Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Leadership Matters: Lawyers' Leadership Skills and Competencies"

By Dean Donald J. Polden (Santa Clara) published at 52 Santa Clara L. Rev. 899 (2012) as part of Santa Clara's recent symposium on "Leadership Education for Lawyers and Law Students." From the introduction:

Leadership matters. In nearly every aspect of public and private life, the ability to inspire others to work towards positive and ethical change is critical to the success of organizations, businesses and communities, and other groups. Leadership also is critical to the success of our political and governmental institutions because people want to believe in the ability of their leaders to guide change and achieve success. The same is true for lawyers whether in private law practice, government service, work with nonprofit entities or other areas where lawyers use their skills and knowledge. Leadership involves skills and competencies that are essential for success in the practice of law and in other occupations and callings that lawyers fulfill. It is therefore surprising that leadership is not taught in most American law schools and that only a few, but visionary, law firms are developing leadership skills in their lawyers in a systematic way. What accounts for this gap between the skills necessary for success in a client-service and value-driven profession and the educational objectives of both the professional education and practice regimes?
The main theme of the Article is why leadership skills are important for today's lawyers, especially lawyers beginning their careers in law firms and other law practice settings. This Article attempts to explain the reasons for the gap between what the legal profession values with respect to leadership competencies and what law school graduates are being taught, and, more importantly, to fill those gaps by articulating a more robust case for leadership education for the legal profession. Without question, there is growing interest in the development of leadership skills in law schools and in law practice settings and this trend toward greater leadership education is described in the Article. This Article describes how leadership skills are being built into the performance expectations at some leading law firms as they attempt to develop and strengthen their associate level talent.
Part I begins by describing the importance of leadership education for lawyers and other professionals. This description includes a working definition of leadership abilities that lawyers and law students should be taught and be able to demonstrate. Part II provides a definition of leadership by lawyers and Part III identifies and describes several leadership models and theories and explains their applicability to lawyers in the service of clients. Then, Part IV attempts to “unbundle” leadership by examining various competencies subsumed within the skill of leadership and several useful approaches to understanding the fundamental attributes of leaders. Part V then examines these competences in the specific context of lawyers and demonstrates that leadership education for lawyers is achievable and desirable. The legal profession and certainly the well being of lawyers' clients are advanced by the broader and more systematic education of lawyers for leadership roles and responsibilities. This Article argues that the development of leadership skills is desirable in many walks of American life and that these abilities are critical to the success of our organizations and institutions--commercial, non-profit, governmental, and others. Further, it develops a workable definition of leadership that is particularly applicable to the roles and responsibilities of lawyers in our communities and in their work with clients.


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