Leading From Where You Are

“Stand up if you are a leader of anything,” was Kate Irwin-Smiler’s opening to the session. Of course, the question quickly raised by someone in the audience was whether our leadership was in our own estimation or whether it was based on our title. (Lots of laughter here.) Then she asked us to sit down and those who are followers stand. This interactive exercise led into Kate Irwin-Smiler, Reference Librarian at Wake Forest University School of Law and Sara Sampson, Assistant Dean for Information Services & Law Library Director at Ohio State Moritz College of Law’s presentation “Leading from Where You Are.” Both women talked about how they are leaders and followers. Sara Sampson pointed out that although she has a traditional leadership title, she is still a follower as she follows more experienced deans and the dean of the law school who is also a leader and a follower. They pointed out that being a good follower can give you the skills to become a good leader.

What is a leader?

People who think creatively and are passionate about what they do. People who think about problems and work to fix problems. – AALL Leadership Academy 2014

People who realize you have to work through other people to achieve results. They bring people together to make things happen. – The Introverted Leader

Sampson found that there are lots of different definitions of leadership and those who write about leadership do not agree. Some believe leaders are born with certain traits that help them become leaders and others define leadership by what they do: they innovate, they take charge, and they make decisions. She concluded there are many ways to be a leader and the definition needs to be broadened.

Different Types of Leaders

Even official, formal leaders like the President of the United States or our AALL Board cannot be effective unless they have followers.

Then there are leaders like those in Selma who stood up to the leaders with official powers of the state and they got some of their objectives accomplished.

Sandra Day O’Connor was a trail blazing leader. Just by her presence on the court, she led the way for other woman to be on the Supreme Court. She had to do her job and do it well for others to follow.

Rosalind Franklin whose work on the structure of DNA was overshadowed by others in her field was a leader too in that she continued with her work despite lack of recognition. She was a thought leader.

Pope Francis is a leader, not only because he is head of the Catholic Church but because he is quietly keeping the focus on issues like poverty over a long period of time.

The Pope, Mahatma Gandhi and many in the law library profession are servant leaders.

The facilitating leaders of our profession make connections between people with needs and resources. These people are often quiet leaders who are integral to the success of an organization.

Collaborative/negotiating leaders work across departments or across the university.

Mentoring and sponsoring leaders not only advise mentees but also give critical, honest feedback, make connections, open doors at higher levels so that the mentee can succeed.

A cheerleader leads by touting other’s success, showing how important their work is to the organization.

How Library Staff Can Lead In Your Library… a Brainstorm List

  • Managing programs
  • Chairing committees
  • Trusting others to do their job
  • Giving people what they need
  • Using creativity
  • Teaching
  • Facilitating opportunities
  • Using different language that does not diminish what we do
  • Bridging the gap between the library and other departments
  • Participating in teams
  • Providing institutional knowledge to others
  • Raising issues that need to be addressed
  • Identifying problems and proposing solutions

How to Be a Responsible Follower

Whether or not you choose to be a leader, here are ways of being a responsible follower:

  • Managing up
  • Engaging at work
  • Being prepared and participating in meetings
  • Sharing ideas in a respectful way
  • Leading yourself and your reactions
  • Being willing to do what others will not
  • Investing in work relationships
  • Lightening the leader’s load
  • Thinking about what people will need and having it ready in advance
  • Knowing when to push for your ideas and when to let go
  • Realizing that dissent is a gift

ALR Student’s Corner: What’s A Good Legal Movie Without A Little Misconduct? Professional Responsibility in The Client

I’ve been a John Grisham fan ever since my grandfather gave me my first copy of The Firm while I was still an undergrad. I was instantly ensnared by Grisham’s fast paced and intricate legal dramas that explore how traditional ideas of right and wrong tend to flex within the constraints of the law. As with any good legal thriller, Grisham’s novels are usually filled with high stakes crime, mobsters, and unsavory attorneys with questionable ethics. The 1994 adaptation of The Client is no exception to the Grisham best seller recipe, and tells the tale of a poor Memphis boy, Mark Sway, who is targeted by the Italian mafia for knowing damning information that could destroy the criminal organization in New Orleans.

Obviously, legal dramas that lack the gritty and devious excitement that comes with unethical behavior would hardly have movie goers flocking to the theaters. True to form, the plot of The Client is built upon a sleazy and cowardly lawyer’s violation of the most fundamental rule of professional conduct, attorney client confidentiality (Rule 1.6 under the ABA Model Rules). In the film, the highly intoxicated Jerome Clifford, attorney for Barry “The Blade” Muldano, tells young Mark, in a suicidal last confession, that Muldano admitted to the highly publicized murder of a state senator and buried the body in Clifford’s own back-yard boat shed. As a result, Mark is thrust into a tug of war between Barry the Blade, threatening to kill Mark if he breaks his silence, and Roy Fultrigg, a formidable U.S. Attorney demanding that Mark tell him the location of the body so that he can prosecute Muldano for the senator’s murder and bask in the political glory of a conviction.

Although the unethical misconduct in The Client starts with Clifford’s suicidal confession, it is hardly the most egregious offense in the film. As Mark begins to understand the predicament he’s in, he hires Reggie Love, a recovering alcoholic and juvenile advocate, to fend off Fultrigg and his pack of FBI lackeys. Fultrigg is the next lawyer who we see blatantly disregard the Rules of Professional Conduct when he attempts to question Mark without his mother being present, and specifically tells Mark he does not need an attorney (in violation of Rule 4.3 Dealing with Unrepresented Person, Rule 4.1 Truthfulness in Statements to Others, and Rule 8.4 Misconduct). Unfortunately for the smooth talking Reverend Fultrigg, Reggie anticipates his bad behavior and catches him in the act by having wired Mark and recorded the entire unethical encounter.

Interestingly enough (but perhaps not surprisingly), it is the film’s flawed heroine, Reggie Love, who commits the most serious violations throughout the film. After catching Fultrigg red-handed, she immediately threatens to expose him with the tape, essentially blackmailing a federal prosecutor. However, this is a minor infraction compared to what she does as the danger to Mark and herself intensifies as the film progresses. Reggie’s next major offense occurs when she barges in to the juvenile judge’s chambers and attempts to sway him in her favor based on their standing friendship (in violation of Rule 3.5 Impartiality And Decorum of the Tribunal). Yet, it isn’t until the film heats up in anticipation of the climatic discovery of the senator’s body that Reggie really throws the rule book out of the window. She harbors a now-fugitive Mark, drives him across state lines, trespasses on private property, and helps him break into Clifford’s boat shed in order to find the body all in a race against time and the advancing mafia hit men.

When looking at the characters collectively, it is clear that none of the attorneys have much respect for the Rules of Professional Conduct and instead base their actions on the ultimate pursuit of justice, whatever the cost. The battle between right and wrong and its operation within, and often times outside of, the constraints of the law is a common theme in all of Grisham’s stories. For Fultrigg, justice means a conviction for the murder of the state senator and the unraveling of an extensive crime syndicate. For Reggie, justice means protecting the civil liberties of an innocent boy who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both characters are driven by their own personal beliefs of what justice truly is, and how far they are willing to go to achieve it.

At the end of the day it’s quite clear to anyone familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct that all of the attorneys in the film would likely be disbarred for their actions in the real world, but then again, what fun would that be to watch?

Partnering to Promote Professionalism

At Charlotte School of Law, we embrace the idea of “interdependence.” I recently attended the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries conference, which was held in Lexington, Kentucky. I had the privilege of presenting, as part of a panel, on the topic of “Partnering to Promote Professionalism and Effective Practitioners: What Every Law School Graduate Should Know.” My co-panelists were law firm librarians. In addition to having been friends for many years, we each, at some point, had been responsible for training and coordinating the training of young associates.

Law firm librarians have always played an indispensable part in the nurturing and development of new associates. They still do, but as the hiring practices of “Big Law” firms have undergone a change, the responsibility of providing students with the practice-ready professionalism, the technology skills and the business acumen necessary to succeed has shifted back to law schools. The message that I, an academic librarian and former law firm librarian, and my two law firm librarians attempted to impart was that we are more effective when we work together.

In order to prepare for my portion of the presentation, I drew upon the first annual BarBri “State of the Legal Field” survey, Wawrose’s, “What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates? Using Focus Groups to Find Out” 39 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 505 (2013) and Stouffer’s “Closing the Gap: Teaching ‘practice-ready’ legal skills,” 19 AALL Spectrum 10 (February 2015). I also interviewed Associate Dean Michael Farley, Director of the Center for Professional Development Aretha Blake, and Program Coordinator for Process Excellence Krystyll Gardner in order to gain an overview of the Charlotte School of Law “Student Success Initiative.” The CSL library staff also implemented its own projects and while those projects contributed to the goal of focusing on professionalism, GRIT and relationship-building, it was clear that greater inroads were made when the library partnered with other departments.

Likewise, when law school librarians join forces with their counterparts in firms and government libraries, the impact is greater than when they work alone. My co-panelists discussed the “Business Side of Law Firms” and “Making the Transition” from law student to practitioner. We encouraged all attendees to work with each other, not only for the betterment of their own employer, but for the greater good that can be achieved. To quote Mark Shields, “There is always strength in numbers.”