Paul L. Caron

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Heminway: Change Leadership And The Law School Curriculum

Joan MacLeod Heminway (Tennessee; Google Scholar), Change Leadership and the Law School Curriculum, 62 Santa Clara L. Rev. 43 (2022):

ChangeLawyers, as inherent and frequent leaders in professional, community, and personal environments, have a greater-than-average need for proficiency in change leadership. In these many settings, lawyers are charged with promoting, making, and addressing change. For example, one commentator observes that, “as stewards of the family justice system and leaders of change, family law attorneys have an ongoing responsibility to foster continuous system improvement.” Change is part of the fabric of lawyering, writ large. Change leadership, whether voluntarily assumed or involuntarily shouldered, is inherent in the lawyering task. Yet, change leadership—well known as a focus for attention in management settings and related academic literature—is rarely called out for individual or focused attention in the traditional law school curriculum. This article presents a brief argument for the intentional and instrumental teaching of change leadership to law students.

“If law schools seriously intend to prepare the next generation of leaders,” Professor Thompson avers, “they must recognize and embrace the duty to start this process of learning by exposing law students to leadership concepts and lessons through their pedagogy and substantive discussions.” Overall, we can do a great service to our students by introducing them to change leadership (and other common leadership processes) as well as leadership capacity, attributes, and styles. This article advocates providing law students with that introduction.

Change may be necessitated by external circumstances or it may be driven by internal goals or values. It may be initiated on a “clear day” or borne of crisis. Regardless, it is ubiquitous. “[T]here is a need for change leaders continuously . . . .” As a result, lawyers must engage with change and change leadership in the ordinary course. Their professional responsibilities, as well as their practical reality, make this clear. Yet, lawyers may reject or question change in situations that demand or imply that they lead change for the benefit of a client or the public interest. Moreover, they may undertake to lead change— voluntarily or involuntarily—in the wake of a crisis, only to find that they may not know how to sustain and solidify the change they have enabled. Challenges abound.

Nevertheless, teaching change leadership in law school can lay an important foundation for an effective, ethical law practice and life in service to the community that incorporates, accepts, and values change. After graduation, the bar must take up the mantle and ensure that the leadership education process started in the law school setting continues into law practice.67 The required maintenance of competence necessitates continued engagement with change and, thus, change leadership.68 Perhaps that is fodder for a subsequent article . . . .

With the advent of the pandemic, the awakening of a strident racial justice movement, and the degenerative progression of a contentious presidential election cycle, 2020 will not soon be forgotten as a year of visible and wide-ranging change. Lawyers have been guiding much of that change and are critical to the path forward.69 It seems wise to reflect on how to better educate and train lawyers to exercise their leadership capacity in times of change. Well-trained lawyer-leaders can make a difference by inspiring transformations in law and society that are designed to work over the long haul. This essay argues for teaching change leadership in law school as a formative step in that lawyer-as-leader education and training process.

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