Duke Law School Leadership Retreat

Main Content

Oct. 6, 2006

Leadership Retreat

Fall 2006 Leadership Retreat

More than 40 students, members of Duke Law staff, and attorneys from White & Case LLP gathered at the Ace Adventure Center in Oak Hill, West Virginia, on September 29 for the fifth annual Leadership Retreat. Sponsored by White & Case, the North Carolina Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism, and the Office of Student Affairs, the retreat exposes students to the various leadership opportunities available at the Law School and facilitates their development as leaders through team-building activities, discussions, and sessions with leadership professionals.

“It’s one thing for students to talk about communication skills, but it’s another to practice them and receive on-the-spot coaching from peers and national experts,” says Jill Miller, associate dean for student affairs. “By providing practical examples, students appreciate the useful nature of the experience and gain a better understanding of the skills they need to lead,” adds John Spencer, director of student activities.

Participants focused on teamwork — and had fun — white water rafting and tower climbing, encouraging one another through challenging patches and belaying each other down the 40-foot tower. Students delivered impromptu presentations for a workshop facilitated by New York-based communications consultant Jeff Bannon of BusinessTalk Inc., who offered them techniques for developing as communicators, through peer coaching and analysis of their individual personality styles. 

Using traditional Appalachian tales, storyteller Karen Vuranch, an adjunct professor at Concord College, closed the weekend’s activities, explaining how the same skills that serve storytellers — creating a personal and relevant connection with audience — can be used by lawyers to communicate effectively with clients, jurors, and even opposing counsel.

“The workshops showed us how different everyone’s leadership style can be, how to encourage each other to use our strengths, and how to incorporate everyone’s style in order to make a project stronger ,” said Brettny Hardy ’07, president of the Duke Bar Association. “The fact that Duke encourages leadership training with its students shows that Duke is not only interested in providing us with the knowledge to become good lawyers, but also in helping us become the best professionals possible.”

“I’ve gone on the retreat for the past two years and I can’t express how formative it has been in my law school experience,” said Eric Lashner ’08. “I am so impressed with the way Duke integrates meaningful leadership training with both the study and practice of law. Programs like the Leadership Retreat engage us while giving us skills we can use in law school and the real world to be effective leaders in the profession.”