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Academy Prepares Attorneys to Answer Call to Leadership

By John Murph

January 21, 2020

In the course of their careers many lawyers are thrust into leadership positions, but the question is, are they truly ready to lead?

That’s the gap the D.C. Bar is seeking to address with its re-envisioned John Payton Leadership Academy — returning this year after a two-year hiatus — by providing attorneys with the skills and tools they need when called upon to lead. Attorneys who attend will also receive CLE credit. While the D.C. Bar has applied for 13.0 credits, including 1.0 ethics credit, the number of credits that attorneys who attend may earn are subject to their jurisdiction’s requirements.

Susan-Hoffman-20200121“One of the things that the Leadership Academy will do is help individuals develop more self-confidence,” says D.C. Bar President Susan M. Hoffman. “Sometimes until you’re asked to rise to the occasion, you don’t really discover the [leadership] skills that you have. Programs like the Leadership Academy really help us in realizing that we do have leadership capabilities.”

The Leadership Academy, named for former D.C. Bar president and prominent civil rights attorney John Payton, has produced more than 100 graduates since its establishment in 2013. This year, the academy is offering a more robust curriculum, with a few improvements to make the program more accessible and valuable to attorneys.

One change is that instead of consolidating sessions over three consecutive days, as the Bar had done in previous years, the 2020 Leadership Academy will be held between March 20 and May 29. It will include three onsite sessions at the D.C. Bar headquarters, two webinars or conference calls, one pro bono service commitment, and several distance learning assignments.

“[Spreading it over three months] makes the academy more accessible to attorneys who have a full caseload because it’s easier for them to take off a single day in a week rather than a block of time,” says Hoffman.

Another advantage to holding the training over three months is that participants can more easily digest all the information, Hoffman says. “Sometimes when you attend these intense conferences that are two or three days long, it becomes information overload,” Hoffman adds. “So this time we will train for one day each month, then have follow-up readings and assignments in between.”

Brigida-Benitez-20200121The D.C. Bar also wants to make sure the Leadership Academy attracts a wide range of candidates from diverse backgrounds, practices, and workplace settings, from new attorneys to experienced practitioners, says Brigida Benitez, former president of the Bar and current chair of its Leadership Development Committee.

Benitez can attest to the value of mentorship and leadership — Payton himself served as one of her mentors early in her career. “He gave me great opportunities,” Benitez recalls. “I took my first deposition with John sitting by my side. I second-chaired the argument in the Supreme Court, sitting by his side, in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases, which remain one of the highlights of my career.”

Laurie Lyte, principal at Lytehouse Solutions LLC, will lead the faculty of this year’s academy. At the D.C. Bar’s Celebration of Leadership last year, Lyte presented the one-hour CLE course “Being a Leader Others Want to Follow.”

“As lawyers, most of us end up in leadership positions because technically we are good at what we do,” Lyte said in June. “But that doesn’t always translate into having the [necessary] skills.”

Previous graduates of the academy have shared their experiences and how lessons from the training have helped advance their leadership skills and continued to guide them in their respective professional settings.

Ready to explore your leadership potential and inspire others? The D.C. Bar is looking for 24 attorneys to join the class of 2020. To apply, email [email protected]. The application deadline is February 6.

For questions about the Leadership Academy or the application process, email Laurie Lyte at [email protected].