Learning to Lead
Sharp legal skills aren’t the only thing students need to acquire during their time in law school. Taking a page from business school curricula, leadership development is becoming an increasingly crucial piece of legal education.
At Georgetown University Law Center, Dean William Treanor and Associate Dean of Strategy Hillary Sale developed a class for the fall 2020 semester called “Lawyers as Leaders,” which quickly became the most enrolled course in school history. The class featured candid conversations with star faculty at Georgetown detailing their career arcs – with a particular emphasis on overcoming setbacks.
“What we wanted to do was to give our students a sense of, how do you think about a career? How do you think about what you want to achieve? How do you go about doing it?” Treanor said. “And then also to get them to realize that life is not smooth, that everybody has bumps, everybody has losses. It doesn’t work out for anybody the way that they wanted to. How do you bounce back?”
Sale, who is also on the faculty at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, said adapting business school cases for a law school context can help students understand what great leaders do and what their qualities are. Ultimately, the goal is to empower law students to think more strategically about how to own their careers.
“The more we can help our students actively focus on how to develop their careers and live their options, the happier and healthier they will be and the better able they will be to grow into great team players and leaders, no matter what choice they make,” Sale said.
Sale’s additional leadership courses for law students are focused on things that aren’t seen as often in the law school curriculum – students working in teams on an ongoing basis to produce projects and outcomes by conducting research and developing strategies for change.
“Our philosophy is, ‘Leaders don’t whine, they roll up their sleeves and get to work,’” she said.