Aug. 4, 2021 – It can take a lot of courage to step into a leadership position, such as starting a law firm.
That’s just what Melissa Spindler did in 2015. With her legal partner Garet Galster, she founded Smith Keane, L.L.P., in Hartland, focusing solely on intellectual property law.
“At that time I knew how to be a lawyer, but I wasn't as confident in my skills to lead staff. Women are underrepresented in the intellectual property field, especially at the leadership level,” Spindler said.
Then she discovered the State Bar of Wisconsin
G. Lane Ware Leadership Academy.
“I went to the Leadership Academy hoping to improve my communication, public speaking, and time management skills, so that I could be a resource to my staff and other young lawyers in my field,” Spindler said.
She found those skills and more, along with a connection with other attendees – her “cohort.” “What I didn't expect was the relationships that I would form with members of my cohort and the State Bar staff,” she said. “The Leadership Academy forces you to look inward, and is most effective if you can be a bit vulnerable. Through this shared experience, we created friendships and professional relationships that have benefited our careers.”
About the Leadership Academy
The Leadership Academy is a multisession training program – with three, two-day sessions in November, February, and April – that fosters leadership skills in Wisconsin lawyers.
Spindler attended the academy in 2018-19. “I went into the Leadership Academy at a point where I wasn't certain about my career. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to continue practicing in intellectual property, or whether I wanted to continue the private practice of law at all.”
She discovered her colleagues in the academy were in similar positions in their careers. “Many of us were in various states of transition – whether it was to a different position within our firm, to a different firm, out of private practice, or away from law altogether. The Leadership Academy, and my cohort, provided such a supportive environment to assess and enhance my skills,” Spindler said.
She found her experience with the Leadership Academy so valuable that, in addition to taking on other leadership positions, she is now chair of the academy’s planning committee. “The faculty and my fellow attendees created an environment where we were comfortable to take risks and grow both as individuals and leaders. I am honored to pass this along to a new class of attendees,” she said.
A collateral benefit for Spindler: The academy helped expand her opportunities for growth and leadership. “My involvement with the State Bar provided an opportunity to help mentor other lawyers in the State Bar's
Ready.Set.Practice mentoring program, which has been very enriching. I have also expanded my professional network through being involved with various State Bar section boards, committees, and programs.”
The State Bar of Wisconsin G. Lane Ware Leadership Academy class of 2018-19 included Melissa Spindler, middle row, on the left.
Boost Your Career
The Leadership Academy is a comprehensive leadership development-training program created by the State Bar’s Leadership Development Committee. It’s specifically designed to empower participants with the skills, strategies, and resources to become effective leaders in their careers, communities, local and state bar associations, and the profession itself. The presenters are highly regarded national and regional speakers in their respective fields.
“The Leadership Academy covers so many topics that every lawyer can find something useful to take away from the experience,” Spindler said.
The course teaches participants how to:
develop your time management skills to enhance productivity and efficiency;
polish your public speaking to build your reputation and win over your audience;
deal effectively with conflicts and turn disputes into opportunities for growth and teamwork;
build active listening skills that promote straightforward, competent dialogue; and
use effective written and oral communication to connect with others and build trust and respect within your organization.
The next session of the Leadership Academy begins in November, and Wisconsin lawyers are encouraged to join the program – the deadline to apply is Sept. 13, 2021.
Apply by Sept. 13 for 2021-22 G. Lane Ware Leadership Academy
Join the program that gives lawyers skills, strategies, and resources to become effective leaders in the profession and community. Learn more about the
G. Lane Ware Leadership Academy.
Topics include: effective written and verbal communication, time management, public speaking, conflict resolution, active listening, community leadership, and networking. The program will be submitted for CLE credit.
When: Two-day sessions on Nov. 5-6, 2021; Jan. 21-22, 2022; and April 8-9, 2022. Attendance at all sessions is required.
Where: State Bar Center, Madison
Apply by: Sept. 13, 2021 (space is limited)
Cost: $325. A limited number of tuition scholarships are available on the basis of financial need. For more information, review the
To apply: Review the
application instructions and submit your
application by Sept. 13. Applicants will be notified of selection by Oct. 1, 2021.