Successful lawyers can influence, negotiate, facilitate, and strategize. They have the capacity to engage in difficult conversations and complex challenges, often in collaboration with others. Students enrolled in the Leadership Initiative at Columbia Law School will learn those lawyer-leadership competencies and graduate prepared to change the world for the better.

This groundbreaking lawyer-leadership initiative is supported by a generous founding grant from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. With the support of the firm, the Law School has developed an integrated series of courses, workshops, fellowships, grants, and mentorship opportunities that allow for in-depth learning in innovative ways.

Lawyer-Leadership Courses

The Leadership Initiative integrates exciting and innovative new course offerings, below, with existing courses that cultivate leadership and professional skills. The curriculum has been thoughtfully crafted to develop students’ capacities throughout their law school careers.

Lawyer Leadership: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Change

Vision, Action, Social Change: Advanced Leadership Learning

Davis Polk Leadership Fellowships and Innovation Grants

The Leadership Fellows are outstanding student leaders who participate in collaborative projects designed to have a positive impact on Columbia Law School, the profession, and the larger community. The Innovation Grants will provide resources and support for Columbia Law School students, administrators, and faculty to develop projects that will create positive change at the Law School and beyond.

Both are made possible by the generous support of Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Inaugural Davis Polk Leadership Fellows and their projects

Innovation Grants

Professional Development and Leadership Skills Workshops

In the spring 2019 semester, Columbia Law launched a series of workshops, run by leading practitioners and faculty, to provide students with concrete lawyer-leadership skills.

Read More
Innovation Grants

Innovation Grants

Launched in January 2019, the Innovation Grants provide resources and support for collaborative projects aimed at creating positive change at Columbia Law School and in the broader community. Recipients have the opportunity to participate in an innovation lab series intended to enhance project impact and sustainability.

The next round of applications will occur at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester. Full-time students, faculty, and staff are eligible to apply. Collaborative projects among student organizations and between students, faculty, and staff are encouraged. If you have questions, please email Professor Susan Sturm or Caroline Golub.

Innovation Grant Recipients – First Cycle, Spring 2019

Project proposals were selected based on their innovativeness, importance, cultivation of collaborations and leadership capacity, potential for impact, and sustainability.


How to Run for Public Office

Project Leaders: Marcus Hunter & Kristen Dupard

This project aims to prepare students to run for office, serve as campaign managers, and play other important electoral roles. To meet the challenges of today’s political climate, the project will provide accessible, understandable podcasts and workshops, both on the experience of navigating campaigns and concrete skills such as campaign finance and narrative development. The project will collaborate with student organizations to achieve these goals, and will engage notable alumni, professors, and other campaign experts to provide insight about the challenges along the way.


Columbia Bail Fund Project

Project Leader: Dorothy Weldon

Description: This collaborative pilot project, designed in partnership with the Bronx Freedom, trains and supports Columbia law Students in providing holistic and client-centered bail practices, enabling students to be licensed and to staff off-hour arraignment shifts that will pay bail and prevent clients from spending even one night in jail on excessive cash bail. By engaging students directly in bail payment and educating a new generation of lawyers about bail, the Columbia Bail Fund Project aims to build students’ capacity to make a powerful impact on one of the most pressing criminal justice issues of our time.


Bridging Islands – Sustaining Personal Development through Community

Project Leader: Vincent Ong

Description: This project explores how community and intentionally focused relationships can support the personal development and change work of law students and lawyers. It will develop and offer a pilot Immunity to Change workshop for students and staff engaged in leadership-related activities, along with tools to support and sustain peer coaching relationships at the law school and in practice.


Facilitating Success in Legal Practice

Project Leaders: Jennifer Ange & Roy Sim

Description: With a vision of helping law students transition smoothly and authentically into legal practice, this project’s goal is to build the leadership capacities of students so that they can navigate the challenging environment of the workplace. In collaboration with Career Services, a series of workshops will cultivate adaptive mindsets and practices that they can use to succeed and thrive in their legal practice.


Combating Domestic Violence Through Law and Technology: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Project Leader: Emilie Schwarz

Description: Spurred by the firm belief in the power of technology to reduce the resource issue experienced too often in the public interest legal sector, this project aims to develop an app that aims to: (1) enable domestic violence survivors to directly share evidence with attorneys in a secure platform and thus further their cases in a timely and cost-effective manner; and (2) provide survivors with information, resources and connections to help them rebuild their lives.  The project will also build law students’ understanding of how to use technology to empower victims of domestic violence and prosecutors.


Building Leadership Practice at Columbia Law School

Project Leaders: Marie-Marie de Fays & Carolina Núñez

Description: This project aims to address the need to build leadership capacities among law students and lawyers. Through collaboration with the Leadership Development Working Group and others involved in leadership development at CLS, this project will form and support a sustainable leadership practice group at Columbia Law School that enables students to incorporate leadership capacities into their daily practice.


Anti-Corruption and Integrity Engagement Project for New York High School Students

Project Leader: Rosie Fatt

Description: Utilizing the resources of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity and Columbia Law School students and staff, this project aims to bring a wider awareness among high school students and law students of the civic importance of combatting and deterring public corruption. The intended impact of the project is to expand the pre-existing dialogue and resources of Columbia Law School on the topic of public integrity to New York public school students to enrich communication and access to channels of dialogue between these communities, build capacity to have these dialogues, and to improve educational awareness around issues of corruption.


Raising the Bar

Project Leaders: Cassandra Gizzo, Cora Wu, Fanta Kamara, Naoko Takashima, & Vivian Elvers

Description: This project seeks to address the imbalance in leadership roles of men and women in the legal field. Through launching on-line and in person dialogues among students, law firms, and legal organizations regarding the experience and design of the workplace environment, and conducting a study on the trends and changing perceptions of the workplace from various perspectives, the goal of this project is to raise awareness among students and law firms with regard to the gender gap in leadership and to bring people with different roles and identities together to find new and effective solutions.

Professional Development and Leadership Skills Workshops

Professional Development and Leadership Skills Workshops

Spring 2019

Persuasive Communication

Students learn how to tailor oral and written communications to disparate audiences.

Date and time TBD

The Power of Relationships: Networking for personal and professional advancement

Students learn what networking really means and how to network for personal advancement and business development.

Date and time TBD

Other Related Spring Programming

Making the Most of Mentorship, date and time TBD

Receiving Feedback, March 26.


Fall 2019

Team Dynamics

Managing Others

Meetings 101: How to Plan and Run Successful Meetings and Conference Calls


Upcoming Events

View Event Calendar
Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching

The law school has launched a program to provide leadership coaching for law students and law school staff who are involved in building leadership capacity in other law students, including students occupying leadership roles in student organizations, innovation grant recipients, Davis Polk Leadership Fellows, student mentors and peer coaches, teaching assistants, and students leading projects requiring leadership skills.


Four individuals with substantial and varied experience supporting leadership development in the public and private sector will be available to meet individually or in groups with students and staff to help them maximize their own impact and the impact of others.  They will also hold periodic workshops, with the first taking place on Wednesday March 13th.


The Inaugural Leadership Coaches


Emily Gould

Emily Gould has been adjunct lecturer and co-teacher of Lawyer-Leadership: Leading Self, Leading Other, Leading Change. She is a leadership coach and trainer, specializing in leadership development for legal organizations.  She has extensive experience as a mediator and mediation trainer, a prosecutor of white-collar provider fraud and felony abuse of people with disabilities by staff and paid caregivers, and a designer of conflict resolution systems in Rwanda. 


Richard Gray

Richard is an adjunct lecturer at Columbia Law School, where he teaches Vision, Action, and Social Change. He is also the Deputy Executive Director of School Change and Community Engagement Programs at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. He has extensive experience building the capacity to work effectively with communities, develop and run teams and organizations, engage in dialogues across difference, fund raising, and strategic planning.


Warren Motley

Warren Motley ‘89 is a Practitioner in Residence at Columbia Law School. He previously served as a Hiring Partner at Davis Polk, and is now senior counsel. He has extensive experience both leading complex cross-border transactions for sophisticated clients and recruiting and preparing law students to be successful lawyers.  He has helped summer and full-time associates successfully navigate law firm life; develop and execute individual career strategies; build the capacity to work effectively on teams; learn to interact effectively with clients, partners, peers and others; and understand how to form and nurture strong professional networks. 


Rachel B. Tiven

Rachel B. Tiven, CLS ‘03, is a national civil rights advocate and non-profit leader. She spent the past 15 years building and leading LGBT and immigrant rights organizations Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality, and Immigrant Justice Corps. Tiven graduated cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College and was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar at Columbia Law School where she also served as symposium editor of the Journal of Gender and Law and interned for then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Second Circuit Externship Program. Tiven most recently spent the fall of 2018 helping run the Voter Protection Hotline for Stacey Abrams’ campaign in Georgia.


Interested students may schedule a meeting with a leadership coach by emailing Caroline Golub.

Experienced Practitioner in Residence Program

Experienced Practitioner in Residence Program

The Experienced Practitioner in Residence Program is an offering of the Leadership Initiative and facilitates interactions between current students and exceptionally accomplished practitioners. The program will give students and experienced practitioners an opportunity to meet with, learn from, and share insights with each other about a wide range of topics related to the Leadership Competencies and law practice. Each Experienced Practitioner in Residence will have office hours for individual meetings with students and will also host workshops, provide leadership coaching and work with Faculty and administrators to develop professional development and leadership programs for JD and LL.M. students. Rachel Tiven and Warren Motley are the inaugural Experienced Practitioners in Residence for Spring of 2019. (A more detailed announcement about the Experienced Practitioner in Residence Program is forthcoming after Spring Break.)


Warren Motley '89

Warren Motley was a member of the Corporate Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP (“Davis Polk”). His practice focused primarily on domestic and international securities offerings of structured products.  Warren was one of the first members of the Equity Derivatives Group at Davis Polk and had extensive experience in the development of new financial products for over 20 years, including various types of synthetic exchangeable securities and other equity-, index-, commodity- and currency-linked products for both retail and institutional investors.  

In the course of his career as an associate, counsel and partner, Warren helped build a new practice group in derivatives which grew to include teams of lawyers working for many of the largest domestic and foreign issuers of structured notes. His work also included consultations with regulators about these new products. He has been recognized as a leading lawyer in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, IFLR 1000, and The Legal 500 (United States). He was also a leader of the Davis Polk structured product team that won the “Law Firm of the Year Americas” Award from Structured Products magazine in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015.

In addition to his securities practice, Warren was the hiring partner for Davis Polk from 2010 to 2016. In that capacity, he worked on articulating hiring criteria and training law students on interview technique and other aspects of a successful job search. He spoke regularly to students at CLS and other leading law schools about the recruiting process, the summer internship program and career development strategy.  

At Columbia Law School, Warren was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and the winner of the E. B. Convers Prize and the Whitney North Seymour Medal. Prior to coming to CLS, he was an Associate Professor of American Literature at Rutgers University. He graduated from Harvard College in 1971 and earned his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Stanford University in 1980. Warren’s interests include American Literature, hiking, skiing and biking.

Warren is a member of the Leadership Initiative’s Co-Curricular Offerings Committee and is excited to continue working in meaningful ways with CLS students as an inaugural EPR. Interested students can make appointments with Warren via Symplicity


Rachel Tiven '03

Rachel B. Tiven is a national civil rights advocate and non-profit leader. She spent the past 15 years building and leading LGBT and immigrant rights organizations, including, Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality, and Immigrant Justice Corps.

Under her leadership, Immigration Equality won asylum for 500 LGBT and HIV+ people; the asylum pro bono program she built now includes 93 firms nationwide, with a 99% win rate. Rachel left the organization at the end of 2013, when Immigration Equality had accomplished its founding goals: in addition to the asylum program, repeal of the HIV immigration and travel ban, and winning recognition for LGBT families in the US immigration system. During her tenure the organization took on advocacy for transgender immigrants trapped in detention, which continues to this day.

Rachel went on to launch Immigrant Justice Corps, founded by Judge Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit, and to hire the first two classes of law graduates and paralegals in that program. Immigrant Justice Corps fellows have assisted 49,000 immigrants and their family members with a 93% success rate. More than 100 immigration lawyers and advocates have graduated from the program, which forms the basis for the non-profit immigration bar of this generation. Rachel left the Corps to take over Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest LGBT and HIV impact litigation non-profit in the world, and spent two years modernizing that organization.

Rachel graduated cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College and was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar at Columbia Law School. She served as symposium editor of the Journal of Gender and Law, and interned for then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Second Circuit Externship Program. After graduation, Tiven served as a law clerk to the Hon. Barbara S. Jones in the Southern District of New York. Tiven spent the fall of 2018 helping run the Voter Protection Hotline for Stacey Abrams’ campaign in Georgia, and she is thrilled to help launch the experienced practitioner-in-residence program at CLS. Interested students can email Rachel Tiven to request an appointment at [email protected].

Leadership Development Working Group

Leadership Development Working Group

The Leadership Development Working Group (LDWG) provides strategic direction for the Leadership Initiative. It comprises Columbia Law School faculty, students, administrators, alumni, and practitioners.

The committee is co-chaired by Susan Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, and Petal Modeste, associate dean of Student Affairs Administration. Caroline Golub is the coordinator of the Leadership Initiative.


  • Meher Dev ’19 LL.M.
  • Ibrahim Diallo ’20
  • Meg Gould ’21
  • Eric Lenier Ives ’19
  • Caleb King ’20
  • Udodilim Nnamdi ’21


  • Kristin Bresnahan, Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership
  • Robert Ford, Student Services
  • Joel Kosman, Student Services
  • Susan Kraham, Experiential Learning
  • Julia Miller, Executive Education
  • Sylvia T. Polo, Graduate Legal Studies
  • Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Student Services
  • Marta Ricardo, Career Services
  • Erica Smock, Social Justice Initiatives
  • Laren Spirer, Social Justice Initiatives

Alumni and Practitioners

  • Anurima Bhargava ’02, Anthem of Us
  • Maurice Blanco, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
  • Vanessa Jackson ’12, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
  • Jeffrey Lewis ’86, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  • Patricia Okonta ’18, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Gulika Reddy ’16 LL.M., Human Rights Institute
  • Dana Seshens, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
  • Michael Washington, ’18 Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
  • Maya Wiley ’89, The New School