Reflection on lawyers as leaders.

Author:Stein, Laura
Position:2017 Stanford Law Review Symposium; Raising the Bar: Lawyers and Leadership

As a lawyer and a leader, I am extremely privileged and honored to have served as the first woman general counsel at two wonderful Fortune 500 companies, as a director on three leading Fortune 500 company boards, and in leadership roles with professional organizations and nonprofits whose missions and volunteers inspire me to do more. I have been very fortunate to be able to use my influence as a leader in our profession and collaborate with other leaders to encourage pro bono, champion diversity, and protect the rule of law.

I first learned to be a leader as a lawyer by observing and emulating leaders in the law. I grew up thinking most leaders were lawyers--my father is a law school professor, and I grew up knowing many incredible judges, law professors, and lawyers who used their influence to drive positive societal change and better the world. These leaders taught me about the special role of lawyers in upholding the rule of law as the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. I wanted to be like the inspirational lawyers I met who passionately advocated for equal rights and opportunities for all and fought against unfairness and human rights abuses. And I was inspired by lawyers committed to creating access to justice for those at risk in our society--people in desperate need of pro bono legal services. I saw that lawyers help solve problems and create advantage for individuals, families, businesses, governments, and organizations in numerous important ways. Lawyers as leaders have long used the law to make a real difference, to matter, and to help.

Of all the amazing lawyer role models I grew up with, one phenomenal leader in particular stands out: my father, Robert Stein. My father is the reason my sisters and I decided to become lawyers and why we all continue to love and practice the law to this day. As the first member of his family to go to college--let alone law school--my father has excelled as a leader in everything he has undertaken, whether as a distinguished law professor, a visionary law school dean, or as an outstanding Executive Director of the American Bar Association (ABA). (1)

There are three essential leadership lessons I was privileged to learn at a young age from my father. First, leaders have a clear purpose and can make a real difference. As a law school dean, my father focused on attracting and retaining a top-quality, diverse faculty and engaging and enlisting the support of alumni, which were essential to his vision of creating an inclusive law school environment where all students learned to become excellent lawyers and to embrace the values of our profession. He was clear about his vision and his plan to get there. All his actions as a law school dean--such as creating international faculty and student exchange opportunities at leading law schools across the world to enhance learning and the rule of law or traveling the country to build a vibrant network of dedicated alumni who contributed to his law school--were in furtherance of his clear goals. Indeed, my father's purpose-led leadership is best evidenced by his long-held commitment to strengthening the rule of law, a commitment that started when he was a foreign exchange student in Berlin in the 1950s and saw...

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