By Leah Teague, Baylor University School of Law
The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is considering several amendments to the ABA Standard on Legal Education that reinforce the need for, and value of, leadership development. Three important topics that should be taught as part of robust leadership development programs or courses will become mandatory for law schools if adopted by the Council. The proposed amendments are in Standards 303 (professional identity), 303 (bias and cross-cultural competency), and 508 (student well-being).
As I see it, the broader mission of values-based leadership development is three-fold:
- encourage law students and lawyers to embrace their obligation to serve clients and society,
- better equip law students for positions of leadership and influence, and
- inspire law students to boldly seek opportunities to make a difference in their communities and the world.
The proposed amendments to Standards 303 (professional identity), 206 (bias, cross-cultural competency and racism) and 508 (student well-being) align with this mission and are important aspects of a law student’s preparation for professional life after law school. Notably, both of the leadership textbooks for law students address all three of these issues. One, of course, is Deborah Rhode’s Leadership for Lawyers (a third edition has recently been released) and the other is our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership.
Lawyers’ role as leaders in society IS a fundamental part of lawyers’ professional identity. The proposed amendment to ABA Standard 303(b) requires law schools to “provide substantial opportunities to students for:
… (3) the development of a professional identity.”
The proposed Interpretation 303-5 reads:
Professional identity focuses on what it means to be a lawyer and the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society. The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice. Because developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time, students should have frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.
At the core of leadership development efforts is awakening law students to “the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society.” For a visual model of the development of a law student’s professional identity, see the Holloran Center’s Model for How Law School Learning Outcomes Build on Each Other to Foster Student Development. The model presents five groups of competencies in a visual layered progression of law school learning outcomes to help students “grow from being a new entrant to the profession to being an integrated effective lawyer serving others well in meaningful employment.” In Group 5 (complex, compound competencies) is “Leadership and Influence in Organizations and Communities,” For a discussion of these competencies, see Neil Hamilton’s Mentor/Coach: The Most Effective Curriculum to Foster Each Student’s Professional Development and Formation. For a discussion of the role of lawyers as leaders in society, see the Preface and Chapter 2 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership and Chapter 1 of Leadership for Lawyers.
Bias, Cross-cultural Competency and Racism –
New efforts to encourage diversity, inclusion and cultural competency education are included in proposed amendments to Standard 303. Additional amendments to Standard 206 are still under consideration.
Amendment to Standard 303
The Council is also considering an amendment to ABA Standard 303 to add (c):
A law school shall provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism:
(1) at the start of the program of legal education, and
(2) at least once again before graduation.
For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second occasion will take place before, concurrent with, or as part of their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.
The proposed Interpretation 303-6 reads:
With respect to 303(a)(1), the importance of cross-cultural competency to professionally responsible representation and the obligation of lawyers to promote a justice system that provides equal access and eliminates bias, discrimination, and racism in the law should be among the values and responsibilities of the legal profession to which students are introduced.
The proposed Interpretation 303-7 reads:
Standard 303(c) may be satisfied by:
- Orientation sessions for incoming students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism;
- Guest lectures by experts in the areas of bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism;
- Courses on racism and bias in the law; or
- Other educational experiences that educate students in cross-cultural competency.
While law schools need not add a required upper-division course to satisfy this requirement, law schools must demonstrate that all law students are required to participate in a substantial activity designed to reinforce the skill of cultural competency and their obligation as future lawyers to work to eliminate racism in the legal profession.
The proposed Interpretation 303-8 reads:
Standard 303 does not prescribe the form or content of the education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism required by Standard 303(c).
Many find this subject difficult to teach but the importance of the topic cannot be understated which is why coverage of diversity and inclusion have been a mainstay in lawyer-leadership programs from the beginning. Leadership courses and programs have already developed methods for teaching these concepts in a respectful and meaningful manner. For example, Chapter 17 of Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership is titled “Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Intelligence” and combines the coverage of diversity and inclusion with bias and cross-cultural competency. Chapter 8 of Leadership for Lawyers is titled “Diversity in Leadership.” These issues have always been present in Deborah Rhode’s leadership books but the recently released third edition textbook includes additional material on diversity and inclusion, as well as updated exercises, problems, and media resources.
I note that we are adopting a term used by Professor Neil Hamilton. We now refer to this topic as “Diversity and Belonging” which calls us as leaders to seek ways to help each member of our team or group or organization, especially those who have different backgrounds and life experiences, feel valued as a contributing member of the effort.
The amendment to Standard 508 would add (b) to require law schools to provide students with “information on law student well-being resources.” The proposal also calls for the law schools to work to remove the stigma of accessing mental health and well-being supports on campus and within the legal profession.
Proposed Interpretation 508-1 reads:
Law student well-being resources include information or services related to mental health, including substance use disorders. Other law student well-being resources may include information for students in need of critical services such as food pantries or emergency financial assistance. Such resources encompass counseling services provided in-house by the law school, through the university of which the law school is a part, or by a lawyer assistance program. Law schools should strive to mitigate barriers or stigma to accessing such services, whether within the law school or larger professional community.
Proposed Interpretation 508-2 reads:
Reasonable access, at a minimum, involves informing law students and providing guidance regarding relevant information and services, including assistance on where the information and services can be found or accessed.
If approved, attention to student well-being will be added to the law school accreditation standards for the first time. For students to use their legal knowledge, skills and competencies to achieve their goals (i.e. self-actualization), they must learn to care for themselves and tend to issues related to mental and physical health. In Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Chapter 11 (The Importance of Well-Being: Thriving in the Legal Profession) discusses the dimensions of health and shares resources and techniques for long-term practices and habits. In Leadership for Lawyers Chapter 2.D, Rhode discusses the evolution of well-being, the underlying causes of stress in the legal profession, and suggestions for positive strategies.
With every conversation with leaders in our profession, the importance of our efforts and need for leadership development in law schools is confirmed! Thank you for your efforts and keep up the good work!