Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
By Zak Bratton
There are two sides to every lawyer’s success. On one hand, professional skills, drafting pleadings and researching the law are practiced and honed through countless hours spent dedicated to their craft.
On the other hand, developed competencies are how lawyers utilize emotional intelligence, conduct meetings and handle difficult conversations, learned by relying on “ah-ha” moments through experiences throughout their career.
In honor of October serving as Legal Professionalism Month, as proclaimed by Chief Justice Nancy Rice, Colorado Bar Association President Dick Gast, and Deans Bruce Smith and James Anaya, the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professional Development (CJC), along with its leadership and professionalism working groups, have developed a half-day CLE, which will take place on October 23. Attendees will gain practical, useful skills through interactive presentations by some of the profession’s top lawyers.
“Particularly for lawyers, leadership is a critical component of being a competent professional,” said Melanie Snyder, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the State of Colorado.“ We want people, not just our clients, but the public in general, to look to lawyers with the expectation that we are practicing with a high-level of professionalism.”
The CLE will be open to lawyers and will address a variety of topics dealing with skills lawyers need to improve themselves and their practice, including:
· Applying Neuro-Leadership Principles to Handling Difficult Conversations, presented by Mindy Masias, Chief of Staff, and Eric Brown, Director of Human Resources, Colorado Judicial Department.
· How to Effectively Run a Meeting, presented by John Moye from Moye|White, LLP
· Professionalism Matters: Communicating in Today’s Techno-Centric World, presented by Justice Richard L. Gabriel, Colorado Supreme Court.
Snyder, who also serves as the chair for the CJC’s leadership working group, said she believes the CLE will develop discrete skills that lawyers can use in any facet of their life, whether professional or personal. She stated the CLE will not focus on just those currently in leadership positions but rather anyone who is an attorney, regardless of how long they’ve been practicing, no matter what stage of their career.
Andrew Rottman, Counsel to Chief Justice Nancy Rice, also noted that leaders don’t need a formal title to have an impact on those around them.
“The more you get away from the idea of positional leadership, the more leadership intersects with professionalism,” Rottman said. “These skills are transferable. A lot of this goes beyond just leadership and working with clients. It can be leadership in extracurricular activities and community involvement.”
Rottman works with Chief Justice Rice to organize and coordinate the work of the full Commission, including all six working groups, while also putting together the full Commission meetings several times each year.
An inauguration event for the leadership working group, both Snyder and Rottman said they hope this event will open the door for future CLEs and training opportunities down the road.
Colorado does offer a handful of leadership training programs to give lawyers the ability to learn or sharpen their skills. However, these programs, like the CBA COBALT program and the Judicial Executive Leadership Development program, require a significant time commitment, and often times, some leadership experience.
While incredibly beneficial to participants, these programs are highly selective and extremely intense. Rottman stated the working group came to the same conclusion: while these are great programs, they are not available to everyone. Thus, the CLE was born, and with it, a transformed working group.
Formerly slated as the CJC's “mid-career” working group, the group’s focus was on those attorneys who had been practicing six to twenty years. As the group continued to meet and explore possible avenues for professional development, its members decided their focus was too broad.
Now, their mission is to provide a variety of flexible, quality options and resources for leadership training and professional development to Colorado attorneys statewide.
While re-tooling their mission statement, the group also discovered a plethora of educational resources for attorneys. However, these resources were spread far and wide. Identifying the need for a compilation of these resources, as well as closing the gaps between them with additional programming, Rottman said the working group transformed their mission and focus from mid-career to leadership in early 2017.
Now, the newly-focused working group consists of 20 members and has three subcommittees within it to help drive their efforts:
o Gathers concepts surrounding effective leadership
· Core competencies
o Determines the skills that you can teach people – how to run a meeting, how to do strategic planning, how to have a difficult conversation
· Delivery platforms
o Identifies alternative options to share this information with lawyers and allow them to hone their skills through practice
Former Chief Justice Michael Bender established the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession during his tenure. Its focus was to increase access to justice and to improve procedural fairness in the state judicial system and the legal profession.
After Chief Justice Nancy Rice took over the Commission in 2014, she changed the mission to professional development and modified the working groups to fit that task. As the chair for the leadership working group, professional development is something Snyder has taken on whole-heartedly.
“Sometimes people don’t necessarily think they can be a leader or they don’t think of themselves as leaders,” Snyder said. “We really want lawyers to think about developing these skills and a mindset, so that even if you’re not in a position of power, where you’re not managing someone as the managing partner or senior partner that you are still thinking about ‘how can I take on a leadership role in my position.’”
The CLE is free and open to lawyers, including those who passed the July 2017 bar exam. It will be held on Monday, October 23, 2017, 1:00-4:45 p.m. at the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center, 1300 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203, Conference Room 1 A-C.
To register for the event or for more information, please send an email to: ChiefsCommission@judicial.state.co.us.
Zak Bratton is the Education and Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.