By: Greg Miarecki, Executive Assistant Dean for Career Planning and Professional Development, Director of the University of Illinois College of Law Leadership Project, University of Illinois College of Law
As part of our work on professional identity formation, the University of Illinois College of Law recently launched a Leadership Project that is designed to teach students about core principles of leadership. For many reasons, our profession is over-represented in leadership ranks. One only need look at the 45 U.S. Presidents (Grover Cleveland was one man, but two Presidents) for proof – 26 of them were trained as attorneys, two of them (Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama) from Illinois.
The Leadership Project begins in the 1L year, with three sessions of our Fundamentals of Legal Practice course focused on leadership. One class offers general principles of leadership, co-taught by our Dean and the CEO of Portillo’s Hot Dogs. The second class focuses on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion when leading teams. The third and final class in the series focuses on leadership in the non-profit realm, recognizing that lawyers will be called to lead everything from condo boards to nations.
We invite 2Ls and 3Ls to continue with Leadership Project activities. Each year, we offer a series of lectures and classes focused on leadership, as well as two “book talks” – sessions that discuss selected books focused on leadership. During the past couple of years, we’ve hosted notable guests such as former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White. And, together, we’ve read and analyzed a variety of books, including, for example, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land and Sam Walker’s The Captain Class. As part of the event planning process, we regularly reach out to student groups and encourage them to co-host Leadership Project events. This year, many of our events featured student moderators and discussants. In fact, each year, our Student Bar Association hosts a panel discussion of student leaders – moderated by students – as part of the Project.
Students who complete the required number of lectures, book talks, and classes are invited to participate in a half-day leadership retreat facilitated by an executive coach. Upon completing the retreat, students receive the designation of Leadership Scholar, which is added to their transcript. This month, we’re looking forward to graduating our second cohort of Leadership Scholars, and interest in the Project among our students continues to grow.
We’ve also expanded the Leadership Project beyond the student body, offering continuing legal education in this area to alumni and friends around the world. If you’re interested in learning more about the Leadership Project, or taking part in some of our events, please connect with me on LinkedIn or e-mail me at email@example.com.