Lawyers as Leaders

Leadership courses can prepare law students for the leadership roles they will assume as they serve their clients, law offices, and communities.

The University of Tennessee College of Law’s Institute for Professional Leadership offers courses and programming aimed at developing students’ leadership skills and professional values. Doug Blaze directs Tennessee’s program and has co-taught the course “Lawyers as Leaders” for several years. The course integrates readings on leadership, class discussions, and guest appearances by lawyers from various practices. Blaze says that students have described the course as “one of the most meaningful and valuable” courses that they took in law school.

Stanford Law School’s Deborah Rhode wrote the book Lawyers as Leaders and teaches a course titled “Law, Leadership, and Social Change.” Stanford’s course addresses the responsibilities and challenges of leaders and considers topics including: leadership styles, organizational dynamics, conflict management, innovation, diversity, and ethical responsibilities.

At Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, the Program on Law and Leadership consists of seven initiatives that “make leadership an integral part of the law school experience.” These initiatives include workshops, a speaker series, a dean’s roundtable, collaboration and partnerships, scholarships, a conversation series, and various courses. Ohio State’s “Lawyers as Leaders” class “is designed to help students understand the hallmarks of skillful leadership and management.” The course combines theory, case studies, and simulations.

Other schools with notable leadership programs and courses include Columbia Law School, Elon University School of Law, and University of Minnesota Law School.

These programs recognize that all lawyers need to be prepared for the leadership roles they will inevitably play in their personal and professional lives. Tennessee’s Doug Blaze says, “We want to prepare lawyers who will make a positive difference in the profession and in their communities.”

Law Students and Mindfulness Training

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a story on the growing movement among law schools to provide “mindfulness” training for students. The article describes mindfulness as “[a] Zen-inspired blend of meditation, breathing exercises and focus techniques.”

As noted in the WSJ article, University of Miami School of Law is one of approximately two dozen schools offering mindfulness classes. According to its course catalog, Miami’s course is titled Mindfulness in Law: Cultivating Tools for Effective Practice. The course description notes that two local bar associations have formed the “Mindfulness in Law Joint Task Force” to explore mindfulness in practice. In the course, students are introduced to mindfulness “as a collection of tools of awareness that can enrich one’s skill set in relationship to the stimulating and challenging aspects of legal practice.” The full course description can be accessed here.

The WSJ story is available here.

Why More States Should Not Jump on the Uniform Bar Exam Bandwagon

In May, New York became the 16th state—and by far the most prominent—to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam, the standardized licensing test for lawyers created and promoted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners..

With such an influential state on board, the UBE is now all the rage. New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman proclaimed in his announcement of the Court’s decision that it “will reverberate among the other states,” ultimately leading to adoption  of the UBE throughout the country. The president of the Florida Bar responded to the decision by predicting that the northeastern states will soon follow New York’s lead and also acknowledging that Florida will give accelerated consideration to the UBE. And UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky argued in an L.A. Times op-ed that California should join New York in adopting the UBE.

Before other states react to the reverberations by crowning the UBE as the predominant or sole bar exam in the nation, the entire uniform exam initiative merits closer scrutiny. To be sure, adoption of the UBE throughout the country would make law licenses much more portable for beginning lawyers recently out of law school. That is a worthy goal, but the UBE is a dubious and potentially damaging means for achieving the desirable end of greater interstate license portability, especially because there is a different and more benign way to achieve that end.

A comprehensive consideration of the UBE suggests to me five reasons why additional states should step back from the precipice and be very cautious about joining the UBE bandwagon.

I discuss my five reasons in greater length here and, without annotations, here. In sum, they are as follows:

  1. The UBE perpetuates a flawed bar exam and is fundamentally inconsistent with recent trends in legal education and the legal profession
  2. The UBE would represent a regressive change to the current bar exam in several state
  3. The advantage of having the National Conference set a singular scoring methodology for all bar exams is overstated
  4. National implementation of the UBE would decrease the chance of meaningful bar exam reform by taking power away from states and giving it to the National Conference
  5. There is another means for achieving license portability that has far fewer drawbacks than the UBE

The Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) is administered as roughly half of the bar exam in 49 states and is a very reliable test from a psychometric perspective. Why not allow applicants who achieve a passing score on the MBE on any jurisdiction’s bar exam to apply for admission to any other state without the necessity of taking the bar exam again? Minnesota, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia already permit this, and other states need only follow their example.

A state adopting this approach in lieu of the UBE would be giving full faith and credit to whatever the written portion of the exam is in the original jurisdiction instead of forcing applicants to take its written portion. Since most states scale the scores from their written tests to the MBE, the policy is psychometrically sound. In fact, in many cases, the written tests of the two states at issue would be very similar, and the only variable would be awareness of local law, which could be covered through a CLE program.

Instead of putting its energies into national adoption of the UBE, which would decrease the quality of the bar exam in many states and drastically reduce state autonomy and flexibility, the National Conference could simply push for more states to adopt the policy already maintained by Minnesota, North Dakota, and D.C. We already have a uniform bar exam, and the National Conference already has enough power.

(Some of my article expands on the astute observations made by Professor Dennis Honabach in a piece he wrote in the ABA journal Professional Lawyer last year. ABA members can retrieve full text here, or on Westlaw, it’s at 22 No. 2 Prof. Law. 43.)

NYT OP ED – Putting Lawyers where they are needed

In today’s New York Times, THERESA AMATO makes recommendations for addressing the justice-lawyer gap — that frustrating current reality in which United States citizens have tremendous legal needs but no lawyer to help while, at the same time,  American law schools graduate a supply of lawyers who need jobs and need to pay their school debt.

You can read her ideas here.

Experiential Learning in Law

Professor Brian Sites, Coordinator of Experiential Learning at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida, composed a fluid list of experiential learning resources that may be added to and shared among the legal community.

The resources are grouped by, among other methods, course area (i.e. Contracts,  Torts, IP, Family Law, etc.).  In the list, you will find books that are simulation-based, experiential supplements, law review articles on exercises in that area, websites that have exercises in that area, and exercise ideas.

Professor Sites plans to expand the list as he finds more resources and welcomes emails suggesting additional materials and newly-created exercise ideas.

The link to the resource list and Professor Sites’ contact information may be found below:

Professor Brian Sites

Assistant Professor of Law, Coordinator of Experiential Learning

Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law

Phone: (321) 206-5685


SSRN Author page:

DREAMer Application to NYS Bar Granted – A great step for legal education

Mary Lynch:

I am reblogging this great news from Albany Law ‘s Multicultural Initiatives Legal Round up.

DREAMer Application to NYS Bar Granted
The New York State Supreme Court Second Department Appellate Division last Wednesday issued a monumental decision approving the New York State Bar application of Cesar Vargas, the dynamic Co-Director of Dream Act Coalition. Cesar who was brought to the United States from Mexico by his mother when he was 5 years old and graduated from City University of New York School of Law in 2011, is a DREAMer who is authorized to be lawfully present in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. Vargas was initially approved for deferred action in 2013 after DACA was first implemented in 2012.

This is the first New York State court decision explicitly holding that a DREAMer law graduate can fulfill the “good character and general fitness” requirements for NY bar admission. Moreover, in a matter of national first impression, the court further found that a DREAMer such as Cesar is not barred from being granted his New York State law license under a federal law prohibiting states from issuing state benefits such as a professional license to undocumented immigrants unless the state first enacted enabling legislation authorizing the issuance of such benefits or licenses. The court held Congress cannot unconstitutionally infringe upon a state’s sovereign authority to divide power among its three co-equal branches of government such as in in New York which has granted the Judiciary branch the authority to review and approve bar applications to practice law, and that the Judiciary may exercise their authority as state sovereign to opt out of such federal restriction as the court did here!

Originally posted on Multicultural Initiatives at Albany Law School:

Legal News Roundup

DREAMer Application to NYS Bar Granted
The New York State Supreme Court Second Department Appellate Division last Wednesday issued a monumental decision approving the New York State Bar application of Cesar Vargas, the dynamic Co-Director of Dream Act Coalition. Cesar who was brought to the United States from Mexico by his mother when he was 5 years old and graduated from City University of New York School of Law in 2011, is a DREAMer who is authorized to be lawfully present in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. Vargas was initially approved for deferred action in 2013 after DACA was first implemented in 2012.

View original 1,508 more words

Readying students for a 21st Century Education

In response to my previous post, sgeorge326 “wonder[s] how schools can achieve this lofty goal?” of learning “how to identify prospective students or develop admitted ones who understand their life goals and values, and their intellectual and personal gifts well enough to make intelligent decisions around specialization”.

Here are five steps toward that goal AND ideas for achieving them:

1.  Encourage students to gain experience in the workplace before attending law school, especially in jobs that expose them to lawyers,.and to reflect on what they learned about lawyers and themselves.

  •  Focus admissions essays around these questions
  • Develop pipeline programs for students who are 1st in their family to attend college or from underrepresented groups.  Provide them with pre-law contact with lawyers and the opportunities to work in a law office that are often available to upper middle class students with family contacts

2. Help students understand what lawyers do.

3. Incorporate the work of lawyers into first year courses.

  •  Assign court observations for first year courses, especially criminal law and civil procedure, or school wide as in Drake Law’s Trial Practicum
  •  Use course materials that expose students to the work of lawyers, including both litigation and transactions — motions and supporting documents, real contracts, deeds, etc. (The major publishers all offer such materials.)
  • Incorporate simulations into existing 1L courses or separate problem solving courses or skills labs.
  • involve students in real legal work as described by The New 1L: First-Year Lawyering With Clients

4. Infuse experiential education throughout the curriculum.

  • Include simulation modules in doctrinal courses, or attach them as separate small-credit courses
  • Offer a range of theory and practice simulation skill-focused courses, in-house clinics, and externships to students throughout their legal education
  • Link volunteer pro bono opportunities to the formal curriculum
  • Counsel students on how best to sequence experiential offerings given their interests

5.  And, perhaps most important, but still the biggest stretch for most law schools, help students both understand the importance of learning about their life goals and values and intellectual and personal gifts and provide opportunities for them to do so.

  • Hire coaches in the career office with a job description that includes helping students develop both self and career knowledge, provide them with tools such as personality tests, skills inventories, and similar tools, and connect them with the faculty so their efforts are part of the educational process
  • Encourage faculty to view their role as also including efforts to help student develop self-knowledge in arenas beyond the intellectual
  • Focus the externship program around developing a professional identity
  • Incorporate opportunities for reflection on goals and gifts in both doctrinally-focused and experiential courses

As the links in the above paragraphs demonstrate, many schools already one or more of these individual ideas in place.  The now ABA-required process of identifying outcomes (Standard 302), including in assessment of student learning both formative feedback and summative grading (Standard 314), and assessing program outcomes (Standard 315) could be implemented in ways that encourage additional student progress in these important areas.

The new volume “Building on Best Practices: Transforming Legal Education in a Changing World” should be available in ebook format from LexisNexis by the end of the month.  It includes more ideas and details. Readers, you undoubtedly have additional ideas — share them!


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