Leadership Academy | The American Association For Justice

Leadership Academy


The purpose of the Leadership Academy, an initiative of AAJ’s Diversity Committee, is to give AAJ members the skills and techniques needed to make them effective leaders in professional settings, in AAJ, and in their communities. AAJ’s Leadership Academy trains AAJ members who are interested in developing their leadership roles within AAJ.

AAJ is dedicated to ensuring high levels of leadership among its members who are underrepresented within the Association. The Leadership Academy, an initiative of AAJ’s Diversity Committee, gives AAJ members the skills and techniques needed to make them effective leaders in professional settings, in AAJ, and in their communities. Up to 18 plaintiff trial lawyers representing various backgrounds and practice areas will be selected to attend three mandatory sessions held in conjunction with AAJ meetings and conventions.

Attendance at all sessions is mandatory. Tuition for those accepted to AAJ’s Leadership Academy is $500. Scholarships are available to those who qualify.

Sample Leadership Academy Alumni Testimonials

  • “I cannot recommend Leadership Academy highly enough. Not only did I learn critical skills on how to lead and manage others, the intimate structure of the class created lifelong friendships with my fellow Leadership Academy graduates and AAJ staff.” – Joseph Gates (Class 5) Paul Byrd Law Firm, PLLC
  • “In order to attain a level of peak performance in your chosen practice of law, it is of utmost importance that you are able to relate well with your staff, manage your time efficiently, manage the inevitable stress in a healthy fashion, and obtain a work/life balance that will keep you thriving as you continue zealously representing your clients. The AAJ Leadership Academy arms you with these vital intangibles, and unlocks your true potential to succeed.” – Nicholas Johnson (Class 4) Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PPLC
  • “I have a newfound sense of confidence in my ability to be an effective leader. I made powerful friendships that I know will last a lifetime and am excited to use all the knowledge I gained during the Academy to help AAJ meet its goals.” –​ Vanessa Cantley (Class 1) Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger, PLC
  • “The things I learned about myself and the tools I acquired through the Leadership Academy helped me to become a better person, which in turn made me a better attorney and advocate for my clients.” – Kye Walker (Class 2) The Walker Legal Group
  • “AAJ Leadership Academy was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I learn invaluable leadership skills, but I met people that I will consider close friends for the rest of my life. It was such a rewarding experience.” – Lindsay Cordes (Class 5), Thomas Law Offices

Sponsorship Opportunity

Your contribution ensures that AAJ can continue this successful program and that the next generation of trial lawyers is the most influential, diverse, and effective of all. If you would like to support the Leadership Academy, you are welcome to contact me or please contact Catherine Rodman at Catherine.Rodman@justice.org

For more information on Leadership Academy, please contact Durete Thompson at durete.thompson@justice.org or 202 684 9584.

To ensure the best experience and highest level of participation for the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Leadership Academy, the upcoming Leadership Academy class 7 will launch its first meeting at the Annual Convention in San Diego. 


Eligibility/Selection Criteria

  • AAJ member in good standing (Required)
  • Members of underrepresented groups within AAJ are encouraged to apply. 

Attendance at all sessions is mandatory: 3 two-day sessions

  • Session A: 2019 Annual Convention - Thursday, July 25 and Friday, July 26 (San Diego, CA)
  • Session B: Fall Board of Governors - Wednesday, October 2 and Thursday, October 3 (Washington, DC)
  • Session C: 2020 Winter Convention - Thursday, February 6 and Friday, February 7 (New Orleans, LA)

Session A


Leadership Academy Overview
Changing Nature of Leadership for Lawyers
Expectations and Discussion of Learning and Engagement
Defining Leadership for Lawyers
Values, Ethics and Professionalism


Communicating for Impact as a Lawyer
Increasing Self Awareness and Personal Effectiveness at the Individual Level for Lawyers including Myers-Briggs Type Inventory Self Assessment
Experiential Activity to Illustrate Behavioral Preferences and the Impact of Preferences on Individual Behavior
Authentic Leadership for Lawyers
Creating a Clear and Compelling Vision

Session B


Experiential Activity to Predict Team Performance in a Lawyer-Influenced Culture
Leading a Group of Lawyers: Awareness at the Team Level including FIRO-B Self Assessment
Introduction to Feedback Model
Effectiveness Factors for Successful Collaboration
Experiential Activity to Illustrate Effective Collaboration Practices


Lawyer Effectiveness and Quality of Life
Managing Stress
Impact of Diet and Exercise on Lawyering Effectiveness

Session C


Influence Tactics for Lawyers
Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers
Introduction to Leadership Legacy Project


Developmental Networks
Creation of a Development Plan for Lawyers (Individual Development Plan)
Leadership Legacy Project
Summary of Leadership Academy process and Re-Entry into the Workplace

For more information on Leadership Academy, please contact Durete Thompson at durete.thompson@justice.org or 202 684 9584.