Throughout history, no other profession has accounted for more of our nation’s leadership. And all over this country, lawyers lead in every aspect of society—serving as heads of government, business, and nonprofit organizations in large and small communities.
Informal leadership development has always been woven into the education and training of every Baylor Law student. Baylor Law’s mission statement expresses an “obligation to develop students who have the character, maturity, skills, and values needed to assume leadership positions.” From the emphasis on service during the first day of orientation through our nationally-renown third-year Practice Court program, Baylor Law faculty strive to develop individuals who will be prepared for the challenges of the legal profession and equipped to serve effectively. Baylor Law students become Baylor Lawyers who lead within the profession and their communities.
Through our Leadership Development Program, we enhance our students’ training for the critical roles they will assume after graduation. The objectives of the program are to encourage and assist law students to:
One of only a handful of law school programs in the country with robust leadership development programming, Baylor Law is dedicated to preparing graduates who are not only proficient in analysis and advocacy but also able to use reasoning, judgment, imagination, and foresight to navigate complex situations, solve problems, create new possibilities and develop effective relationships. We want to help them become their best self and reach their potential.
Equipping law students with the additional toolkit to seek and assume leadership roles is what the Baylor Law Leadership Development Program is all about. Our unique program has the breadth and depth of leadership experiences to prepare graduates for professional success and worthwhile contributions to society. One of only a handful of law school programs in the country dedicated to preparing students to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their clients, their profession, and their communities—the Baylor Leadership Development Program produces graduates not only proficient in analysis and advice, but able to think critically, navigate complex and diverse issues, use reasoning, judgment, imagination, and foresight to create new possibilities, and maximize their potential to lead.
The Baylor Law Leadership Development Program has five major components:
Adding leadership skills to their legal education gives students the tools to positively impact others and help them become difference-makers in society. Our textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, creates the structure for the course. The book and the Baylor Law LEAD course structure are divided into three aspects of developing leadership. Following an introduction to the concept of leadership, we ask students to look internally first before turning the leadership focus outward. The course is formatted as follows:
Part I - Overview of Leadership
What do we mean by leadership? A process whereby an individual influences another (or a group) to achieve a common goal. Leadership is an opportunity to help and serve no matter what title or position they hold in an organization. Lawyers in our society hold leadership positions, as they advise clients, organizations, and serve in their communities. Leadership is part of our professional identity.
Part II - Leadership of Self: Growing into Leadership
Through a process of self-discovery and assessment, students gain a better sense of who they are and what type of lawyer and leader they want to be. Topics covered include characteristics of leadership (traits, skills, and competencies, including those traditionally developed in law school); fixed vs. growth mindset; grit and resilience; feedback and failure; well-being; integrity and character; preparedness, and setting goals.
Part III - Leadership with Others: Effective Group Dynamics
The focus is on helping students develop their ability to interact effectively with others. Topics include emotional intelligence; relationships and influence; strategic communication; diversity and inclusion; unconscious bias and cultural competency; effective management; and working within legal organizations.
Part IV - Leadership within Community: Service and Impact
Encouraging students to seek opportunities to use their legal training and other talents and gifts to serve society can inspire them to find work that is meaningful to them, and that can have a significant impact on others. Students are challenged to consider what legacy they want to leave. This section emphasizes leadership for positive change and using their legal skills to effectuate a desired goal.
This skills-based course provides opportunities for experiential learning through role-playing, exercises, and small-group discussions. Frequent guest speakers share experiences and guidance. The required journal is a powerful enhancement of the student’s experience. After each class, students reflect upon the topics addressed in that class. Journaling in response to class materials or discussions helps students personalize and internalize the concepts and fosters their growth.
The textbook, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, is a national textbook written to make the teaching of leadership topics easier for faculty and staff at other law schools. The Baylor Law team offers to serve as resources and advisors to law school professors and staff interested in developing a course or a program.
Leadership development programming is a standard component of Baylor Law’s first-of-its-kind and award-winning, required Professional Development Program. The Leadership Development Program co-hosts at least one of the programs offered each academic term. Speakers address professional competencies and skill sets that legal employers are seeking. Focus on these topics will better prepare students to meet and exceeds employers’ expectations. Attention to these important topics will also help students better understand and own their obligation as lawyers to use their legal skills and position of influence to impact lives, lead change and add value to efforts.
Students who meet the requirements of the Leadership Fellow Program are designated as a Leadership Fellow and receive an award, along with special recognition, at graduation.
To be recognized as a Leadership Fellow, a student is required to complete the following:
Making a Difference (MAD) Conference is an annual gathering of law students and members of the legal profession to inspire a commitment to community service and civic engagement. The first five MAD conferences: 2017 Inaugural Making a Difference Conference; 2018 Passion for Justice; 2019 Rising Up Against Injustice; 2020: Vision for Leadership Conference; and 2021 Dialogue Skills for Lawyers Who Lead.
The 2020 MAD conference was expanded and became part of the 2020 Vision for Leadership Conference hosted at Baylor Law School in collaboration with the AALS Section on Leadership and the Baylor Law Review. The focus of the four-day event was on the role of leadership development in a modern law school curriculum. Guest speakers from across the country included many law school deans, professors, judges, and past ABA presidents. Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III and author John Grisham were special guests. Moved to a Zoom format because of COVID, registrants exceeded 750. Baylor Law Review published a special symposium issue in Volume 73 (Winter 2021).
As the co-founders of the Baylor Leadership Development Program and early adopters of the leadership movement in legal education, the Baylor Law School Leadership Development team established this blog to address several questions:
Weekly posts share thoughts, ideas, and research and include recurring themes and challenges for how to implement leadership development training.