Law Schools: The New Place for Leaders?
Law schools are teaching an entirely new skill: leadership.
Inc. recently looked into why leadership—with an emphasis on soft skills—has taken the forefront at top law school across the country, and how they’re completely rethinking and revamping legal education.
“Law students aren’t used to learning about how to develop leadership skills, and professors certainly aren’t used to teaching it,” Jeffrey Cohn, author of award-winning blog called The Forge and contributor at Inc., says. “Getting left-brained, analytic, hyper-competitive law students to genuinely embrace soft and squishy concepts like empathy and teamwork requires a different mindset. In fact, it requires a new way of educating altogether.”
CREATING A SAFE SPACE
At top law schools, such as Yale Law, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law, deans are leading the charge on revamping legal education with a focus on self-awareness, empathy, resilience, and vulnerability.
Cohn, who has served as a guest lecturer at Yale Law, says schools, like Yale, are introducing a holistic approach to leadership development around curricular, programmatic, and mentorship components.
“In the classroom, our goal was to inspire Yale law students to confront their development needs, blind spots, and fears head-on,” Cohn says. “Accomplishing it required creating a ‘safe space’ in which participants could share stories – without fear of ridicule or judgment – and offer advice and best practices to peers. We invited a slew of accomplished YLS alumni to share their own development journeys, including their biggest obstacles (and mistakes) along the way.”
In many ways, Cohn says, the environment is similar to that of a group therapy session—mixed in with a Harvard Business School case discussion.
“The conversation was practical and focused on real business outcomes,” Cohn says. “But it also allowed students to open up about their fears and anxieties and think of new ways to overcome deep-seated personal challenges. Along the way, participants learned more about themselves, their classmates, and their authentic leadership styles.”
‘SOFT SKILL TRAINING IS ICING ON THE CAKE’
In recent years, B-schools have placed an increased focus on soft-skill development. And while leadership and soft skill competency are traditionally seen as business-related, Cohn says law schools are catching up.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if some elite law schools soon surpass top business schools as the best place for high-potential talent to stretch outside their comfort zones and sharpen soft skills and leadership competencies,” Cohn says. “Law school already emphasizes problem solving and dissecting complex challenges, which is a key competency for any leader in today’s unforgiving and unpredictable business world. Soft skill training is icing on the cake.”
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