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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)

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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.

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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.

Moderator:
• Christopher Davis, Tennessee ‘19

Panelists:
• 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.          


Conclusion

(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.

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A Message From the Chair – 2019

What a great inaugural section program in New Orleans!

Many thanks to our inspiring and thought-provoking speakers and to Deborah Rhode for assembling such a stellar panel.
(Bob Post, Susan Sturm, and
Kellye Y. Testy’s follow-up comments from the program are available on this website).

Our section program had one of the highest attendance – quite a feat for our first official program!

I encourage you to watch the recording on the AALS website or read summaries in this newsletter from our panelists.


In our second year, the Executive Committee looks forward to working with you to continue the momentum and garner more interest in, and understanding of the importance of, our effort. We will need to continue to address questions about the structure and content of leadership development in law schools. I submit that providing a common definition of leadership is less important than establishing a universal recognition that lawyers do, and must continue to, play leadership roles in society. As law professors and administrators, we are the educators, trainers, and mentors of the future generations of lawyers who will play important roles in their communities. Surely, we have an obligation to prepare our students not only for their professional obligations but also the myriad opportunities to serve and to lead that will come their way.

Through our experience in creating a leadership program and course at Baylor Law, we see three important benefits to our students when law schools are more intentional in providing leadership development for our students:

  1. Ensure our students understand their obligation to serve, protect and give back to society, but also to inspire them to seek opportunities to use their legal training and skills to positively impact their communities as well as their clients.
  2. Expose our students to specific leadership language, theory, and skills necessary or helpful to be more effective in those roles;    
  3. Guide students through a self-assessment and discovery of their own leadership characteristics and traits and provide appropriate training so that they are better equipped for impact and success when those opportunities are presented. This will likely result in more personal satisfaction and better well-being throughout the students’ careers. 

Through intentional leadership development programming, students will be better equipped to adapt to changing conditions in an ever increasingly complex society, to add value for their clients and to make a difference in the lives of their clients and their communities.

We need to help law schools see the benefits to us as well. Highlighting leadership skills gained from legal training will enable applicants see that law school continues to be a great investment in their future as they seek a path of significance and fulfillment through helping people and effectuating a better future for organizations, communities, and societies.

Thank you for your energy and your work. What we are doing is important. Our efforts matter. We can make a difference in the personal and professional lives of our students. We can impact the future of our profession, our nation and beyond.

We are proud to announce that more than 50 law schools now have some type of leadership programming and/or courses. And more are coming! Schools with leadership programs generally offer non-credit workshops, seminars, and other leadership activities. Other law schools likely have or had leadership workshops or forums. If you have a new program or class, please add it to our list by filling out a short survey,here.

Our plans for 2019 are to:

  1. Build awareness of our work and its importance and relevance;
  2. Build membership in the section;
  3. Support efforts to create programming and classes;
  4. Support efforts for scholarship and other avenues for sharing of knowledge and ideas; and
  5. Plan programming for the 2020 AALS Annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

I hope to see you in Knoxville at the roundtable hosted by Doug Blaze and the University of Tennessee School of Law on April 4 and 5! (Register Today!)

All the best,

Leah

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Attend Leadership Development for Lawyers – AALS

I want to encourage members of the section to participate in the round-table, Leadership Development for Lawyers: Increasing our Impact, April 4-5, 2019, at the University of Tennessee.

Leaders today face challenges of incredible breadth and complexity, and the problems we face as a society can only be solved by trained and committed leaders. The University of Tennessee College of Law and the AALS Section on Leadership will host an event geared specifically toward those interested in helping law students and lawyers develop leadership skills they need to be successful.

Round-table discussions will provide an opportunity for those involved in legal leadership education to share ideas and experiences, assess our efforts, and plan for the future. In addition there will be workshops on topics like starting a new leadership course or program, integrating well-being into legal leadership curricula, and how to develop effective leadership development exercises. Registration and lodging information is available here.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the event. I look forward to hosting you at the University of Tennessee.

Sincerely,

Doug Blaze
Dean Emeritus, Professor and Director of the Institute for Professional Leadership
University of Tennessee College of Law

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Leadership Program Spotlight: Frohnmayer Leadership Program, University of Oregon School of Law

For our second Leadership Program Spotlight, we present The Frohnmayer Leadership Program at the University of Oregon School of Law. 

The Frohnmayer Leadership Program is named after Dave Frohnmayer, who served as both President of the University of Oregon and Dean of the Law School.  A leadership gift also allowed the School of Law to establish the Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law, with Dean Marcilynn Burke serving as the first person to receive this honor.   The Program provides students with multiple opportunities to engage with leadership concepts and theories, including a Leadership Practices course, the Dave Frohnmayer Leadership Lecture, and other training sessions.  A Leadership in Practice Certificate of Completion is granted to students upon the achievement of a set number of leadership development training hours, with the number of hours based on whether the student is in the J.D., LL.M or Master’s in Conflict Dispute Resolution program.

The Leadership Practices for Professional Success course is currently taught by Jennifer Espinola, Law School Dean of Students and Director of the Frohnmayer Leadership Program.  Leadership Practices is a one credit, pass/no pass course and was most recently offered during the J-term prior to the Spring 2019 semester.  According to Dean Espinola, the course addresses several topics: emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, values-based leadership, team development, and change management.  This year’s readings included “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Institute, and “The Truth About Leadership” by Kouzes and Posner.  The course is capped at 20.  The course was originally developed and taught by Dave Frohnmayer himself, before he passed away in 2015.  Dean Espinola has been teaching it ever since.

Dean Espinola and Chris Esparza, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Leadership Development, co-advise nine Frohnmayer Fellows in the program.  The Fellows work with the advisors to offer a robust menu of offerings for students pursuing the certificate of completion for the Frohnmayer Leadership Program (FLP).  Programs include:

  • A monthly “Leader Ledger” newsletter covering various topics such as self-care, inclusive leadership, imposter syndrome, EQ, self-actualization, etc.
  • A semesterly leadership retreat.  This one-day experience allows students to take a deeper dive with notable national leadership educators such as Dr. Tanya Williams who presented the LeaderShape program “Resilience” to Oregon Law students in Fall 2018.
  • Monthly “Leader Lunches” – these workshops are presented by campus educators, alumni, and other professionals on different leadership topics.
  • “Read to Lead” sessions – participating students are assigned a leadership reading and then they attend a dinner co-hosted by a law school Dean or faculty member with a prominent alumnus or alumna in order to discuss the reading.
  • Leadership Coach – each student pursuing the certificate of completion is assigned to a respected leader in the profession for two separate coaching sessions to discuss the coach’s leadership experience and the topics the student is learning throughout the program.

For more information on the Frohnmayer Leadership Program, see the following link:  https://law.uoregon.edu/explore/frohnmayer-leadership-program.

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Leadership in Law Schools

Bob Post, Yale Law School

In everyday language, we speak of leadership in two distinct ways. On the one hand, we endow leadership with substantive vision. We praise as a “leader” the person who gets it right, who knows the right move to make in the right circumstances so as to accomplish the right ends. On the other hand, we characterize leaders as those who possess the technique of persuading others to follow their direction.

I have in mind now leadership in the first sense. I am worried about what leaders in legal education ought to do when the mission of law schools has been rendered questionable. How ought law professors respond when our Chief Justice answers President Trump’s critique of the ruling of an “Obama” judge by claiming that we do not have Republican judges, or Democratic judges, but merely judges who are doing their best fairly to apply the rule of law? Every one of us wants to support Roberts’ objection, but who believes that what Roberts says is actually true? And most fear what the federal judiciary will do as an ever-increasing percentage of its membership is appointed by President Trump. How do we lead when we don’t know what to affirm?

My dear colleague Sam Moyn recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education an article entitled Law Schools are Bad for Democracy: They Whitewash the grubby scramble for Power. Moyn argues that although law schools ought to “incarnate ideals of political and social justice,” they actually function “mainly to reproduce social hierarchy.” Moyn condemns even law school clinics, which are so proud of their contributions to justice, but which are perforce required to litigate within the limits of a Trump inflected judiciary, and so must practice a “politics of marginal legal reform by insiders to the system” and so to “launder[] and legitimate[] injustice.” “For the sake of our national life,” Moyn pleads, “law schools must take up the duty of inculcating in their students and in the public a critical attitude toward the operations of ‘the rule of law’ in general—including a critical attitude toward the routine exaltation of the judiciary.” They must encourage the “disgust” felt by “so many of our fellow citizens” at “what ‘the rule of law’ is providing them.” Law schools must “demystify the law as a first step to reinvigorating democratic life.”

If all that Moyn means is that law schools should adopt a critical attitude toward current legal decisions and judicial holdings, then he is merely preaching to the choir. Law schools have been adopting that critical pose since the progressive era. But I suspect that Moyn means something deeper, which is that law schools must reject the rule of law itself. They must destroy the illusion that law exists apart from political power. Moyn thus advocates a variant of Trump’s perspective, which in turn chimes with familiar CLS critiques from decades ago. Foreseeing the dark times that lie before us, Moyn seems to say that law schools should teach that legality is the opiate of the people.

How should leaders in legal education respond to Moyn’s critique? I suggest we begin with the thought that law has both positive and normative dimensions. We are free critically to assert what the rule of law should normatively entail. But so long as the rule of law is positively embodied in state organizations like courts, its meaning is irretrievably linked to the actions of what Robert Cover once characterized as violent institutions.

I suggest that leaders in legal education will now be required sharply to distinguish positive from normative dimensions of the rule of law. Moyn intimates that in present circumstances normative commitments to the rule of law will merely distract from essential political action. But I regard this position as self-contradictory.  This is because political action in modernity always aims at the creation of institutions, and institutions must function according to the rule of law if they are to act fairly and effectively.

The challenge to law school leadership is therefore how to maintain a normative commitment to the rule of law when we can foresee that this commitment will everywhere be betrayed by the actions of the very positive legal institutions charged with implementing the rule of law.  This is not just a challenge for deans, but for all of us who seek in our teaching to inculcate respect for normative ideals of the rule of law.

But I do not know whether this ancient orientation is adequate to the crisis that will soon be upon us. In so many ways, the era of Trump pushes us toward a moral singularity.

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Lawyer Leadership: Embracing the Paradoxes

Susan Sturm, Columbia Law School

From the moment I entered law school, and through four decades as a lawyer then a law professor, I have experienced lawyering as a bundle of contradictions. Crossing the threshold into the legal world in the late 1970s, I found that my dream of paving the way for a new era of social justice ran headlong into the wall of austere tradition. This tension between purpose and precedent replayed daily in the classroom during my law school years.  I often found myself frustrated and infuriated by case law and Socratic dialogue, which instructed that “thinking like a lawyer” meant looking backward rather than forward, following authority rather than pursuing innovation, and promoting predictability rather than solving problems. Nonetheless, I absorbed the message that, as lawyers, we would be expected to find solutions for the world’s most intractable problems. Alongside its constraining energy, my relationship with the law would put me in positions requiring that I “think outside of the box.”

In practice, I continued to grapple with these contradictions. Legal reasoning and adversary process proved simultaneously necessary and limiting, just as collaboration and problem solving got me only so far. As a litigator, I was continually buffeted by the need to fight while cooperating—as part of conducting discovery, orchestrating a trial, or settling a case. As an assistant to a master in a prison case, I witnessed the court’s power to force prison officials to pay attention to inhumane and abusive conditions that they had tolerated without consequence until the court intervened. Yet, the court could not induce the cooperation and commitment necessary for sustainable change; the force of law that put prison reform in the spotlight also triggered backlash and resistance that undercut its power.1

Now, as a law professor, I experience these contradictions daily as I teach Civil Procedure alongside a new course called Lawyer Leadership: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Change. Both courses aim to equip students with capacities fundamental to lawyers’ roles in enabling constructive human interaction. Yet, on their face, they seem to require opposing capacities, and to cultivate competing mindsets. I have witnessed this disconnect firsthand during an exercise we conduct on the first day of class in Lawyer Leadership. We divide students into small groups and ask each group to list the qualities or descriptors that came to mind when they thought of the word “lawyer.” We then ask them to do the same with the word “leadership.” When we come back together, we ask students what they noticed about the “Lawyer-Leadership” lists generated by each group. Students typically describe lawyers as “competitive,” “aggressive,” “critical,” “adversarial,” “hard-working,” and “risk-averse.” In contrast, the column for leaders contains descriptors such as “creative,” “entrepreneurial,” “visionary,” “inspiring,” and “collaborative.” It doesn’t take long for an observant student to notice that there is virtually no overlap in their “lawyer” and “leader” descriptors.

I have come to realize that lawyers’ capacity for impact depends upon making sense of, and being able to pursue simultaneously, these oppositional aspects of lawyering and leadership. These core roles and practices simultaneously contradict and depend on each other for the legitimacy and effectiveness of both. Lawyers play a key role of designing human interaction so that diverse people can peacefully and effectively govern themselves. They bear responsibility for helping individuals, organizations, and governments structure their affairs so they can live and work together, even when they disagree. They are called upon to be problem solvers and facilitators of human interaction. When these relationships break down, however, law—through lawyers—enforces rules and enables people to fight without resorting to violence, using adversarial tools to allocate responsibility, impose judgment, and enforce rules. Effective lawyers must both fight and collaborate, judge and build trust, debate and design new institutions, minimize risk and enable effective risk taking, advance clients’ values and hold clients accountable for adhering to societal values.

The prevailing strategy for promoting the practices falling under the umbrella of leadership alongside lawyering could be called “add and stir.” Much of the literature either explicitly or implicitly assumes that, with adequate commitment, leadership learning can be added into the law school curriculum as supplements or complementary competencies. A case in point is a report issued by Ben Heineman, William Lee, and David Wilkins, in which the co- authors urge that lawyers “be equipped with a broad range of ‘complementary competencies’ that supplement and expand the ‘core’ competencies of legal reasoning and analysis that have been traditionally taught in law school and emphasized in legal practice.”2

The complementarity argument goes something like this: The current law school curriculum (and the accompanying pedagogy) emphasizing the development of legal analytical skills remains valid, and should remain at the center of the law school curriculum and pedagogy. It is, however, too narrow. It does not adequately equip students to navigate the leadership challenges they will face in their multiple roles, to take up the leadership that society calls upon lawyers to exercise, and to do so at a time of increasing volatility, complexity, and urgency.

Leadership learning can be added to the prevailing pedagogy to meet these needs because the skills associated with learning leadership are compatible with, or at least not opposed to, those involved in learning how to “think like a lawyer” in the traditional sense of what that means. Leadership learning thus can and should simply be added onto learning to operate in lawyers’ more conventional adversarial roles.

I share many of the assumptions underlying this complementarity strategy. Legal analysis is a core legal competency that must remain a pillar of the law school curriculum. The importance of finding a way for law schools to pursue both prongs of lawyer leadership, a move that Robert Cullen calls conjunctive, seems beyond serious dispute.3 I also share the assumption, both stated and unstated, that successful incorporation of leadership into the law school curriculum must take account of the norms, values, and commitments that lie at the heart of traditional legal education.

Nonetheless, the simple strategy of complementarity will not, in my view, work. It sidesteps fundamental ways that legal education geared toward cultivating conventional legal skills necessarily operates in tension with—and sometimes in opposition to—the kind of learning that must take place to cultivate leadership. The capacities and mindset celebrated in the Socratic classroom—judgment, critique, risk minimization, reasoning from precedent—take on the character in the leadership literature of limitations to be overcome or minimized. The tendency to downplay these tensions and contradictions, though not surprising, underappreciates both the necessity and opportunity presented by facing up to them. Unless these tensions are addressed, features of legal education operating within the conventional paradigm are likely to marginalize and undercut the efforts to build leadership capacities.

I come to believe that the concept of paradox holds a key to navigating these contradictory yet linked aspects of lawyer leadership. A paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.4 A growing body of organizational and change literature offers insights into both how paradoxes operate and how they can operate virtuously rather than as a vicious cycle. By definition, paradoxes cannot be resolved or eliminated; their self-referential and cycling quality is what makes them a paradox.

In key respects, the contradictory yet interdependent elements of law and leadership are built into law’s structure, role, and practice. At the level of structure, formal and informal constitutions (such as contracts) set up law both to provide structures and processes enabling people to interact, cooperate, and make decisions, on the one hand, and to enable people to fight without violence and to abide by decisions that will be backed by force, on the other. Lawyers sit at the cusp of these paradoxical functions.5

These tensions also inhere at the level of role. Lawyers are called upon to build, design, enable cooperation and collaboration, “constitute” governments, contracts, relationships, and transactions (in the constitution, in deals, in house, and in alternative dispute resolution). They must simultaneously be ready to fight on behalf of clients, to be the stewards of the adversary process, and to discipline the exercise of the violence of the state. These roles are in tension. They are also interdependent. Lawyers cannot conduct a trial without both cooperating and fighting. They cannot steward an effective deal without both minimizing and facilitating risk taking.

Finally, the practices required for lawyer leadership are themselves paradoxical. Conventional lawyering and leadership will sometimes require competing mindsets, skills, and practices. Lawyers have to judge while they also listen, enable, and empathize. They have to create the conditions for growth and learning, even as they set up the processes to locate or cabin legal responsibility. They have to be in a creative mindset even as they facilitate compliance and reactive risk avoidance.

The tensions that manifest in the relationship between conventional lawyering and leadership lie at the heart of what makes lawyers distinctive, necessary, and potentially effective in leadership roles. The most successful and impactful lawyers live in these tensions. The role of law and lawyers fundamentally involves the capacity to combine these contradictory modes of thinking, acting, and interacting. This capacity to hold paradox may be what equips lawyers to exercise truly effective leadership. When lawyers without this capacity occupy leadership roles, that deficit may help us understand the spectacular failures that unfold when they get stuck on one side or the other of the paradox. The challenge facing law schools is to figure out how to build that tension—and the capacity to manage it—into their practices and cultures.

This Essay argues for naming the tensions between lawyering and leadership, reframing them as paradoxes, embracing those paradoxes as challenging but necessary, and engaging law schools and the legal profession in building capacity to navigate these contradictory yet interdependent situations. Section I lays out the conceptions of lawyering and leadership that conflict, and providing some background on the meaning of paradox. Section II explores the aspects of legality that operate in tension with leadership, and what makes those tensions paradoxical. I identify six paradoxes of lawyer leadership—dualities that contradict one another, give rise to, and affect how lawyers will experience leadership learning: (1) reasoning paradoxes, (2) discourse paradoxes, (3) relationship paradoxes, (4) motivation paradoxes, (5) mindset paradoxes, and (6) justice paradoxes. Section III shows the limitations of prevailing strategies for reconciling the contradictions between legality and leadership. Finally, drawing on action research and the literature of paradox and organizational change, Section IV offers a framework for taking a paradoxical approach to lawyer leadership, one that differentiates between problems that can be solved and paradoxes that must be embraced. This approach offers three overarching strategies for enabling law students, law schools, and legal organizations to hold contradictory messages and mindsets, and for using this paradoxical approach to strengthen and deepen leadership capacity in lawyers and the capacity to build leadership across-the-board.

FOOTNOTES:

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Advancing Leadership Education in Law

Something Old, Something New;
Something Borrowed, Something (Red and) Blue

By Kellye Y. Testy 1

Lawyers are leaders.  What’s new about that?  Not much.  Lawyers have always served as leaders in many different forms and ways.  Those include formal business leadership (e.g., President, Chairman), service (e.g., Mayor, Governor, Reverend), and leadership that arises not from title or position but from persuasion, whether moral, ethical, political, or intellectual. Despite the pervasiveness of leadership roles and expectations for lawyers, legal education did not – at least on the surface – purport to include leadership development as an area of its curriculum until relatively recently.  Indeed, only a decade ago when I asked my faculty to consider adding leadership education as a strong theme of our curriculum, the most common response was “that’s for the business school.”

Today, however – and fortunately in my view — legal education is taking leadership education seriously.  Not only are there many examples of outstanding law and leadership programs in our nation’s law schools, but that groundswell has enabled the formation of this new AALS Section on Law and Leadership.  It was an honor to participate in its first program at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting, and I’m pleased to share here a summary and some additional thoughts on the topic.  To keep it short for this column, I’m organizing my points into something “old,” something “new,” something “borrowed,” and – bear with me – something “red and blue.”

Something “old”

As noted above, it is not a new insight that lawyers serve as leaders in many capacities, both formal and informal.  As legal education increasingly embraces leadership skills as ones that can and should be taught as part of the law school curriculum, it is important to recognize that many elements of leadership education have always been part of legal education, even though they may not have been explicitly called out as such.  Combining the “old” with the “new” can help us be more efficient in delivering maximum value to our students by not unnecessarily repeating something under a new name that is already being covered.  Thus, for instance, law schools already do a good job in several key areas of focus for leadership education, including honing “difficult conversation” skills, nurturing the ability to lean into ambiguity, inspiring reflection on values and ethics, and cultivating the ability to “see around corners.”  Understanding these as leadership skills makes it easy to see why law-educated individuals are often so successful as leaders.  Imagine how much more we can add to our students’ leadership capacities by building on this solid platform with intentionality.

Something “new”

While we are not starting from scratch in developing leadership education in law, there is a great deal that we still need to add.  Legal education has always been more about the “head” than the “heart,” and leadership education at its best blends both.  That is not to say that there are not currently elements of legal education that engage the whole person (kudos to our nation’s clinical programs!), but that has not been the norm to date.  In my view, the high levels of depression and other emotional struggles in the legal profession are symptoms of this disconnect.  Likewise, just as legal education has not nurtured care for own hearts, it has not nurtured care for others’ hearts either.  Effective leadership requires engaging with others emotionally as well as cognitively.  Leaders are often called upon to manage changes in which the largest obstacles are emotions of loss and fear. Change management is growing as an important area of focus for the legal profession, and thus an important dimension of legal education.  As many forces continue to reshape legal services and legal education, and challenges to the rule of law proliferate both at home and abroad, the capacity for leadership in our profession and in our world has never been more important. 

Something “borrowed”

The something borrowed example picks up on my former faculty’s early resistance to teaching leadership in the law school – business schools have been doing this for a long time.  In my view, that is no reason for us not to do it; after all, why should we prepare our business titans to be leaders but not our legal titans?  But it does mean that we need not start from scratch.  In business, as well as in leading schools of public policy, there are many outstanding examples of teaching and scholarly resources on leadership.  That does not mean that we need to rely on every new trade book promising the next great secret to effective leadership.  But just because a business book is more mainstream doesn’t mean that it should be dismissed as a potentially helpful resource for leadership education in law.  Business academics have far outpaced legal academics in moving their ideas into the mainstream (consider the visibility and impact of the Harvard Business Review vis-à-vis the Harvard Law Review).  I will save for another day some of my own favorites in the field, but why not walk over to your business school to collaborate with and borrow from the faculty there who teach leadership?

Something (Red and) Blue

As legal educators, our job is to nurture the leaders who will advance the rule of law and build the future of justice.  What surprises me most in hearing objections to teaching leadership as part of legal education is that it is a partisan initiative — both directions!  Some objections are that a focus on leadership might be seen as “too corporate” or “too militaristic” and thus off-putting to law students who see themselves as champions for justice.  Further, that because structural inequities mean that women, women and men of color, and others are often excluded from leadership roles, a focus on leadership might reinforce these existing inequities.  A focus on leadership education might tilt legal education more to the right than those who hold these views are comfortable with.  Others object from the opposite standpoint; for instance, that adding leadership to legal education is another example of “diluting” the curriculum with “soft” skills that undermine legal education’s rigor and tilt it “left.”

Leadership, for good and for ill, does not have a political party.  What is most important in thinking about educating leaders is that we ask “leadership for and toward what?”  If we take the most common definition of leadership as “having influence,” then we know that influence can flow in many directions.  The promise of being more intentional about teaching leadership is that to do so requires that we focus not only on skills but also on values.  Legal education should focus more on the hard questions of what it means to defend and promote the rule of law and what we want the future of justice to be in our world.  Yes, these may bring forth a need for those “difficult conversation” skills, but these are conversations worth inspiring and worth having.  Indeed, without them, we risk a world that Grant Gilmore so famously warned of: “In hell there will be nothing but law and due process will be meticulously observed.”  I know we can build a better world than that, and I believe adding leadership to legal education will help.

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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.”