assignment just feeling a ton of emotions come over me.  I would not have experienced those feelings, and that transformation, had the writing component not been a part of the course.

How can the administrators and faculty aid student leaders/student organizations?

Providing a safe space for student leaders to come together and discuss their successes, failures, and challenges as a student leader of an organization. This allows students to see that they are not the only ones encountering the issues and allows them to brainstorm innovative ways to overcome certain obstacles. This encourages collaboration and innovation amongst the student leaders and by having a faculty “advisor” there to oversee the discussions, it also provides some “outside” aid. Someone who will not just give answers but help push students towards coming up with the answers on their own – together.

(Willie Santana) Train them as leaders.   Lawyers are leaders.  The truth is that generally, nonlawyers fear or respect lawyers.  When I set out to create H.O.L.A Lakeway and begin its work, I wrote many letters to community organizations, leaders, and other groups.  Those letters were taken more seriously because the initials “J.D.” followed my name.  It’s a fact of life.  As soon as the students are hooded, they will be sought out to sit on boards of directors and to lead other organizations.  Training effective leaders should be as important to a law school as its bar passage rate and post-graduation employment. Your alumni will represent your school as leaders in various roles in the community. That’s not an “if”.  It’s a certainty.  What is not certain is whether they will be successful at leading.  Success is the intersection of opportunity and preparation.  The opportunities will be out there. Will your students be prepared?

(Sloan Lynch-Davis) Simply set a good leadership example.  Be the type of leader to the student that you want to see the student be to others.  That example starts by showing students grace.  Law school is a very pivotal moment for a lot of students where some of their deeply rooted opinions and biases are flushed out.  And, the pressure and stress students are under can often bring out the worst in them.  Faculty and administrators can be there as a neutral sounding board who are there to help students work through these issues and hone in on their leadership skills.

(Taylor Flake) Administrators and Faculty can aid student leaders and student organizations by helping us as students execute our dreams. I fully believe that students, no matter what university they attend, have the ideas that will change the profession and the nation.  I want to personally all faculty, staff and administrators to open the floor for students to dream big, discuss the reality and plan for execution no matter the issue.