Baylor Law Leadership Program Wins Prestigious ABA Gambrell Award

August 10, 2022

Baylor Law Leadership Program Wins Prestigious ABA Gambrell Award

Michael R. Freed, Immediate Past President of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, Awards Baylor Law's Leadership Development Program with the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award at the 2022 National Conference of Bar Presidents in Chicago, August, 2022.

Baylor Law’s Second Gambrell Recognition in Four Years


For the second time in four years, the American Bar Association (ABA) has awarded Baylor Law with its prestigious E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award. The ABA has selected Baylor Law’s innovative Leadership Development Program to receive the 2022 Award, following the selection of Baylor Law’s Practice Ready Program in 2018.

“Lawyers are leaders,” said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. “We have always emphasized that our program prepares our graduates for leadership. We created the Leadership Development Program to be more intentional about honing leadership skills and refining professional identity. We are so honored that the ABA has recognized the efforts of our leadership development team with the Gambrell Award.”

Baylor Law's Leadership Development Team holds the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award with members of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. (L-R) D. Nichole Davis, Risk Management Director & Mentoring Program Administrator, South Carolina Bar; Stephanie Villinski, Deputy Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism; Professor of Law Leah Teague, Dean Pat Wilson, and Dean Stephen Rispoli.

While many law schools now have leadership courses, Baylor Law’s Leadership Development Program is one of only a handful of robust programs in the country committed explicitly to preparing future lawyers for effective leadership. The program has five major components: (1) a Leadership Development course; (2) a variety of leadership development programs offered throughout the year; (3) a Leadership Fellow designation at graduation for a select few students; (4) an annual Making a Difference Conference; and (5) a national blog, The blog is a resource for law schools developing courses and programs and provides insightful articles for law professors seeking new content.

“Baylor Law’s commitment to leadership development and professional formation embraces our belief that lawyers should be servant leaders,” said Professor Leah Teague, Director of the Leadership Development Program. “At no time has our profession needed the intentional development of lawyer-leaders more than we do now. We are honored to have the ABA recognize an effort to which we are so passionately committed.”

Baylor Law professors Leah Teague and Elizabeth Fraley, and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Stephen Rispoli, with meaningful contributions from Associate Dean Patricia Wilson, have written the definitive how-to book on leadership development for lawyers. The book, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, was designed to make leadership and professional formation easy to teach and meaningful for students and to assist other law schools, bar associations, and law firms in advancing their leadership development programs.

“While many law schools aspirationally recognize the importance of leadership development, few tools were available to help them to do so effectively,” Dean Rispoli noted. “We wrote this book to provide guidance, memorable examples, and methods to integrate leadership training into all aspects of the curriculum.”

The Gambrell award, renowned in the legal community, was established by the ABA in 1991 and is named after former ABA and American Bar Foundation president, E. Smythe Gambrell. Baylor Law’s Professional Development program, ‘Practice Ready,’ won this award in 2018.

Recipients are determined by the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism and supported by the E. Smythe Gambrell Fund for Professionalism. The award recognizes the nation’s exemplary, innovative, and ongoing professionalism programs in law schools, bar associations, courts, and other legal organizations that ensure integrity and dedication to the legal profession and the public.

The 2022 E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Awards will be presented at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago later this year.

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Established in 1857, Baylor University School of Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,600 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law is also ranked in the top 50 in the magazine’s 2019 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and in the top 15 "Best Law School Facilities" in the country. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at

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