What are the skills, habits, and character traits that enable effective and principled leadership in times of adversity? Director of Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools, Kenneth Townsend recently offered a law course that examined these questions and others using case studies, scholarly research from a variety of disciplines, as well as 11 live virtual interviews with exemplary practitioners from a range of law-related careers.  The speakers included:

  • Cory Booker, U.S. Senator; former mayor of Newark, NJ; and 2020 Presidential candidate
  • Adam Grogg, Associate General Counsel of U.S. House of Representatives
  • Cyrus Habib, Lieutenant Governor of the state of Washington
  • Fred Slabach, President of Texas Wesleyan University and former Executive Secretary of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
  • Noorain Khan, Director of the President’s Office at the Ford Foundation; former corporate attorney at Wachtel, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and former chief of staff to Wendy Kopp at Teach for All
  • Tiffany Graves, pro bono counsel at Bradley law firm and former head of legal aid various organizations in Mississippi
  • Matt Klapper, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Cory Booker
  • Edmund LaCour, Solicitor General of Alabama and recent nominee to be a federal judge on the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
  • Alice Shih LaCour, Assistant U.S. Attorney and former senior advisor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  • Melvin Priester, Jr., attorney, artist, and member of City Council in Jackson, MS
  • Laura Safdie, COO and General Counsel at Casetext legal services tech firm

The speakers offered extensive reflections rooted in their professional contexts, but each emphasized the importance of values-based leadership in times of crisis. Sen. Cory Booker’s session on the closing day proved particularly timely. After outlining the ways that his background, role models, and sense of purpose have informed his work, he described his recent efforts to advance legislation on policing reform in the U.S. Senate.

The course ran the first week of June as a 1-credit summer intensive course available to Wake Forest School of Law students of all years. Townsend, who is also Scholar-in-Residence in the School of Law, will teach “Professional Responsibility” and “Leadership and Character in the Professions” in the 2020-21 academic year.