“Lawyers as Leaders,” a one-credit course combining legal scholarship with personal perspectives, drew the largest enrollment for any class at the Georgetown University Law Center, with 330 registered students.
The course, taught by William Treanor, dean of the Law Center, was initially created this year as part of the Law Center’s ongoing 150th anniversary celebrations.
Featuring a different Law Center faculty member for each week’s lecture, “Lawyers as Leaders” focused on faculty members’ careers, personal lives and experiences with leadership in law. The class featured conversations on a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from health policy and corporations to social justice and policing.
Students’ interest in understanding leadership to make a difference is the course’s main attraction, according to Treanor.
“People have a hunger for understanding leadership. They want to make a change. They look around the world, and they see a need to make this world a more just place, to make a difference,” Treanor said in an interview with The Hoya. “An opportunity to have a course in which they listen to people who in different ways have made a difference, reflect on that and think about what the arc of their own careers should look like, I think that’s the biggest driver of the course.”
Invited speakers offer perspective on the values central to their careers, according to Lawrence Gostin, the Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law and the first featured speaker for the course.
“It gives students a chance to reflect on their careers, their passions, and their aspirations for a life well lived,” Gostin wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The class therefore invites students to engage with leaders to understand the various qualities of leadership. Many of these qualities will come as a surprise, such as being humble, kind, and generous with your time.”
The switch to an online format has allowed the course to overcome the physical limitations of being in an in-person setting and directly led to its increased popularity among students, according to Treanor.
After each discussion, recordings of the discussion sessions are made publicly available online. Law Center faculty made this decision in order to maximize students’ opportunities to listen and learn from the course, according to Treanor.
The opportunity for connection between professors and students makes this course a positive asset for the future, according to Victoria Nourse, a Ralph V. Whitworth Professor of Law at Georgetown and one of the course’s featured speakers.
“GULC is a large law school and people are busy: teaching classes, writing books, appearing on television, moving in and out of government, arguing Supreme Court cases, etc. The class reminded us of the need to “connect” some of the busier folks to a wider array of students,” Nourse wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Those needs won’t go away after the pandemic, so I expect that the course will continue to be a great experience.”
In the future, the Law Center aims to make this class a long-time, signature event or a foundational course, likely with a different professor as the moderator and with rotating featured speakers to focus on similar discussions about leadership, according to Treanor.
The intrigue of learning about leadership and the accomplished line of speakers made this course stand out to students, according to Associate Dean and professor Hillary Sale, who co-created the course alongside Dean Paul Ohm.
“Leadership is of growing interest to law students, and that in combination with the powerful line up of faculty and Dean Treanor as the ‘Professor’ made for a great course offering,” Sale wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Treanor challenged students to define their own goals for using their law degree and to connect with the narratives of professionals who have found success, according to Hollie Chenault (LAW ’21), a J.D. candidate at the Law Center who worked as a teaching assistant for the course.
“Students learned how eight professors wielded their legal education to marshal change in areas such as health care and policing,” Chenault wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The course challenged students to reflect on how they, too, could use their law degree to become active leaders throughout their careers.”
Beyond the values of the course itself, “Lawyers as Leaders” played an essential role in connecting students to their institution and with each other in the online learning environment, according to Chenault.
“During a virtual semester in which many students feel removed or detached from their institutions, I believe this course gave our students a sense of belonging and community that was much needed,” Chenault wrote.