Monday, October 29, 2018
Last Friday, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the 64th annual conference of the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business (SEALSB). The invitation for this appearance was extended to me months ago by BLPB contributing editor Haskell Murray. It was a treat to have the opportunity to mingle and talk shop with the attendees (some of whom I already knew).
The participants in SEALSB are largely business law faculty members teaching at business schools. Having never before attended one of their meetings and as a bit of a "foreigner" in their midst, I wondered for quite a bit about what I should talk about. Should I take the conservative route and present some of my work, hoping to dazzle the group with my legal knowledge (lol), or should I take a riskier approach and tell them what was really on my heart when I accepted Haskell's kind invitation?
I chose the latter. I spoke for 15-20 minutes on "Valuing and Visioning Collaboration" between business law faculties in business and law schools and then took about 10 minutes of questions. I started with the stories of two of my students--who could have been the students of anyone in the room. Sarah took a business (accounting) major as an undergraduate and then came to law school; Ryan completed law school and went on to an MBA. Both achieved lofty learning objectives and engaged in productive scholarship. Both landed the jobs they wanted--ironically at the same firm (but years apart). For me, the stories of these two students--what they did and how they became successful--illustrates both the power of business school law faculty and law school business law faculty working together and the high value in that relationship as to both teaching and scholarship.
I noted that, in these two (of the three principal) aspects of our common academic existence, teaching and scholarship, there are a number of ways that we can collaborate, offering examples of each:
- conference organization and attendance;
- work in interdisciplinary centers;
- scholarship co-authorships;
- co-teaching and teaching for each other;
- co-currocular and extra-curricular programs (e.g., competitions and journals);
- curriculum development; and
I bet you can guess what blog I mentioned as an example in addressing that last collaborative method . . . .
I also noted, however, that there are barriers to these collaborations--or at least to some of them in certain contexts. Those barriers may include: the fact that reaching across the aisle may be, for the relevant institutions and faculty members, new--that there is no history--and that it may therefore be more of a challenge to scope out and implement collaboration; differences in methodology, norms, and terminology; potential disagreements about institutional or personal credit allocation (including because of ego); questions about the necessary sources of funding and human capital; and overall, a lack of institutional or departmental incentives and rewards for collaboration (including credit in tenure and promotion deliberations at many schools).
Nevertheless, I offered that, even if institutions do not act to support collaborative efforts, we should strike out to overcome the barriers and engage with each other because the benefits are worth the costs. To do so, however, we must both understand and truly appreciate the benefits of collaboration. We also must be willing to take some attendant risk (or pick collaborative methods that avoid or limit risk). I indicated that I plan to head down the collaborative path with increased focus.
To conclude my remarks, in the spirit of my invitation from Haskell to attend and speak at SEALSB, I encouraged the assembled crowd to join me on that collaborative journey, quoting from Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. In that book, he wrote: "Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." [p. 58; emphasis added] Here, I invite all of you who teach business law in a business or law school setting to embrace vulnerability and reach across the aisle to work with your business law colleagues. And if you already have done so, please leave a comment on the outcome--positive or negative.