Monday, January 2, 2023
A Business Law Prof "Goes Bowling" (Again): Leadership Lessons
I have been to college bowl games before to watch the Tennessee Volunteers football team play. There was the loss to Clemson in the Peach Bowl (Atlanta) in 2003 and there were losses to North Carolina and Purdue in the Music City Bowl (Nashville) in 2010 and 2021. I cannot remember if I was there for the 2016 win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl (Nashville). And I may have missed another bowl in there somewhere. This year, the stakes seemed bigger. The enemy again would be Clemson. Could this bowl game be a revenge match for the 2003 Peach Bowl loss?
And so, here we were (me, my husband, and my 31-year-old daughter), at 4:30 am Friday morning, December 30, 2022. We were awake and showered and packing the car for our first trip to the Orange Bowl. Tennessee football had played well in a truly storied 2022 season. And I was there for it all (at least for the home games). Due to my service to the campus, I had the opportunity to get great tickets. My hubby and daughter were "in." Now, it was "go time."
Having arranged the trip late in the game and needing to integrate it with pre-existing plans for the three of us to spend the new year in San Diego (where I have family), the flight options for the trip were complex, limited, and somewhat expensive. But my secretarial assistant is a wiz at finding odd and inexpensive routing (shout out to Sean!). To save money, we would leave from Nashville, not Knoxville.
The trip, counterintuitively, involved flying from Nashville to Dulles and then to Fort Lauderdale. But we were prepared! We know the road to Nashville well (my husband's business has a clinic there, our son lives there, and I do a fair amount of work for the Tennessee Bar Association, which is based there). We understood that the trip to Nashville sometimes involves delays (especially in areas where the interstate is a mere two-lane highway). So, I built an extra hour-plus into our driving schedule. We made good progress for the first hour or so of the trip. And then the wheels fell off the wagon (so to speak) . . . .
Less than halfway to the airport in Nashville (which is about a 2.5-hour drive from Knoxville), we were stopped dead in our tracks on the interstate. There was an accident ahead (and apparently not too far ahead). We were grateful that it did not involve our car or us. For a bit, we remained calm. We had plenty of extra time. How bad could it be?
It was bad. Based on news gleaned from our cell phones, two cars were overturned. People parked on the highway with us got out of their cars to walk their dogs, etc. If folks could tolerate the cold, they turned their engines off. We all amused ourselves with our cell phones. I finished calculating the grades in one of my classes. (Grades were due later that morning, and I had planned to send this last set from the airport before we left.) An hour passed.
Then, the panic set in, a bit. At about 75 minutes in, with no sign of a change in sight, my husband said: "Should we look into changing our flight?" Then, it ht me: there would be few seats left on any plane, given bowl games, new year's eve, and (in general) the holiday travel debacle that continued to plague travelers days after the Christmas holiday was ostensibly "in the books."
I engaged with Tom through United Airline's reservations line. Tom was our savior. After more than an hour on the phone (seriously--the sun began to rise as we continued to sit in the traffic jam--see the photo above) during which Tom looked for every available flight/series of flights from every fairly local airport into every imaginable airport within driving distance of Miami, Tom found us three seats on a Southwest Airlines flight out of Nashville into Fort Myers. It would cost us megabucks extra, but it would get in early enough for us to drive the two-plus hours to Hollywood/Miami and still make the game, if all went well. We took the deal.
Blessedly, all did go well. After two-plus hours of zero movement on the highway, the cars in front of us began to switch into gear and roll down the interstate once more. Blessing of all blessings! After arriving at the airport in Nashville, we were able to reserve a one-day rental car from Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale at a reasonable price. And after a relatively uneventful flight (despite the issues Southwest Airlines had experienced earlier in the week), we drove to Hollywood, checked into our hotel, and Uberred to the game.
We missed the alumni tailgate (a favorite pre-game activity of mine), but we arrived in time to explore the Hard Rock Stadium pre-game scene for a bit. We were all smiles, as you can see from this photo.
Then, the adrenaline started flowing. And it flowed, and flowed, . . . . And the Tennessee Vols prevailed over the Clemson Tigers 31-14.
What does any of this have to do with being a business law professor (other than that working for an employer that fields a winning football team provides more motive and opportunity to attend college bowl games)?
As I have been processing Friday's Orange Bowl trip in my mind and, simultaneously, preparing for a panel discussion I am participating in at the Association of American Law Schools 2023 Annual Meeting later this week (Thursday, 8:00 am - 9:40 am), I realized that there are many leadership lessons in that experience that we can and should be teaching our law students. Those include assessing the contextual importance of certain leadership attributes (e.g., tenacity, patience, flexibility, resilience) to leadership processes (e.g., effective questioning, resource allocation). Lawyers are professional and personal leaders, and as I offered in a recently published edited transcript, "[i]n transactional business law, there are so many opportunities to lead, from team work situations involving the drafting and negotiation of merger agreements to diversifying the board of directors . . . ." I then noted that "any scenario involving business transactional law or practice . . . likely involves at least one circumstance in which change leadership can be taught." (Check out my article on Change Leadership and the Law School Curriculum here.)
In Thursday's program, I will be talking about lawyer leadership and leadership development in the transactional business law space--at UT and more generally. As regular readers know, I have been directing our Institute for Professional Leadership at UT Law since the fall semester of 2020. The curriculum I manage addresses lawyer leadership. But lawyer leadership is teachable in so many settings and without the need for specialized courses or an articulated curriculum..
The AALS panel is ambitiously (but not unrealistically) entitled "How Transactional Lawyers Can Impact the World." For those of you who will be at the conference on Thursday, we will be in Marriott Grand Ballroom 11 on the Lobby Level of the North Tower. The discussion is being moderated by Eric Chaffee, the current chair of the Section on Transactional Law and Skills. The program description for the session reads as follows:
The theme of this year's annual meeting is "How Law Schools Can Make a Difference." References to social change and the law often beckon forth thoughts of crusading litigators winning important cases in court. This session explores what role transactional attorneys can play in impacting the world and how law students can be prepared to become those type of lawyers.
My co-panelists are an impressive lot, all dear friends in the law academy, with a varied set of perspectives and amazingly strong track records in legal education:
Alina Ball (University of California, Hastings College of the Law)
J. Robert Brown, Jr. (University of Denver Sturm College of Law)
Nicole Iannarone (Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law)
Benjamin Means (University of South Carolina School of Law)
It is such an honor to be included in this group! I hope to see a number of you who are readers from the law teaching world at the session. The Q&A part of the program will, I am sure, be illuminating and a strong feature of the session.
Oh, and Go Vols!