With changing demographics, shifting client demands, increased competition and globalization, and the infiltration of technology, the legal profession is ever-evolving. Being a strong and effective leader in the legal profession is a key skill for current law students to learn, to be able to adapt to the forces playing a significant role in the way lawyers will practice law.
The Faculty of Law is responding to these changes with a new course, Leadership for Lawyers. In this course, students have the opportunity to learn about and develop different leadership tools, as well as gain an understanding of when and how to use these tools effectively. Instructor Kyla Sandwith says this course “aligns with the law school’s Calgary Curriculum and strategic plan, because it goes beyond what we’ve traditionally taught in law and focuses on developing the leadership skills necessary to thrive in an evolving profession over the long term.”
Students learn leadership strengths and opportunities for development
The course delivers on these objectives by guiding students through an introspective examination of their leadership qualities and characteristics to highlight both strengths and opportunities for development. Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all quality; rather, effective leaders exhibit many different management styles and techniques tailored to their own personal traits and particular circumstances. The introspective focus of this course gives students the opportunity to define their own leadership styles and gain an understanding of leadership styles that they may see in the legal profession.
Taught through a combination of class discussions and reflective journaling, a small class size of 14 students encourages students to speak up and bounce ideas off others. In addition to class time, the reflective journals challenge students to analyze their natural leadership styles and identify areas they would like to develop.
New ways to structure your thinking
Third-year law student Alyshea Surani enjoys this aspect of the course: “It allows you to change the way you think in law school because you are able to find new ways to structure your thought process.” Reflective journaling is also more than simply a class exercise; it is a valuable tool used by many successful professionals to stay mindful and conscious of their leadership goals.
Students also learn about different methodologies used in practice such as effective team management, project management, process improvement, and organizational change. Students test these methodologies through a case study, which gives them the opportunity to test out their leadership styles and techniques in small groups, including how to lead an effective team, as well as leading from within an effective team.
For third-year student Mat Sells, “The practical application of what we are learning is crucial. To truly understand the principles being discussed in this class, students need to apply them to real-world scenarios, not simply be examined on concepts.”
Course is applicable to all areas of legal profession
This course is valuable to students because it has a broad application that will help students entering into all areas of the legal profession. As Sells notes, “Law school does a good job of preparing students for solving legal problems, but that is only part of what we face when we graduate. Every law firm is a business and this course does a great job of shedding light on the whole picture.”
Although the legal profession is experiencing significant changes, the ability to exhibit leadership will help students lead and adapt through each new advancement. Sandwith’s goal for students is for them to “walk away feeling empowered. I want them to recognize that they have, and can further develop, leadership skills to help them navigate the profession and the difficulties that arise, and to come out better at the end of it.”