Kapnick Leadership Development Initiative

Students collaborate on a ropes course during a Kapnick program

University of Chicago Law School graduates are not just lawyers — they are leaders in the courtroom and the boardroom, in government and public interest and in private practice, in every corner of the globe. To train leaders, the Law School provides an unparalleled legal education focused on deep analysis and problem solving. But as crucial as those critical thinking skills are, they must be supplemented by training in the interpersonal skills and business acumen that will allow our graduates to take the lead with confidence in whatever careers they choose.

To that end, the University of Chicago Law School has begun a bold new journey. 2014 served as the inaugural year for the Kapnick Leadership Development Initiative (Kapnick Initiative), a program that introduces systematic leadership development and training to the first-year law students. In the tradition of the University’s interdisciplinary, collaborative approach, the Law School has partnered with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to implement the program which is modeled on the business school’s very successful Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD) class.  This pioneering program is customized for law students to give them the tools to respond to the legal profession’s unique challenges.

The LEAD class at Booth was one of the first experiential leadership courses to be offered at a major graduate school of business. For twenty-five years, the LEAD program has provided MBA students with hands-on, practical experience aimed at enhancing their self-awareness and interpersonal effectiveness. Similarly, the Kapnick Initiative gives law students an opportunity to assess their skills with respect to critical aspects of leadership such as interpersonal communication, working in teams, managing conflict, crafting and giving presentations, and influencing others. Students’ increased self-awareness improves their abilities to motivate people, build relationships, and influence outcomes.

All first-year law students participate in the Kapnick Initiative, which begins at an off-site retreat before classes begin. Through a series of team-building exercises, leadership challenges, and social events, 1Ls are introduced to their classmates and learn about their own leadership style and effectiveness in team situations. When they return to the Law School, first-year students participate in a number of “modules” related to specific areas of leadership development, which include such topics as personality and leadership, building relationships and influencing others, and public speaking. Many of the exercises and lessons are based on the latest research.

Second-year law students who want to continue to develop their leadership skills act as the facilitators for the Kapnick Initiative. These facilitators work with the Booth Leadership staff to design and orchestrate the content of the class through the benefit of their experience at the Law School. Facilitators play a key role as close observers, and provide frequent and individualized feedback to 1Ls because of the low facilitator-to-student ratio.

Law students at the University of Chicago have always benefited from a world-class legal education that inspires them to challenge assumptions and ask questions. Successful lawyers, and successful leaders, have a portfolio of skills beyond classroom knowledge that enable them to serve their clients and communities. With the addition of the Kapnick Initiative, students gain insights about cultivating their own leadership abilities, and are better prepared for the challenges and opportunities in their careers. The confident, self-aware and compelling lawyer-leaders who emerge as a result of this exciting program will ensure that University of Chicago Law School graduates remain at the forefront of the legal profession.


The Domino Effect of Kapnick: Bold New Program Brings Interpersonal Savvy of Business to Law

Kapnick's Second Year: How Brain Science Fuels the Law School's Powerful Leadership Program

What I Learned from Kapnick, by Hannah Loo, '17

From Kapnick to Graduation: Class of '17 on How Close Bonds Born on a Ropes Course Shaped Them