Training Law Students to be Leaders

Indisputably

I recently talked with Nancy Rogers, one of the pioneers in our field, who is living her version of what I have called “unbundled retirement.”

Nancy described Ohio State’s Program on Law and Leadership, which she directs along with program coordinator Mary Rose Sullivan.

I was particularly intrigued by Nancy’s description of leadership embodied in their program, which relates to concepts and values we DR folks teach.

The program teaches students about lawyers’ service as leaders in various ways in their work in addition to  lawyers’ generally-recognized leadership roles in civic society, including public service, outside their day jobs.

Nancy’s predecessor, Garry W. Jenkins, wrote, “Law school is about preparing students for the work of lawyers. Of course, that work entails analyzing cases, interpreting statutes, thinking on one’s feet, and advocating client positions. But, frequently, it also includes managing people, building trust, and inspiring others to follow your lead.”

This conception of leadership involves eliciting cooperation and not merely issuing directives.  Thinking of leadership in this way,  lawyers provide leadership to co-workers, clients and even counterpart lawyers, jurors, and judges.

Of course,  lawyers exercise leadership in their law offices, especially when in positions of authority but sometimes even when they are not.

One of lawyers’ critically-important roles with clients is counseling, which has an important leadership component.  Of course, lawyers need to understand and follow clients’ direction – and clients rely on their lawyers’ leadership in deciding how to handle the clients’ problems.

Lawyers often represent organizations, which means working daily with leaders.  Lawyers who understand these clients’ leadership challenges and opportunities can be more effective in relationships with their organizational clients.

Even lawyers’ advocacy role can be conceived as a form of leadership – persuading counterparts, jurors, and judges to follow their lead by accepting their suggestions and arguments.

Lawyers who serve as mediators and arbitrators especially need good leadership skills.  Neutrals design and manage DR processes and they need people to cooperate rather than resist the process.  Mediators lead each side to reconsider their approaches and perspectives so that they can reach agreement.  Arbitrators who inspire confidence are more likely to have parties accept their decisions without challenge.

Ohio State’s program, founded in 2007, is quite extensive, including workshops, speakers, conversations, a dean’s roundtable, courses, collaborations with other Ohio State units, and scholarships.

Probably most US law schools provide extra-curricular programming to prepare students for practical tasks they will need to perform after they graduate.  I think that leadership is an especially important function that law schools should regularly include in their educational programs.

                        author

John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE >

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