Schiff Hardin Helps Law School Grow Leaders

Schiff Hardin LLP has provided a generous gift in support of the Law School’s new Kapnick Leadership and Professionalism Initiative. The initiative will present an expansive leadership development curriculum to all first-year students beginning this fall. The program, modeled after the highly successful LEAD program pioneered at the Booth School, will focus on leadership styles, interpersonal communication, teamwork, and presentation skills.

Robert Riley, ’78, Schiff Hardin’s chairman, and Lisa Brown, ’95, the firm’s professional development partner, have been strong supporters of past leadership-development activities at the Law School and forceful advocates for the Kapnick program. Riley observes: “The skills taught in this program are crucial for success in today’s practice environment, where legal expertise and analytical brilliance alone are not enough. Clients are looking for trusted advisors who can translate their knowledge into practical solutions and who can lead an integrated, efficient team of service professionals.”

Lisa Brown notes that Schiff Hardin has undertaken many internal initiatives to identify and develop the kinds of skills that the Kapnick program will foster. “Over the past few years we have revamped our interviewing and hiring practices, developed core competencies that give associates a clear roadmap of the skills and experiences they need to progress towards partnership, strengthened our internal evaluation systems, and retained an in-house writing coach [Julie Schrager, ’89], among other things,” she says. “Making sure that everyone has the best possible chance to succeed is central to Schiff ’s values and culture. The skills that are at the heart of the Kapnick program— leadership, teamwork, and communication skills—are critical to long-term success in practice.”

Substantial accolades attest to the success of Schiff Hardin’s efforts. In Vault’s 2014 rankings of US law firms, Schiff Hardin rated very high in the categories of associate-partner relations and firm culture and placed among the top five in the nation in overall diversity, diversity for women, best summer program, and summer program that best prepares for practice. From other organizations, Schiff has received recognition as the best law firm in the Midwest, as the firm with the best mentoring program in the nation, as a top firm for women in business law, and as a leading Illinois law firm for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender inclusion and equality.

Although the full Kapnick program will be inaugurated in the fall for members of the class of 2017, Schiff Hardin has sponsored prototype activities for members of the class of 2016. Jeff Anderson, the Booth School’s associate dean for leadership development, taught a session on managing initial impressions; the Second City improvisational theater company presented a workshop to all first-year students to improve their communication skills and help them become more comfortable thinking on their feet; and Marsha Hunter, a nationally recognized expert in oral advocacy, led workshops on public speaking.

Schiff has also supported the Law School’s Keystone program, and it hosts a breakfast for incoming students to kick off orientation. Dean of Students Amy Gardner observes, “We have been fortunate to have many firms back our professionalism and leadership programs, but none has been more generous with their time, expertise, and resources than Schiff.”

When the full program begins in the fall, Schiff Hardin’s gift will support the law student “facilitators”—second- and third-year students who will lead specific course segments with guidance from subject-matter experts. “The facilitators are critical to the program’s success,” Lisa Brown explains. “They not only teach the core skills but also model those skills in their teaching. When they do it well, it’s not just a great peer-to-peer learning experience for the first-year students; it also reinforces each facilitator’s skill set.” Schiff will provide stipends for the facilitators and underwrite the costs of the training they receive.

Schiff ’s chairman Riley says, “I’m proud that our firm is supporting this important and innovative program, which is another example of the Law School’s commitment to providing the best legal education for its students.”