Several years ago, the College of Law recognized the need to include leadership and professional development preparation in the curriculum. This training has largely been absent from the traditional law school curriculum, but is essential to prepare lawyers for practice. Others in legal education came to a similar conclusion at the same time, with Professor Deborah Rhode of Stanford leading the way with regard to curricular and research initiatives.
Utilizing a memorial gift from alumnus and bar leader, Larry Wilks (’80), Tennessee attorney George T. “Buck” Lewis III (UT ’80) and then-Dean Doug Blaze worked together to develop Lawyers as Leaders, a course on leadership and professional development. Mr. Lewis, appointed as the Larry Wilks Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, did the lion’s share of the work in developing the course. Mr. Lewis and Professor Blaze have now co-taught the course for six years.
Recognizing the success of the course, the college began to evaluate other curricular and extracurricular opportunities to address leadership preparation. Involved faculty noted that two existing initiatives, UT Pro Bono and our mentoring program, also provide important components of leadership training. The faculty also identified existing courses that included aspects leadership development and discussed ways to integrate leadership preparation elsewhere in the curriculum. The college also recognized the significant research potential in leadership and professional development.
As a result of those efforts and discussions, the college embraced the potential and need for a coordinated leadership program involving teaching, service and research. In discussing such a program with alumni, the potential financial support for the effort became readily apparent. The College of Law faculty voted to approve establishment of an Institute for Professional Development and received formal university approval in July, 2014.