Baylor Law’s Leadership Development Program

Each Issue of the Leadership Newsletter will feature an innovative leadership program at a law school.

Leah Teague, Associate Dean and Professor of Law

Stephen Rispoli, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs

Baylor Law’s mission statement expresses an “obligation to develop students who have the character, maturity, skills, and values needed to assume leadership positions.” Leadership development has always been a core component of the education and training of every Baylor Law student. From the emphasis on service during the first day of orientation through our rigorous third-year, six-month, required Practice Court program, Baylor Law faculty strive to develop individuals who will be prepared for the challenges of the legal profession. While leadership training is part of the fabric of Baylor Law, the Leadership Development Program was created to: (1) more intentionally equip our graduates with the leadership skills they will need to be successful in an increasingly-complex and ever-changing environment; and (2) emphasize their obligation to serve and encourage them to seek opportunities to use their legal training in leadership roles across a wide spectrum of organizations within their communities and within the legal profession.

The Leadership Development Program has four major components: (1) an elective Leadership Development course; (2) a variety of leadership development programs offered throughout the year; (3) a student organization call Leadership and Engagement Development (LEAD) Counsel; and (4) a Leadership Fellow designation at graduation for a select few students who complete the requirements listed in section 4 below.

Elective Leadership Development Course

Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) course is a two-credit hour course created to better prepare students for the professional challenges they will face in the practice of law and the leadership opportunities they will encounter as they actively engage in their communities. Topics include leadership styles and strategies, personality assessments, public service and professional responsibilities, leadership opportunities for lawyers, working in teams, and leadership in law firms. Students complete several self-assessment and formation tools to address their strengths and weaknesses. Through introspective tools and other team-building exercises students address leadership challenges, ethical quandaries, and tactical decision-making techniques. Using case studies, students discuss leadership lessons learned by experienced leaders through challenging circumstances.The primary book used is Deborah Rhode’s Lawyers as Leaders. It is well written and covers leadership from a lawyer’s perspective. We supplement this reading with recent news articles, journal articles, lawyer organization articles, and experiential exercises. Although not written for a lawyer audience, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, written by Clay Scroggins, is referenced throughout the course as an optional book. The practical tips and common scenarios discussed in this book are appealing to young professionals struggling to figure out how they can be leaders. Both books include thought-provoking discussions and reinforce the premise that leadership is a frame of mind and not a position.

The course is pass/fail with an emphasis on active and experiential learning, writing, feedback and reflection. Each student writes a review of a leadership book and presents their plan for implementing one or more of the ideas in their own leadership journey. After each class, students respond in their journals to assigned prompts, which are based upon class materials or discussions. The journals are kept online in Box files created for each student, which also allows us access. By reading their entries as the term proceeds, we are able to monitor their progress and adapt our coverage and discussions based upon their reflections on the exercises, activities, guest lectures and assignments. Here are a few examples of journal entries from the class:

  • Whenever we started the class, I found myself always wondering in what context I would apply all of the leadership principles we were learning. However, I have realized that I can apply the lessons that we have learned in my future job, as my personal life, and in the future leadership roles I will hold even though I’m not sure what they will be. I think once I quit focusing on which capacity I could apply these leadership principles in it help me just listen and learn the principles themselves, and hear how other successful people implemented them in their own lives. I do think self-awareness of my own leadership style is important but more importantly I think that I have become more aware of how others operate.
  • After taking time to think about this, I kept coming back to the thought that leadership is a much deeper and wider topic than I ever suspected or realized. There are so many facets to learning about leadership and I feel like our class is only scratching the surface (of course, which is its intent). Another thought I kept coming back to is the idea that we all have different natural leadership styles and we can work to develop the styles that don’t necessarily come as naturally to us as well as refine the styles that are more natural. I guess before this class and before really looking at leadership as a topic to study, I just presumed that we did not have the power to change that, but I’m glad I have now learned otherwise.
  • I want to be more intentional about encouraging people in my life. I need to work on get out of my own head, and taking the time to connect with other students more. Additionally, I tend to be very hard on myself. I need to encourage myself more. I think a way to do this is to take time reflecting on things I did well on a particular day. The challenge course taught me that I need to live life with intention. Whatever it is that I am doing, I need to know what I am trying to achieve. As [one speaker] said, “do you know your job? Are you sure?” I want to be more intentional about defining what it is exactly that I need to do and how I will do it. By breaking tasks down to more manageable pieces will make those bigger, long-term goals more achievable.

    I honestly think this class helped remind me of who I am/ who I want to be. It helped me to regain some confidence in my identity. Helped me recognize some of my personal strengths and given me tools on how to improve other aspects of my life.
  • I think this class has helped me learn about different ways I can make a difference. This school discusses a lot about service. I have always viewed service leadership as doing “hands-on” activities with those in need. We have met a lot of different speaks and learned a lot more about both of you. I think the numerous lessons in this class have helped me truly learn what it means to be a part of service leadership.

    I think this class provided us with a more in-depth look at HOW leaders effectuate their leadership. We always hear about so many leaders who talk about what an effective leader is: selfless, caring, affiliative, etc. There are very few classes, courses, or lectures, that focus on HOW be a leader. We discuss that extensively in this class!

The LEAD class has been an incredible experience for both of us. Not only have we learned more about our students (even the ones we thought we knew well!), but we have also learned a great deal about ourselves. It is wonderful to watch our students grow during the process, and we love hearing stories after they graduate. For anyone that would like to see the syllabus, you can access it here: https://baylor.box.com/s/fmhp5dj7ibubcp1tlq8mq4jmalrqcfya.

Leadership Development Sessions of the Professional Development Program

Leadership development programming is a regular component of Baylor Law’s first-of-its-kind, required Professional Development Program. Throughout their three academic years at Baylor Law, students must attend 18 hours of professional development programming that is designed to build the requisite skills to succeed in practice, while helping students understand and embrace the professional responsibilities that accompany it. The Leadership Development Program co-hosts at least one of the programs offered each academic term. Speakers for the leadership development programs are invited to address a variety of topics that help students identify their strengths, explore their interests, develop their career plan and connect with leaders. Speakers address professional competencies that enable students to step into complex situations, confidently assess the issues, think pragmatically, work creatively, operate collaboratively and deliver solutions. Students are exposed to leadership opportunities in a focused, intentional way which often produces “light-bulb moments.” By attending these sessions, students discover additional ways to use one’s legal skills and position of influence to impact lives, lead change and add significance to efforts.

LEAD Counsel Student Organization

Leadership, Engagement, and Development (LEAD) Counsel is a Baylor Law student organization organized to further the purposes of the Leadership Development Program. The LEAD Counsel mission is to equip and inspire law students to serve in the public arena, whether that be as officeholders, lobbyists, or leaders in the non-profit sector. Each year LEAD Counsel organizes an annual conference, call Making a Difference (MAD) Conference, for the purpose of engaging and inspiring law students and members of the legal profession to get involved in public life. Invited speakers are lawyers who serve and lead within their communities. Here are links to the first two MAD conferences: 2017 Inaugural Making a Difference Conference ; 2018 Passion for Justice. An annual service effort organized in partnership with local civic leaders give Baylor Law students the opportunity to make a difference while in law school. LEAD Counsel also organizes other events such as a Seminar on Combating Human Trafficking.

Designation as Leadership Fellow

Many students enter law school with the desire to pursue leadership opportunities. We created a Leadership Fellowship designation to acknowledge the dedication of those few who are intentional during law school in seeking opportunities to become better equipped for those leadership opportunities. At graduation, these students are recognized for their commitment to using their law degree to serve not only their clients but also their communities to make a meaningful difference in society. Successful completion of the following requirements leads to a certificate and recognition at graduation as a Leadership Fellow.

  1. Take the two-hour Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) class. With a maximum enrollment of twenty, priority is given to students participating in the Development Program;
  2. Complete a personal development and team-building course, such as a Ropes Challenge Course which is currently required as part of the LEAD courses;
  3. Complete twenty-three hours of Professional Development programming (instead of the 18 hours required of all Baylor Law students) with at least five hours designated as Leadership Development programming;
  4. Serve as an officer of a Baylor Law student organization for a minimum of three quarters. While serving as an officer, the student must perform a minimum of 25 hours of service related to the activities of the organization;
  5. Complete 25 hours of community service; and
  6. Serve as an intern for a charitable or community organization’s director or management team, working a minimum of 45 hours. Alternatively, a student can work as an extern for a legislator (either state or federal level) for a minimum of 45 hours.

Through the Leadership Development Program, we seek to challenge our students to care about the well-being of those around them, to provide opportunities for our students to hone their professional competencies and to engage in a process of self-discovery and growth, and to encourage our students to pursue opportunities to serve the legal profession and their communities. By doing so, our desire is that we create servant leaders in all Baylor Lawyers.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact us: Leah_Teague@Baylor.edu or Stephen_Rispoli@Baylor.edu.