Interview with Leadership Development Program Co-Chairs: Woody Anglade (Neutral/Government); Jeffrey Dretler (Employer); Cassie Springer (Employee); and Brenda Sutton-Wills (Union)
(All answers set forth below are the interviewer's summary of the Co-Chairs' answers).
Q-1: What is the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law Leadership Development Program ("LDP")?
A-1: The LDP is a program designed to identify, attract and train labor and employment practitioners from all constituencies. The LDP also seeks to advance the Section's diversity initiative by appealing to and training diverse leaders.
The training provided through the LDP educates individuals that participate in the LDP (the individuals are referred to as "Members") about how the Section and its Committees operate, about leadership opportunities available within the Section and the Committees, and about tools Members can use to become successful leaders in Section and/or Committee activities. In addition to formal training, Members are also given the opportunity, through LDP activities and resources, to expand their networks beyond their primary practice area, which is beneficial on both a personal and professional level.
All of the Co-Chairs emphasized that, at the conclusion of the LDP, the individuals become lifelong Members. One of the most important goals of the LDP is to create a diverse community of individuals that remain connected, to each other and to the Section and its Committees, on an ongoing basis. Over the last five years, the LDP has achieved its goal of creating a shared community; the Members are a cohesive group of individuals who have all benefited, and want to continue benefiting, from their activities in the Section and its Committees.
Q-2: Can you provide a brief history regarding how and why the LDP was developed?
A-2: The LDP was initially developed as a Section Task Force in 2009. It was the brainchild of the Section's Chair and Chair-Elect, Barbara Berish Brown and Nora Macey. The leadership's primary goal in creating the Program was to educate interested individuals about the benefits of participation in the Section and its Committees while simultaneously casting a wide net to find and train a diverse group of future leaders about opportunities within the Section and its Committees.
Approximately 20-25 people participated in the LDP in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The LDP was so successful that it was converted from a Task Force to a Standing Committee in 2010. Approximately 80 Members have completed the LDP.
Q-3: Can you describe the application process for the LDP?
A-3: Interested individuals fill out an application to participate in the LDP in the spring of the year the class is selected. One important component of the application process is providing at least one reference who explains why an applicant should be selected; it is beneficial to have the person making the recommendation describe how the applicant has contributed to the activities of the Section, Committee or other entity, inside or outside the ABA. The Co-Chairs also emphasized that, if applicants are not selected the first time they apply, they should consider reapplying for future classes. Several Members applied on more than one occasion before they were selected.
After all applications are submitted, the Strategic Planning Committee for the Section (the Chair, Chair-Elect, Immediate Past Chair, Vice-Chairs and Director) selects the LDP class. The class is composed of Section members from all the Section's constituencies (employer, employee, neutral/government and union) who have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to advancing the goals of the Section and its Committees. The classes are typically composed of both Members who are relatively new to the Section, and are interested in becoming future leaders, as well as Members who already have a proven track record of leadership abilities within the Section and/or its Committees. For all Members, the LDP is an opportunity to develop and improve existing skills and move into new or additional leadership positions.
The tentative application date for the Class of 2014 is May 2014. The class will meet in Chicago for the leadership training from July 24-26, 2014.
The application, and additional information about the application process, will be available on the Section's website prior to the EBC's mid-winter meeting in February.
Q-4: What happens after individuals are selected to participate in the LDP?
A-4: The training takes place in Chicago, Illinois. The LDP begins Thursday night with social networking events and continues with formal programming, as well as additional networking opportunities, on Friday and Saturday.
At this time, the Section pays for all expenses associated with the Chicago training. The fact that the training is free for all Members is particularly beneficial to traditionally underrepresented constituencies, such as Members from government agencies and unions, as well as Members from small firms, since those Members' organizations often lack the resources to provide in-depth training opportunities about topics, such as leadership skills, that are not related to a specific practice area.
The programming at the class session is designed to educate the Members about the Section and its Committees, as well as provide Members with training in leadership skills, e.g., strategies for building effective teams, best practices for incorporating diversity goals, tips to becoming an effective group leader, strategies for handling conflicts among team leaders, methods for establishing productive mentoring relationships, etc. At the conclusion of the programming, mentors are assigned to each Member. Members are also assigned projects that give them a chance to implement the skills they have developed during the programming.
In addition to the Chicago training, Members are also invited to participate in quarterly conference calls covering different subjects related to leadership. Each call has a panel and a moderator.
Q-5: How does the LDP benefit Members?
A-5: This question generated an animated response from all of the Co-Chairs. Among other things, they all agreed that Members would have unique opportunities to move into new and additional leadership positions in the Section and its Committees. For example, the Co-Chairs keep a list of all Members, the leadership positions they have held, and areas in which they would like to be considered for new leadership opportunities. As a result of that list, when the Co-Chairs were recently advised that the EEO Committee was seeking individuals to work on the new Discrimination treatise, the Co-Chairs were able to immediately send the EEO Committee contact information for Members who had expressed interest in working in that field.
The Co-Chairs also repeatedly stressed that the LDP provides an excellent opportunity for Members to build relationships with interesting and diverse people from other constituencies and practice areas. This aspect of the Program is particularly beneficial for individuals from underrepresented constituencies that, due to budgetary constraints and/or institutional priorities, may not typically have access to formalized training and expansive networking opportunities.
Q-6: Have individuals who are active in the EBC benefited from the LDP?
A-6: Absolutely. The EBC has a strong community and is dedicated to advancing the goals of the Section. EBC has one of the highest rates of attendance and participation in the LDP. The LDP has been a launching pad for leadership positions within the EBC; it has also provided opportunities for individuals active in the EBC to have broader exposure and access to additional involvement in the Section's activities.
Virtually all Members who are active in the EBC have taken leadership positions within the EBC and/or the Section. For example, two of the current co-chairs of the EBC, Lisa Gomez and Karen Mock, as well as one of the Senior Editors of Employee Benefits Law (3rd Edition), Ivelisse Berio LeBeau, were all members of the first LDP class. The natural match between the collegial nature of EBC leaders and the LDP's goal of fostering a shared community was recently illustrated by Member Nici Eichberger, (Class of 2009), who is a regular speaker at EBC and Section events, as well as a Contributing Author to Employee Benefits Law (3rd Edition). During the 7th Annual Section of Labor & Employment Law Conference in New Orleans this past November, Nici hosted a reception at her parents' beautiful home for all Members. The gracious hospitality extended by Nici and her family received rave reviews from the Members that attended.
Interview by Kelly M. Lawson, U.S. Department of Labor, Boston, MA.