The Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) is a leadership development program created in 2004 by the WSBA Board of Governors at the behest of then president Ronald R. Ward. Its mission is to recruit, train and develop traditionally underrepresented attorneys for future leadership positions in the Washington State Bar Association and legal community. It is a collaborative leadership program between the Washington State Bar Association and the University of Washington School of Law.

The program strives to recruit fellows for each class who reflect the full diversity of our state, which includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and geographic location. The program sessions include topics such as the “nuts and bolts” of law practice, leadership styles, the judiciary and the legislative process.

Program Benefits

The WLI provides the fellows with numerous opportunities to personally interact with legal, judicial and political leaders. The program offers a unique combination of benefits:

  • The program is a no-cost endeavor for Fellows because all travel, lodging and meals are covered
  • No tuition fee
  • CLE credits, enough to satisfy approximately 3 full years of MCLE requirements — at no cost
  • Exposure to practice and industry leaders
  • Training in the law, courts and the bar
  • One-on-one interaction with judges
  • Mentorship from well-known bar leaders

Apply to Become a WLI Fellow

The 2023–24 WLI application process is now closed. Please look back in August 2024 for the next opportunity to become a Washington Leadership Institute Fellow.

Questions? Please contact Dawn Bell at (206) 543-0346 or via email at


Judge Bernard F. Veljacic

“WLI was huge in giving me the tools I need to be better. The relationships in particular continue to be important and rewarding. I appreciate that the end goal is to understand the meaning of community and to then serve. The program is not just career oriented – but with the career advancement, one also gains a corresponding credible voice that is needed to make a difference.”

— Judge Bernard F. Veljacic, Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 2

ABA Midyear Meeting

The ABA Midyear meeting was held virtually in February 2022. Washington Leadership Institute (WLI) Program was highlighted along with The Men of Color Project. Checkout the video!

WLI Stories

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