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No occupation in America supplies a greater proportion of leaders than law. They obviously lead law firms, but they also sit at the helm of a vast and diverse array of businesses across America, including 10 percent of S & P 500 firms. And of course, a strikingly large percentage of our political leaders are attorneys, including half the members of Congress.
This raises two obvious questions: why do we look to lawyers to lead, and why do so many of them prove to be so untrustworthy and unprepared?
In Lawyers as Leaders, eminent law professor Deborah Rhode not only answers these questions but crafts an essential manual for attorneys who need to develop better leadership skills. She contends that the legal profession attracts a large number of individuals with the ambition and analytic capabilities to be leaders, but often fails to develop other qualities that are essential to their effectiveness.
The focus of legal education and the reward structure of legal practice undervalue the interpersonal skills and ethical commitments necessary for successful leadership. Although some lawyers are sufficiently gifted to need little reinforcement, Rhode shows that the vast majority of law school graduates need to develop the leadership characteristics that she profiles.
They know it too. According to one survey, almost 90 percent of attorneys stated that their law schools did not teach them leadership skills. Given the importance of the topic, it is surprising how little the profession has done to develop leadership skills.
The first serious treatment of the subject, Lawyers as Leaders will be essential to law school instructors who teach leadership courses (a growing field) and any attorney who finds him or herself in a management position.