Rocky Dhir talks with Leah Teague, associate dean at Baylor University Law School, about leadership and the importance of attorneys taking on the role.
State Bar of Texas Podcast
After graduating with honors from Baylor University with a B.B.A. in accounting and a J.D., Leah Witcher...
In 1999, Rocky Dhir did the unthinkable: he became a lawyer. In 2021, he did the unforgivable:...
Law schools should be a training ground for leaders, but are the concepts of leadership actually being taught? In this episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast, host Rocky Dhir talks to Leah Teague, associate dean at Baylor University Law School, about how law schools need to revamp their programs to include leadership training for students. Teague discusses how leadership training prepares law students to be able to fulfill their obligation as professional problem solvers and helps create a path to higher leadership roles in the future.
Leah Teague is an associate dean at Baylor University Law School in Waco, TX.
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The Need to Lead: Revamping Legal Ed to Grow Better Leaders
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Intro: Welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice, with your host Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir: Hi and welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, this is Rocky Dhir. You know, one of my favorite times every month is when my Texas Bar Journal arrives in the mail. I don’t know what it is about that magazine, but I rip it open and I just start perusing, and if you are anything like me, I first start in the very back. I go to the humor section to see what’s back there. And there’s good stuff. And by the way, Judge Buchmeyer, if you are listening up in heaven, this is a shout out to you, one of the best columns ever.
And then I go through and I start looking at articles and see who is on the move and what people are doing and you find some great articles in there.
In February of 2018 I read I think one of the most groundbreaking articles I had read in a while and it’s called Lawyers as Leaders. And I guess maybe I just hadn’t stopped to think about it, but yeah, as lawyers we do need to be leaders, and as I read the article I learned something new.
Maybe lawyers are not leading the way they should. I want to get to the bottom of this and I wanted to talk through these issues and I was lucky enough to get the author of the article.
We have got Leah Teague, she is not just Leah Teague, she is Dean Leah Teague. She is an Associate Dean at Baylor University Law School. She has joined us today and so I wanted to welcome Leah and talk to her about this very, very important concept.
Leah, thank you for being here.
Leah Teague: Thank you Rocky, my pleasure, my honor to be with you today.
Rocky Dhir: Lawyers as Leaders, that’s not something — we don’t talk about it as much anymore, right, we are talking about billable hours and we are talking about ethics and all these other topics, this concept of leadership, I don’t know that we hear about it as often. What made you write this article?
Leah Teague: But we should.
Rocky Dhir: I agree.
Leah Teague: We should talk about it.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely. So what kind of inspired you to go out and write an article about it?
Leah Teague: The leadership work that I am doing and I have been in this space for about five years in terms of the lawyer as leader and it really comes out of a concern for our country and for our profession. When you think about all the issues that are going on in our country across the nation, we really do have a leadership crisis. We need more leaders, not just people who are serving in those roles, but leaders who are going to be problem solvers, leaders who are going to look at whatever the issue is, they are going to think critically about it, they are going to do the analysis, they are going to think about what’s the win/win possibilities here. How do we begin to move forward so that we all have a better and a brighter future and doesn’t that sound like lawyers, isn’t that what we are trained to do?
Rocky Dhir: You know, I think before I became a lawyer I remember a lot of people kind of commenting that if you are a lawyer, you can go run for office, you can do all kinds of different things because it’s a very versatile degree and it kind of lends itself to leadership. But interestingly, your article and, by the way, for those who are listening, if you haven’t read this article yet, go back into the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Journal archives and go to February 2018, read this article, it’s pretty fascinating.
And I have got to tell you Leah, this was very well-written and it was concise. I mean it didn’t take me very long, but it was very thought-provoking. If you read this article what you seem to be suggesting is that we as lawyers are not — we are not stepping up to the leadership podium the way we used to and the way maybe we should. Is that a fair summary?
Leah Teague: It is. At least it’s a concern. So if we go back in history and we think about our founding fathers, so many of them were lawyers, and so whether we are talking about Thomas Jefferson, the appellate lawyer who wrote our Declaration or the fact that the majority of those who signed the Declaration, they were also lawyers, or you think about some of our greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln leading us through the most tumultuous time we have had in our country, the time when we almost just divided forever our country and his leadership ability.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely.
Leah Teague: And then even whether it’s the Great Depression and World War II, if you think about President Roosevelt, a corporate lawyer from New York and his skills in leading us through some of our most difficult times.
So our history in this country is filled with great lawyers stepping up to the role that was needed at the time, and what I know is it is our legal training that prepares the special skills that we have.
In fact, if you think about, so many of us love Alexis de Tocqueville and quote him often, but I have to tell you that when I first heard that and he referred to lawyers back in that day as the American aristocracy, I didn’t understand it and I am not sure I liked it because it sounded so elitist. But if you begin to think about that and you begin to understand, put ourselves in the time of that day and his reference was to the European Lords and their obligation. So they were privileged, yes, but they had an obligation to take care of their charges.
Okay, so we bring that over to America. We don’t have the nobility, we didn’t want that system of nobility, but who is going to take care of the people, who is going to take care of our governmental system? Well, he recognized that it was the lawyers in this country that were serving in that role, and to be a lawyer in this country you didn’t have to be born of wealth. It was a process of education and training and quite honestly, desire and intention to make a difference. So it has really resonated with me that throughout history lawyers have played that very important, vital role of preserving our system of government.
In fact, if you look at our own Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, in there, in the preamble it says that we are, as lawyers, we are guardians of the law and that we play a vital role in the preservation of society. And so I think about that and I worry about our profession and the future of our profession and the future of our country if we as lawyers are beginning to forget that historically our role was not just as technical experts, not just as provider of legal services, but we played a vital role as the wise counselor, the sages in the communities, the people — the ones that people came to when they needed advice and guidance.
And that as lawyers, because of our skill sets, because of our attention to detail, our analytical ability, our critical thinking and then our skill and advocacy in persuasively communicating to others that we were well-suited to step up into leadership roles in a community. So it kind of felt natural, but if you think about it, it really wasn’t necessarily natural at all.
So we are not talking about born leaders, and that’s a concern. Some people think well, you can’t teach leadership, you are either born as a natural leader or you are not. Well, that’s not really true. There are a lot of these skills, just as we have talked about, law school develops leadership skills. In fact, there is a dean who used to say, a JD, a law degree is the best leadership degree out there, because of the training that we get.
Rocky Dhir: Let’s kind of unpack that a little bit, because we have talked about how historically, and in your article you give some statistics, you talk about how there was a time when, I think you said 60% of Congress was comprised of lawyers.
Leah Teague: 80%.
Rocky Dhir: 80%, okay.
Leah Teague: 80%.
Rocky Dhir: 80% of Congress was comprised of lawyers. So what was it about legal education and legal training that lent itself to lawyers taking on those roles as opposed to say businesspeople or any other profession or people that are doing other things, what was it about legal training that flowed very naturally into leadership?
Leah Teague: Absolutely. Well, if you think about law school, first year of law school, and again, this isn’t necessarily true back in the day when the apprenticeship and self-study was the way to get to law, but these principles applied even back then. So if we talk about in the 1880s, when we did have 80% of the Congressmen were lawyers.
Just as an aside, there’s another interesting statistic about that period of time, 80% of Congress also had military experience. I find that fascinating as we begin to think about the role that the military plays in protecting our democracy.
Rocky Dhir: Oh, interesting.
Leah Teague: We often talk about the kinship between military as the protectors of our freedoms in a very physical way and lawyers as the keepers of the rule of law and the protectors of our liberties, our rights, our property interest in our democracy, but that was just sort of aside.
So if you think about the first year of law school or the beginning training for a lawyer, we start off with how do you think like a lawyer, well, that’s critical thinking, that’s legal analysis, that is being — looking at whatever the issue is and thinking about it in a way that we are trying to figure out, okay, what is the problem here and then what are the steps that we can begin to take to solve the problem.
So first year of law school is all about looking at whatever the issue is, cutting through the chase, and that’s what we are known for when you think about all the lawyers that serve on community boards and charitable organizations, they all want lawyers on their boards because they know we bring that skill set, we are going to cut to the chase, we are going to listen to all that everyone says.
So to boil it down to, okay, here is the heart of the matter, here is where we are and then where do we go from this. So if you think about, that is clearly a significant part of what law schools have always done. And then there is the skill and advocacy, whether we are talking about oral communication or written communication, we are trained to think and to write and to communicate clearly, succinctly and persuasively when that’s appropriate. Negotiation leading to compromise, to solve whatever the dispute is, that’s also part of what we do.
But then I think if you add on to that and begin to think about, while we are in law school we are also thinking about values and this is where the ethics come in. Our code of professional responsibilities, our rules of ethics, we describe that to our law students as that’s the outer boundary, you can’t go past those lines, but that doesn’t decide who you are and how you are going to practice as a lawyer. So we encourage our students to think about what’s your own set of values, what do you believe in, and how is that going to inform and shape how you conduct yourself as a professional.
So law schools ought to be thinking about that, ought to be helping students think through the value system, and then again, we are all making sure that the ethical constraints are there. So that alone may be different than other professions or other schools where there is not as much emphasis on or should be as much emphasis on ethics and values.
But then I think there is another element to this, as we are helping our students begin to prepare for the role that they will play in representing clients, we do push them to take broader perspectives.
As you will remember from your days of preparing for your moot court or your first moot court competition or argument, we learn our side, but then Rocky, what do you have to do before you are ready to write that brief or to make that argument, once you have figured out your arguments, what do you need to then do?
Rocky Dhir: Is this Socratic method? Am I getting called on in class? This is great. Yeah, I was going to say I need to — good thing I drank coffee today, my goodness. Yeah, I mean of course we look at what the other side has to say and we try to make the best argument we can for them before we deconstruct it.
Leah Teague: Absolutely, and as we are doing that, we have to think about okay, what are the social implications here, especially when we are talking about an appellate argument and it’s not just the facts, it’s what should the law be, what should the answer be, we are taking into consideration social constraints, economic factors, political conditions of the country, all of those go into the analysis and the preparation for law school. So if you think about that, I mean that is all leadership development.
Rocky Dhir: This is the part that alarmed me and this is what I really wanted to kind of get your thoughts on, is you say that over time, say from the mid-1800s until today, that 80% of members of Congress being lawyers, it’s really been whittled down to 40%. So we are now the minority when it comes to national leadership roles, if you really kind of extrapolate from that, why is that? Why do you think lawyers have lost that position of leadership dominance, if you want to call it that?
Leah Teague: It is true that in the 1880s we had 80% of Congressmen and they were all men then were lawyers and we are now down to less than 40%, and I have not seen the breakdown yet, because that doesn’t happen for a while, but we just had an election and there is no doubt in my mind that that percentage of Congress members who are lawyers is going to be less than the 40%. I think we are going to have lost ground.
And one of the reasons it will take a while to unpack that and figure out what the percentage is, fewer and fewer of the Congress members are self-identifying themselves as lawyers. So you really have to go and look to see how many of them have a JD, how many of them have law school in their background, because that’s what we are looking for, it’s that law school, it’s that training that we are focusing on.
So back to what do I think is happening, I think there are several factors that are going into this and they are all concerning when you think about, and it really starts with economic pressures that lawyers face today, and I hate to say this, because I am part of the legal education system, but the high debt load, and it’s not just law school, it’s higher education across the board, it is terribly expensive and we have students that are coming out of an undergrad, plus a graduate degree, whether it be law or medicine or engineering that goes on, I mean whatever it is, we are coming out with 100,000 plus in debt.
And so when you think about where their emphasis and where their focus has to be, they are not thinking about volunteering, they are not — because they are not seeing the benefits, and I do want to get to where we talk about that, but they are not naturally thinking about, oh, I need to jump in and get involved and help my community or run for public office, they are thinking about I got this debt load I have got to service.
And then from the law firms’ perspective, from a legal — especially law firms, clients, clients are demanding efficiencies. So it is harder for law firms to justify the mentoring of their young lawyers, that was so much a part of our profession going back to the truly apprenticeship, that’s how you train, that’s how you studied, that’s how you became a lawyer, to going back to, prior to about the 1970s, where it was much more prevalent that the senior lawyers in the firm really mentored and shepherd their young lawyers to make sure that they understood their obligations as a professional and then to help them see the opportunities that would be available to them through potential leadership opportunities. So that’s not happening.
And I get it, we all get it, the firms are under such pressure to be as efficient as they can, so it worries me, because students today don’t come in with the same view of lawyers in society that I did when I went to law school so many years ago.
Rocky Dhir: So how do we fix it? We have talked about I guess the problem, we don’t have enough men mentoring, we don’t have — we have got these economic pressures that kind of keep us from volunteering and doing the things that would help make us community leaders and maybe state and nationwide leaders, so what can we as individual lawyers or what can we as firms or we as a profession, what can we do to fix this?
Leah Teague: Well, I think we, and this is where my energy and my effort is now, law schools can step up and do so much more. So I am working on that on a national level, encouraging those who have been doing some leadership in law schools to own it and let’s grow those programs. So it starts with law schools, and then I think there are some things that law firms and lawyers can do individually.
But if we focus first on what can law schools do, and why, why is it so important for law schools to do it, besides all these issues we have talked about in terms of concern for the country, concern for our profession, I think it is important — I mean we have a self — we should be self-interested here, because when you think about what do law school applicants put on their personal statements as the number one reason they are going to law school? Can you guess what that might be? Can you imagine what that might be?
Rocky Dhir: If I had to guess I would say they think they are going to make a good living doing it. But I hope that’s not the number one reason, but that’s my cynical view maybe making that my guess.
Leah Teague: And you are right, without a doubt, that is important and we in the law school say, you know what, if you are here because you want to make a good living, you are absolutely in the right place, because there is so much benefit to going to law school, but most of our students that seems too self-interested, so I think that may be one reason why that is not the number one reason that they put, but we also know that very much as they are being realistic, that is of utmost importance to them.
But we still see in those personal statements the number one reason they say they want to go to law school is they want to make a difference. They want to make a difference. So if we as lawyers —
Rocky Dhir: That’s good to hear, that’s refreshing.
Leah Teague: It is, it is.
Rocky Dhir: That’s very refreshing.
Leah Teague: It is. Well, I will tell you, another bit of good news, so what I was going to say is, if we as a profession are not viewed as a direct route to leadership positions, a direct opportunity to make a difference and to influence, then we are going to lose the best and the brightest. They are going to go do something else. If it’s just about the money, they are going to find something else to do.
So we have a vested interest in making sure that we as law schools are still viewed as the training ground for leadership, as the way to advance your education, develop your skills, to put you in a position, to not only take care of you and your family, but to also make a difference and feel good about the contribution that you are making to society.
So, we’re still seeing that the bit of good news is, this last summer — well, it depends on your perspective whether or not you think this is good news. Last summer, law schools saw a surge in applications and not only applications to law schools but acceptance applicants choosing to come to law school and it was the best and the brightest across the nation, more of them were choosing law school instead of MBA or other advanced degrees, which was good news because we’ve been on a downward trajectory since about 2011.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Leah Teague: And so in trying to figure out why that might be, the admissions folks around the nation believed and they’ve actually, they labeled this as the Trump bump.
Rocky Dhir: Oh interesting.
Leah Teague: Those applicants that — yeah — again this is sort of the depending on your perspective either, they were concerned about what was going on with the administration and decided, nope, we need to jump in and to advocate and to fight as we saw with the reaction to some of the immigration decisions that have been made and lawyers showing up to help out. That was sort of the reaction against some of the regulations and executive orders coming out of our current administration, but then there’s the other side of that. Those who feel like the administration is on the right track and want to step in and to be part of that either way there it’s resulted in more, very talented young people saying, I want to be part of the process and I’m going to go to law school. So, that’s a very good news.
Rocky Dhir: That is good news. Here’s the question that often perplexes me because this conversation is taking me back to when I was in law school, which is a long time ago, granted, but I was kind of the same way. I wanted to come out and do some very interesting and fun things and I wanted to make a difference and shake things up, and then when you’re trying to do that you sort of get this headwind, which is the reality of being a lawyer.
Leah Teague: Yes.
Rocky Dhir: And more often than not what I found was, I was battling against this reputation that lawyers had in the business community of being the naysayers. So, they said, well, a client — well, say a business client will say, can we do X, Y or Z? And they are expecting lawyers to always say, “no”, because we are the ones that want to protect them from any liability. So we say, no, you can’t do that or no, you shouldn’t do that. And so, they see us as being just these extremely risk-averse people that are keeping the business folks from innovating.
So, to what extent do you think maybe this inherent risk-aversion that we have or this inherent caution that we exercise as a profession, do you think that’s playing a role in diminishing our brand as leaders?
Leah Teague: My background is business and tax and so as I’m teaching my students we talk about the fact that lawyers are viewed by some business clients, those who haven’t had good lawyers, they view lawyers as deal-killers because it’s always —
Rocky Dhir: Right, I’ve heard that term.
Leah Teague: Absolutely because business owners want to do this deal and all of a sudden the lawyers saying, no, I can’t do that and so, I mean, I get it, I understand, but here’s what I tell our students is, students, future lawyers, you don’t want to be known as the deal-killer.
Rocky Dhir: Of course not.
Leah Teague: You want to be known as the problem-solver. So, your answer is, no, business client, you can’t do that for these reasons because I’m seeing the bigger picture. I’m looking four steps down the road and what might happen if you do this, and I want to protect you from that. So, as a lawyer, when you say, “no”, it’s “no but”, here’s how we do it.
So, that’s the way we’re teaching and training our students is, your role absolutely is to protect that business client from future consequences that they may not be thinking about. So, you need to raise the awareness and bring that to the forefront, but as you’re doing that never stop with “no”; it ought to be, “okay”, but here’s how we can solve that problem, here’s how we can get to a win-win or a partial win or a compromise or whatever it is. So, we as lawyers need to be thinking about ourselves in that respect and not just the risk-averse, naysayer, can’t do that because we see problems.
Rocky Dhir: I’m going to maybe throw out a hypothesis or maybe a proposed solution. So, let’s say you are the business client and you come to me and I’m the lawyer and you ask me, hey, can I do this?
What do you think of this answer, and you may shoot it down and say, no, that’s totally wacky or you might say, you know, hey, sure, it’s fine. But, I’m trying to get my arms around what you’re teaching the students? So, if I was to say, no, you can’t do that because it’s got criminal consequences, and so, you could end up in some really serious trouble, so the answer is, no. Maybe I’d say it only in that type of context, but if it’s sort of in a gray area, what I might do is say, you know, Leah, yeah, you can. Here are the possible consequences of that action. Here’s where it could go wrong, and if it did go in those directions, here’s how we would have to fix it or here’s where we might face some uncertainties, here are some other solutions that would avoid that.
Now, in terms of your business goals, it might diminish them or change them by doing X, Y and Z. So you’re trying to wargame it and maybe give them a map of what they are facing. Do you think that’s effective or is that also maybe missing a step?
Leah Teague: That’s certainly in the right direction. So, when we’re working with our students where absolutely we tell them, and again, my 28:21 business, I’m talking to my students who are going to represent businesses and I tell them, you are the lawyer, you are the advisor that client is ultimately going to make the decision about what the action is going to be taken. So, your job is to help them see the possibilities in a broader perspective and see maybe even some angles they haven’t seen yet, and to explain the pros and the cons of each of these avenues, and then ultimately, not only is the client going to be the one to make the decision, you need to make sure they are the ones making the decision that you’re not making it for them.
So, we kind of talk about what is the role of the lawyer in all of this because what we want the lawyer — because really what we’re after is the lawyer being viewed not just as the technical expert, the person that you go to if you need a contract drafted because those are the things that businesspeople are now going, why do I pay a lawyer even a $1,000 when there’s an online version for $99? Why would I do that? So, the value added by lawyers — and this is becoming even more important than it ever was before. The value added by lawyers cannot be just the technical providing of legal services or telling them where the rules are and where the boundaries are. It has to be is that that advisor, that counselor to help them see all the options and to come up with the best strategy, and then ultimately, what you’re really after is — and so here’s where I tell the students to start, start with when the client says, here’s what I want to do, start with.
Okay, tell me what you are after, tell me what your goals are, tell me about your business, tell me about what you are trying to do now, and what are you trying to get, what are your goals, because if you understand more about who they are, what are their objectives, what’s their value system and where are they trying to get, that’s going to put you in a better position to be able to give them, layout for them those options and help them think through all of the possible consequences.
And then they are businesspeople, they are in the business of making business judgments based upon cost, risk, complexity, all of those concepts that go into decision-making, that’s what they do as businesspeople. You’re just there to help guide them and to see perspective both positive and negative depending on what we’re talking about. Does that answer your question?
Rocky Dhir: Well, it does, and what’s kind of got me scratching my head is, if I’m hearing you correctly, you walked through this with your students in law school. This is not something that they are just having to learn once they are out in the field. You are teaching them this before they become practicing attorneys. Am I hearing that correctly?
Leah Teague: Oh absolutely, absolutely. I recognize Baylor Law has always been a little bit different, Baylor — we started at the time of their first year of law school, the critical thinking, the legal analysis, all law schools do that and do that very well and we do, but for us that’s just the foundation. So, historically we’ve not stopped at that. We’ve gone to the practical application of the law, so learning the law, but also, okay, what does it look like and how do you actually do it.
So, that’s why the conversation that I’ve described is just a natural part of what we do in law school, because this is helping our students see, okay, this is you, being a real lawyer out there someday with real clients and it’s complex. And you need to have a broad sense of what your role is so that you are better prepared upon graduation to slip into that, especially since we go back to — it’s more difficult for the lawyers out in practice to have the — they still have the same luxury of time and apprenticeship and mentoring that they did before.
So, we law schools have to step it up. We have to be doing more with our students while they are in school with us, so that they are on a better footing and a little bit ahead of the game. And there has actually been several studies done about the legal education and it’s been music to our ears at Baylor, because this really is what we’ve done forever, but one of the more recognized reports is called the Carnegie Report and what it said was, there’s sort of three levels to training development in law schools.
First is that traditional legal analysis, critical thinking, learning to think like a lawyer. Second one is, practical skills, application of what you are doing and law schools are beginning to really focus on that. There’s a third level and it’s just where this leadership development comes in. The third level is thinking about the ethics, thinking about the social implications of who we are, so it’s back to the role of the lawyer in society. What role do we play, what important critical role do we play, and so that report said, law schools, you need to be focusing on all three. And the third level law schools have been focusing on the ethics. I mean, we’ve had ethics required, professional responsibility required for decades now.
So, this leadership concept is just building on that. Okay, in addition to being ethical and being professional, we have an opportunity, but we have an obligation but we also have an opportunity to make a real difference in society if we recognize, if we appreciate the role that we play and the opportunities that we have to make a difference.
Rocky Dhir: Well, and there’s actually a fourth level to legal education that I think you might have — it’s actually not one that you would have known about. It’s one I developed myself, and it was how to look busy, is that how to look busy and look like you are studying really hard, just so you can psych out your fellow 1Ls. And I mastered that, and it certainly was reflected at the end of the year when report cards came out.
But, hey, that 1L year, it’s all about the head game. We all know that, so.
Leah Teague: You are right.
Rocky Dhir: So, here’s a question though that I think, you touched on something earlier where you said Baylor has always been a little different.
So, when you are talking about this type of legal education, in teaching leadership and teaching sort of the higher aspects of why we are learning what we are learning, is this something that Baylor is unique in teaching or is this turning into a movement that is kind of catching fire amongst other law schools?
Leah Teague: It is turning into a movement and in fact, I’ve been Associate Dean here at Baylor Law School for 27 years, which is just truly unheard of. We think I may be the longest tenured Associate Dean in a law school in America. We do know that our Dean Brad Toben who is just a wonderful leader and we’ve had a great partnership for 27 years, he has been Dean for 27 years, I’ve been Associate Dean for 27 years. We do know that he is the second longest-running Dean. There is a website that counts the days of a tenureship for a law school dean and there is a dean in New England who’s been dean at that school for 30 years. So Brad is at 27 years, which is phenomenal considering that the average tenure that you see on that website is 3-point something years.
Rocky Dhir: Oh wow.
Leah Teague: So, a lot of turnover, but I say that because Baylor Law really is a special place and we’re here and we’re committed and we’re working hard to be intentional about how we are preparing and training the next generation of Baylor lawyers. And it’s true that long term effort of me being in this position and looking at how we’re doing, what we do and then thinking about the consequence, for years we have talked about the fact that Baylor lawyers, we’re the smallest law school in Texas except for the brand-new one, University of North Texas has created. We are the smallest law school in Texas and always have been one of the smallest law schools in the nation, and yet when we look at our alums, they disproportionately step up and serve in leadership roles, whether it’s within the State Bar or within their community serving on school boards, as Chair of Boards of charitable foundations. I mean it’s just amazing to watch how our Baylor lawyers have stepped up to serve in those roles.
And so knowing that, I began to think more deeply about why is that, what is it about our law school, what is it about law school that causes that to occur? And when I began to really think about that, I thought, you know what, we’re doing this, producing these leaders but we’re not being intentional about it. So what would happen if we were more intentional about it? Especially in light of knowing the factors that are going on in the profession, we can’t expect our law firms and our lawyers to have the time to do the mentoring and the shepherding and help them see this aspect.
So, I thought, should we have a leadership class? This was about five, almost six years ago. So what did I do? Well, I said, okay, what are other law schools doing? And when I did a search of all the other 203-204 whatever we have now, law schools in America, I couldn’t find a robust leadership development program. I could find it in business schools, couldn’t find it in law schools. So that kind of triggered a concern.
At that point I had met a woman who is a professor at Stanford Law, Deborah Rhode. She is well-known in legal education for her work on ethics and professional responsibility. She was part of that movement a number of years ago. She also well understands the need of lawyers to step up and be leaders and she just written a book. So I met her through a — we were on a panel, speaking on a panel together in kind of a different environment, but we started conversations about this need for leadership development in law schools so that she and I started down a path and we are working to find those pockets in law schools where people are doing leadership development, and we have just created within our professional association, it’s the American Association of Law School.
So, the ABA governs us, but the American Association of Law Schools is our professional national organization, and Deborah and I led an effort to create a section, and so we are now though — I think they are now something like a 109 sections in this national organization and we are the newest one to focus on leadership development.
So, you are right, Rocky, it needs to be a movement in legal education and we are working hard to make that happen and it’s been such a delightful journey. We have met professors and deans and former deans from law schools across the nation, who understand, and you are right, and so we are all working hard to get law schools across this nation to step up and to recognize the need, develop the programming to help law students recognize their obligation and their opportunities, and then to help better prepare them for the role that they are going to play.
Rocky Dhir: This is great news, I mean, I must say I am very encouraged and I am glad that you are helping to lead this effort forward. I would love to keep up with this story, and so, I think we need to maybe give it a little bit of time and have you come and give us an update at some point; would you be open to that?
Leah Teague: I would love to do that, and the one piece we didn’t have time to talk about is why I think this is so important for lawyers to begin to understand? We have got some major issues, the challenges to our profession, and one of them is burnout. And a feeling of just — as a lawyer I am on this treadmill, it’s a grind, I just I can’t keep doing this and I believe that this reawakening of the opportunities that we have, it can be a win-win for lawyers and especially for young lawyers, if young lawyers are trying to build a book of business, one of the ways they can effectively do that is to get out in the community and to be seen and to be known and as they are out in the community and volunteering and stepping into these leadership roles, they are also developing the skill-sets that we know the law firms want them to have to be a more successful, more productive professional. So there’s a whole other conversation we can have about the benefits of this in terms of for the profession.
Rocky Dhir: I think we need to have that conversation so we definitely need to have you back on the show and we can get an update and see where this develops.
Leah, thank you so much for leading this charge and for helping to move this profession, and I guess, by extension, moving our society forward. Best of luck with this.
Leah Teague: Well, thank you, and again such a pleasure to be here and I do look forward to further conversations with you. Thank you for your work in presenting these important topics and trying to help strengthen our profession.
Rocky Dhir: Well, that’s all the time we have for today.
I want to thank my guest, Leah Teague, for joining us, and of course, I want to thank you for tuning in.
This podcast is brought to you, thanks to the generous support of LawPay, so thank you LawPay.
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Until next time, remember, life’s a journey, folks. I am Rocky Dhir, signing off.
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|Published:||January 8, 2019|
|Podcast:||State Bar of Texas Podcast|
|Category:||Best Legal Practices , News & Current Events|
State Bar of Texas Podcast
The State Bar of Texas Podcast invites thought leaders and innovators to share their insight and knowledge on what matters to legal professionals.