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Spring 2023 Reading Group

Leadership & Management Skills for Lawyers

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This reading group will study ways for lawyers to become outstanding leaders and managers in different organizational settings: private (corporate and law firm), non-profit and government settings. We will focus on the practical, policy and ethical dimensions of management in these various settings, with a heavy emphasis on practical understanding and skills. And we will pay particular attention to how gender and race dynamics relate to management and leadership issues.

Attorneys can – and should – develop management and leadership skills from their very first day in practice. As your legal career advances, in the future you may be entrusted to run a government agency (or an entire government), a law firm, a non-profit organization, a company’s in-house law department, a court system, or a smaller division of any of these. We will examine principles, case studies and hypothetical problems with an eye to building awareness and habits that prepare you for management roles. And until you become a supervisor, understanding how managers and leaders function will better prepare you to be an effective counsel and to understand the people and entities with whom you work and interact.

Some of the specific questions and topics we will examine include:

  • How do you set goals and measure performance for attorneys when so much of what attorneys do cannot be easily quantified (providing sound judgment and counsel, pursuing justice, preventing disputes, etc.)?
  • What management and communication styles work most effectively in various settings and circumstances?
  • What decisionmaking approaches can managers and leaders use to facilitate good, sound decisions?
  • How can managers handle situations over which they have limited direct authority and control?
  • How can lawyers excel as leaders?
  • How do various compensation systems affect the management of lawyers and how can compensation be optimally structured?
  • How can managers successfully create change in their organizations?
  • How can junior attorneys develop leadership skills and practices that will prove valuable later on in their careers – and what are those key skills and best practices?

We will be joined by special guests throughout the semester who will share their own stories and experiences of managing and leading in different settings. Past special guests have included Bill Lee (Wilmer Hale managing partner), Stephanie Lovell (Blue Cross Blue Shield Mass. general counsel and Mass. First Assistant Attorney General), Margaret Marshall (Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice and Harvard University general counsel), Regina Pisa (Goodwin LLC managing partner), Keren Rimon (Ropes & Gray counsel and Harvard Management Company SVP), Carol Rose (ACLU Massachusetts Executive Director), Barry White (Foley Hoag managing partner and U.S. Ambassador to Norway), and many other talented leaders.

Note: This reading group will meet on Monday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., for 6 sessions over the course of the semester: 1/23, 1/30, 2/13, 2/27, 3/27 and 4/3.