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Monday, April 14, 2008

Leadership Education in Law Schools

Last Friday, the Program on Law and Leadership here at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law hosted its final event of the year. A group of 15 students and I had a wonderful lunch discussion on facilitative leadership and consensus building with Prof. Lawrence Susskind of MIT. Susskind gave a spirited description of a leadership approach that focuses on teams and organizations solving problems in ways that take into account several people’s perspectives and interests. Many of the skills used in this process were consistent with the skills employed by lawyers and other mediators engaged in dispute resolution. It was a great way to end the year.

We are in the process of producing an annual report summarizing the activities of our inaugural year, but as co-director of the Program (along with my colleague Donald Tobin), I am happy to report that the Program is proving to be a success. A significant number of law students are actively engaged and participating in our offerings. In fact, one student just sent me an e-mail that stated “attending [Program on] Law and Leadership events has been a highlight of my law school experience.”

The Program is premised on the notion that all students have leadership potential that can be developed. Of course, this is not an original concept—in fact, all the leading business schools include leadership education as part of their curriculum. In addition to offering a three-credit course on leadership development (my “Lawyers as Leaders” course), the Program includes a leadership speaker series, skills workshops, self-assessment and career development tools, advising, scholarships, mentoring opportunities, and other activities.

I’m already looking forward to next year: new speakers, new workshops, and new crop of entering students excited about developing a deeper understanding of leadership, themselves, and organizations/communities. With all the challenges confronting the world today, we need lawyers ready, willing, and skilled to play leadership roles serving the common good.

I’m curious to find out about what other schools may be doing in this area. I know that Prof. Michele Benedetto at Golden Gate Law is working on a new leadership program and Prof. Neil Hamilton’s Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at Univ. of St. Thomas Law is a hubbub of activity on the connection between ethics and leadership. In addition, Harvard Law offers a course on leadership in the public sector (taught by Prof. Phil Heymann) and Stanford Law participates in a joint leadership class (taught by business school faculty) for students from a variety of professional school programs. Are there other programs, initiatives, courses out there? In part this goes to some questions and conversations about the appropriate role of law schools and what the 21st century law school may look like.

Posted by Garry Jenkins on April 14, 2008 at 11:49 AM | Permalink


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We are implementing a "Leadership Development Council" at Golden Gate Univ. School of Law in Fall 2008. We are starting an initially small program with 12 students. The curriculum will draw on many of the components used in Garry's program, including speakers, skills workshops, and mentoring opportunities. We are also planning to include participation in State Bar activities (such as practice area interest groups) as a way for students to network with the San Francisco legal community. I look forward to connecting with others doing similar projects.

Posted by: Michele Benedetto | May 6, 2008 7:29:58 PM

here at USF I teach "Interpersonal Dynamics," which teaches positive leadership skills and has much in common with the leadership program at Stanford Business school. To learn more about it, see "Interpersonal Dynamics...." 58 Miami Law Review 1225. I am also very interested in learning more about what others are doing.

Posted by: Josh Rosenberg | Apr 15, 2008 1:50:33 PM

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