Leadership Institute 2011: Meet the Bench Write-up

As some of you know I was fortunate to be a fellow for this year’s Hawaii State Bar Association’s Leadership Institute.  We have monthly meetings with various attorneys and leaders throughout the State of Hawaii to discuss leadership attributes.

I’ve always been curious about leadership skills, and that was part of the reason I obtained an MBA to take classes on leadership and management.  Anyway, yesterday was the “Meet the Bench” focus study where the fellows were introduced to the following judges and attorney:

  1. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway
  2. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren
  3. Bankruptcy Attorney Susan Tius
  4. Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald
  5. Justice James Duffy
  6. Justice Sabrina Mckenna
  7. Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Alexa Fujise
  8. Judge Steven Alm
  9. Judge Bert Ayabe
  10. Judge Virigina Lea Crandall

And our facilitator of the day was retired Judge Riki Amano.

I’ll have to be honest, I was skeptical at first of how much I would get out of this session due to the fact that I am transactional and compliance attorney that focuses on small business.  However, it was a fascinating day of meeting with the judges and getting their personal view of what makes a good attorney and leader.  In addition, it was interesting how they all kept touching on some of the same themes and ideas, despite largely differing backgrounds. I was able to distill some themes and guidelines, which I think as a person, attorney, and businessman that I will strive to follow.

Anyway, as I believe in sharing information and insight through social media I am going to highlight some of the nuggets of wisdom passed on by these learned jurists.

In no particular order or from a single judge here is what I got out of it:

  1. be prepared – sounds cliché, but it is really true and for judges they can tell who isn’t prepared;
  2. don’t lie or play hide the ball/be credible – most of the judges find that if for whatever you aren’t prepared you should be honest about it, as they hate it when an attorney lies or misdirects – it hurts your credibility in the long run;
  3. have perspective/be respectful – one of the judges wanted us to understand that “your emergency is not my emergency” – being rude, demanding, and such is not going to change the fact that other people have their things that they have to do;
  4. be true to yourself – this goes back to the credibility thing and many felt it shows your character and lets people know what you are going to do;
  5. meet with everyone – in a management situation, you should at  least make an effort to meet all the people you are managing, it helps for you to create buy-in, anticipate issues, and shed light on problems;
  6. do things that interest you – you never know where you will wind-up, and therefore, try for jobs, opportunities, and such that come your way;

(The next three are for trial attorneys, as you all always tell me great stories, so I took notes for you all!)

  1. always object and make the record – one of the judges suggested it is better to get something into the record that waive or withdraw because then it doesn’t show up; they want to see the argument and have it play out;
  2. don’t argue the whole motion – the judges all agreed they have read the brief, focus on 4-5 main points and persuade them;
  3. making persuasive arguments: (1) what does the judge NEED to know; and (2) what is the most reasonable course – give the judge a reason to side with;

(This last one is for everyone.)

  1. listen – I run into a lot of situations where someone can hear me (as I tend to speak really loudly), but they lack the comprehension part because they weren’t listening – a leader can only respond to people if they truly get what is being asked of them

Anyway, I would like give a big mahalo to the judges for allowing us to speak with them and take away from their valuable time for their stories, insights, and advice.  In addition, thanks to Judge Amano for setting this up as it was a lot of fun.  Also if all you readers are interested I will tweet or blog about the Leadership Institute, send me an e-mail and let me know!

Have an aloha Friday and good weekend!