Lawyers as Leaders
Deborah L. Rhode
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No occupation in America supplies a greater proportion of leaders than the legal profession, yet it has done little to prepare them for this role. Lawyers sit at the helm of a vast array of powerful law firms, businesses, governmental, and nonprofit organizations. Two of the last three presidents have been lawyers. And yet almost no occupation rouses greater public distrust.
This paradox raises two important questions: Why do we look to lawyers to lead, and why do so many of them prove to be so ill-prepared for that role? In Lawyers as Leaders, eminent law professor Deborah Rhode not only answers these questions but provides an invaluable overview for attorneys who occupy or aspire to leadership positions in public and private practice settings. Drawing on a broad range of interdisciplinary research, biographical profiles, and empirical studies, she covers everything from decision making, conflict management, and communication to ethics and diversity in leadership, and what lawyers can do to advance both their professional development and the public interest. Rhode contends that the legal profession attracts many people with the ambition and analytic capabilities to be leaders but often fails to develop other qualities that are essential to their effectiveness. Successful lawyers need to be confident, competitive, and even combative, but possessing such qualities often results in a lack of interpersonal sensitivity, emotional intelligence, and resilience-the "soft skills" that both legal education and the reward structure of legal practice consistently undervalue. The most successful leaders, Rhode argues, are those who can see past their own ambitions and retain a capacity for critical reflection on their performance.
The first serious work on leadership and law, Lawyers as Leaders will prove essential to law students, law faculty, and lawyers holding or seeking governance positions.
MacArthur’s refusal to acknowledge the problem, despite ample evidence of racially disparate treatment in job assignments, promotions, and court martials. When Marshall pointed out the absence of blacks on the entire headquarters’ staff and the General’s personal guard, MacArthur insisted that no blacks were qualified for such positions. Marshall then pointed out that the base’s military band also had no blacks, and added “Now General, just between you and me, goddammit, don’t you tell me that
valuable time with my family in the last couple of weeks, and said I was going back to work.104 As Clinton acknowledged in his memoirs, “my anger hadn’t worn off enough for me to be as contrite as I should have been.”105 “Get over it,” was his implicit message, and the public didn’t. Finally, at a White House Prayer breakfast, Clinton delivered the apology that most commentators felt he should have given at the outset. Part of what made it satisfying was his recognition that he had missed
constitute over a third of the profession but only about a fifth of law firm partners, general counsel of Fortune 500 corporations, and law school deans.2 Part of the problem lies in a lack of consensus on whether there is a serious problem, and if so, what strategies would effectively address it. In exploring these issues, it makes sense to focus on race, ethnicity, and gender. Although these are not the only relevant dimensions of diversity, they affect the most lawyers and have generated the
loyalty from junior partners,” and enabled the firm to broaden its scope of practice.112 When he was editing The American Lawyer, Steven Brill observed that the “leaders… of almost every successful firm that I have seen, have ‘bought’ their leadership role in part by sacrificing personal income for the sake of building the institution.”113 By contrast, a legacy to be avoided is that of Paul Cravath. When a committee of partners delicately raised the possibility of revisiting the compensation
his name, is legendary for “bridge build[ing]” and having “a firm grasp of what is important to others.”98 Louis Brandeis, who distinguished himself in many leadership positions on and off the bench, recognized the value of knowing the affairs of others, including clients, “better than they do” and using that knowledge to forge personal relationships. As he advised a young lawyer, “the ability to impress [others] grows from… confidence [that] can never come from books; it is gained by human