Thompson, “Dangerous Leaders: How & Why Lawyers Must be Taught to Lead”

When I used to teach Professional Responsibility, I always assigned a wonderful piece by Thomas Shaffer called, “On Living One Way in Town and Another Way at Home.” The piece uses a short story by Louis Auchincloss to illustrate the importance of leading a life within the law of integrity–in the denotative sense of an integration of one’s professional and non-professional ethical self.

Here is a book, admittedly not really about religion at all, that also appears to be an Leaders!exercise in advocacy for moral education for lawyers. But it takes, as it were, a rather different view. Dangerous Leaders: How & Why Lawyers Must be Taught to Lead (Stanford UP) by Anthony C. Thompson.

Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, the New Jersey “Bridgegate” scandal, Enron: all these incidents are examples of various forms of leadership failure. More specifically, each represents marked failures among leaders with legal training. When we look closer at one profession from which we often draw our political, business, and organizational leaders—the legal profession—we find a deep chasm between what law schools teach and what the world expects. Legal education ignores leadership, sending the next generation of legally-minded leaders into a dynamic world dangerously unprepared.

Dangerous Leaders exposes the risks and results of leaving lawyers unprepared to lead. It provides law schools, law students, and the legal profession with the leadership tools and models to build a better foundation of leadership acumen. Anthony C. Thompson draws from his fifteen years of experience in global executive education for Fortune 100 companies and his experience as a law professor to chart a path forward for better leadership instruction within the legal academy. Using vivid, real-life case studies, Thompson explores catastrophic political, business, and legal failures that have occurred precisely because of a lapse in leadership from those with legal training. He maintains that these practices are chronic leadership failures that could have been avoided. In examining these patterns of failures, it becomes apparent that legal education has fundamentally misread its task.

Thompson proposes a fundamental rethinking of legal education, based upon intersectional leadership, to prepare lawyers to assume the types of roles that our increasingly fast-paced world requires. Intersectional leadership challenges lawyer leaders to see the world through a different lens and expects a form of inclusion and respect for other perspectives and experiences that will prove critical to maneuvering in a complex environment. Dangerous Leaders imparts invaluable tools and lessons to best equip current and future generations of legal leaders.