Several years ago, the College of Law recognized the need to include leadership and professional development preparation in the curriculum—training that had largely been absent from the traditional law school curriculum. Tennessee attorney George T. “Buck” Lewis III (UT ’80) and then-Dean Doug Blaze were able to utilize a memorial gift from alumnus and bar leader, Larry Wilks (’80), to develop Lawyers as Leaders, a course on leadership and professional development. And that was just the start. The Institute now hosts several other courses, including Lawyering and Professionalism (mandatory 1L class), Lawyers: Trans-Pacific Perspectives, Leadership Practicum, and Thriving as a Lawyer.

Specifically, the Institute for Professional Leadership focuses on helping students identify and develop their leadership skills, professional values, and career path through interdisciplinary programming beyond a strictly legal context.

The Institute builds on UT Law’s pro bono and mentoring programming by offering courses and practicums in public service and leadership. The Institute also offers extracurricular programming in leadership and professional development, including extensive collaboration with the college’s Bettye B. Lewis Career Center.

The purpose of the Institute is clear. Leaders today face challenges of incredible breadth and complexity, and the problems we face as a society can only be solved by trained and committed leaders. 

While legal education has played a role in addressing these problems, it has been indirect and fairly inefficient. However, law schools like the University of Tennessee College of Law can and should step forward and become much more intentional about training our students.

In sum, we offer future lawyers the guidance and encouragement to develop the values that are essential to success in the practice of law. 

To learn more about the history of the Institute, click here.