A Kick-Start to Law Firm Leadership

K KoballaBy Kasey Koballa, Class of 2018

Unique to the William & Mary Law curriculum, second- and third-year students may enroll in a Law Firm Leadership Seminar taught by LeClairRyan’s co-founder, Gary LeClair. The course allows students to dip their toes into organization and governance in the law firm structure.  Even for students who plan to take a path outside of the private sector, this course provides helpful problem-solving strategies and analyses of the current state of the legal profession.

As opposed to the classical Socratic method, Professor LeClair fosters interactive class discussions focusing on current changes and problems in law firms, and offers students rewards for their class involvement, such as a bottle of olive oil from France relating to the class discussion. The course began by asking students to reflect on their own personal characteristics and values which set the mindset of how a particular student may seek governance in a law firm setting.  I found these concepts very interesting and applicable to my law school experience.  While I am still a student, and cannot yet delve into a law firm organization, the topics Professor LeClair discusses were pivotal to my career search – from finances to inner-firm politics to core values – and will be advantageous to my career.

Typically in a law firm, partners trust the values they choose, and they choose leaders they know will execute those values. These are often over-arching values, but they play a key role in how co-workers interact in a law firm, which I feel will be important to my daily happiness.  These intangible values vary vastly from firm-to-firm, and they structured my job search.  Some leaders value rigorous support while others want to surround themselves with co-workers who challenge their ideas.  Some firms have very candid structures, while in others shareholders and compensation are kept private.  One structure may not be better than another, but Professor LeClair gets students thinking about these clashes which leaders face on a daily basis.

While this class may not help prepare me for the bar exam or structure black letter law, I know these lessons will be more permanent and unwavering. I plan to take Professor LeClair’s lessons and dilemmas, and all the bits and pieces I’ve learned from his pivotal discussions, into the law firm setting next year, while also taking steps now to envelop the mindset of a law firm leader.