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Leadership Academy produces leaders for more than 20 years

What started as a casual conversation at a restaurant turned into a program that has since produced more than 200 leaders in the legal profession over the last 20 years. Now, it’s your turn to help nominate the next class of leaders. 

The Missouri Bar is accepting applications for its 22nd Leadership Academy class through July 23. Click here to fill out the nomination form. 

Founded in 2000, the Leadership Academy encourages diversity among The Missouri Bar’s leadership by recruiting and targeting young lawyers or those recently admitted to the bar (not greater than 40 years old or fewer than 10 years of practice) who have already shown leadership qualities within their communities. Each class contains about a dozen lawyers who are diverse in terms of gender, race, practice area, and geography. 

Former Missouri Bar presidents Michael P. Gunn and Dana Tippin Cutler developed the Leadership Academy after Gunn learned of a similar program while attending the National Conference of Bar Presidents.  

“Sometimes you hear the excuse, ‘oh we can’t find good people,’” Cutler said. “You have to slow down and create a vehicle to those people or from those people to you. Mike was visionary enough to recognize a program’s value and make it fit for us to find those people. We won’t use the excuse, ‘Oh, we can’t find them.’ No, we created a way to make this happen.” 

One of the main goals of the program was to train the future leadership of The Missouri Bar, Gunn and Cutler said. Members don’t naturally understand how The Missouri Bar operates, the role of the Board of Governors and committees, and the organization’s relationships with the profession and the public.  

To lessen that knowledge gap, each Leadership Academy class works closely with bar leaders for a year to learn more about The Missouri Bar, develop leadership skills, and create a public service project.  

Leadership Academy classes participate in the bar’s Annual Meeting, Board of Governors and committee meetings, and workshops designed to develop leadership skills. At the end of the year, class members commit to serve the bar in an active capacity for two years, such as serving on the board, Young Lawyers’ Section Council, or committees, and presenting continuing legal education programs. 

We wanted to develop leaders – people who would get on the board and provide energy and substance and knowledge to move the bar association in an ever-changing world and ever-changing state and ever-changing profession,” Gunn said. 

Gunn and Cutler also recognized the importance of having diversity. At the time of the Leadership Academy’s inception, they added, the bar’s leadership lacked diversity. Lauren Tucker McCubbin, who was in the Leadership Academy’s Class of 2006-07, said she is grateful the bar leadership recognized this and created a program to help remedy the problem. 

“It’s important to have the body making important decisions regarding how lawyers practice in the state to be informed by and have participation by people from every aspect of the legal profession,” she said. “That doesn’t just mean big firms or small firms or litigators or prosecutors. That means everybody.” 

Since graduating, McCubbin has served on the Young Lawyers’ Section Council and now serves as vice president of The Missouri Bar. Even 15 years later, McCubbin still regularly communicates with her former academy classmates, adding the friendships she formed through the program are invaluable. 

“As a big-firm lawyer, I’m not sure I would have had the privilege of connecting with some of these folks who are maybe in the path to become judges or administrative law folks or with smaller practices or in totally different areas of law,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that resource because it’s really helped me serve my clients better, and it just gives me a better understanding of the needs and practices of people within our profession that are not like mine.” 

Cutler said she is proud the Leadership Academy has survived over the last 21 years and looks forward to continuing to thrive as more lawyers go through the program. 

To nominate a lawyer for the Leadership Academy, click here.