Leadership Training Initiative Launches

Cross-disciplinary program funded by law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP to include curriculum and case studies that prepare students to lead.

Columbia Law School announced today a cross-disciplinary initiative designed to prepare students to succeed as leaders in a wide range of sectors.

Funded by a startup grant from the law firm Davis Polk, the initiative will include courses and workshops, case studies, research, and professional development to build leadership knowledge and skills for both the private and public sectors worldwide.

“Law students today can expect varied and challenging careers that will call upon them to lead institutions with vision and strategy, function effectively within complex organizations, and engage and motivate others across sectors, industries, and geographies,” said Gillian Lester, dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law.

“We are committed to teaching the skills that prepare students to excel in the diverse roles they will occupy over the course of their careers—as both lawyers and leaders in society,” Lester added.

The Davis Polk Leadership Initiative will combine legal, business, and interpersonal training and comes amid changes in the role of lawyers that demand professionals who possess the ability to collaborate across diverse teams and guide others in pursuit of common goals.

"Gone are the days when lawyering was solely about technical niche expertise,” said Davis Polk's managing partner, Thomas J. Reid ’87 LL.M. “Our clients today look for lawyers to partner with them and lead teams of professionals to identify creative and enduring solutions to their most challenging problems.”

The initiative will enhance an existing series of programs, workshops and professional events that prepare students to play leadership roles as lawyers, executives, educators, public servants, and professionals who are challenged to help institutions and organizations navigate change and achieve their goals.

The initiative will draw on the work of a diverse group of faculty members, administrators, students, and alumni from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors chaired by Susan Sturm, the George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility and the founding director of the law school’s Center for Institutional and Social Change, and Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

Lawyers as Leaders

Starting this spring, the Law School will offer “Lawyer Leadership: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading Change,” an intensive, interactive seminar combining academic and hands-on learning experiences that will provide students with a set of core leadership competencies so that they can build community and effect change. The seminar will be taught jointly by Sturm; Elizabeth Emens, the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law whose teaching and research focus on disabilities, employment, contracts, and sexuality; and Emily Gould, a leadership coach and consultant.

Case studies

As part of the initiative, the Law School will commission a series of case studies that will demonstrate effective methods for lawyers to influence, persuade, and collaborate effectively to achieve common goals.

The case studies, which will draw on real-world examples and the latest research, will encompass such challenges as dealing with feedback or difficulties on teams; resolving problems that arise in transactions, teams or organizations; and managing a series of stakeholders whose interests vary but share a common challenge.

Professional development

The initiative will also expand the Law School’s professional development curriculum, which helps students acquire or sharpen skills required of professional service providers, regardless of the sector in which they work.

The curriculum, which is offered by the Law School’s Office of Career Services and Professional Development, includes a series of both mandatory and elective sessions that help participants assess their talents, experiences, and goals; improve interpersonal and communications skills; understand team dynamics; build influence within and manage across organizations; develop emotional and situational intelligence; and structure their careers amid change.

The initiative builds on existing programming, such as the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series, which brings to campus accomplished legal thinkers and practitioners. The inaugural speaker was Alibaba Group General Counsel Tim Steinert ’89, who early in his career spent three years at Davis Polk in New York before returning to Asia.

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Posted on November 30, 2017