A $500 scholarship and Houston’s reputation for international business brought El Paso native Jacob M. Monty to the Law Center in the booming early ‘90s.
“Five hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money, but in 1991 it sure was,” recalls Monty. The investment obviously paid dividends, with Monty eventually parlaying the scholarship and his Law Center training into his own law firm and a seat on the University of Houston Board of Regents.
“I saw a lot of opportunity in Houston in the field of international business, and I also wanted to clerk while I was in school. I wanted and needed to work,” says Monty, one of seven children.
His two interests came together the summer after his first year in law school when he studied and worked in Mexico City. But his focus changed for good when he started his first clerkship that fall with a firm specializing in labor law.“I forgot all about international business transactions and just fell in love with labor law,” he says.
The combination of immigration and labor law had taken off in the early ‘90s as NAFTA, the trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada, was being debated and finally signed into law. Companies were scrambling to enlist skilled lawyers who could help them navigate through the agreement’s rules and regulations.
Though his fluency in Spanish certainly gave him a leg up on these assignments, his first client involved Canadians.
As a clerk at a firm with expertise in labor law, but not immigration, Monty was given the task of easing the way for a group of Canadians to work in a U.S. steel mill. He says he researched the law, talked to friends about immigration law and enjoyed the challenge so much that he stayed at the firm until he founded his own in 1998.
Today, Monty Partners LLP is the largest Hispanic-owned employment and immigration law firm in the Southwest.
As an alumnus and regent, he is pleased with the success and direction of the Law Center under Dean Ray Nimmer.
“It is an excellent law school consistent with the chancellor’s vision of taking the University to Tier 1 status,” he says. “And the law school will improve even more in the next couple of years. I know the dean has plans for additional facilities and improvements, and that is sorely needed.”
Despite the national economic downturn, Monty is optimistic about the Law Center and the University.
“I think we are lucky to be in Houston,” he says. “It would be hard to be in virtually any other part of the country right now. But we will fare much better.
“It makes fundraising difficult, but I don’t think Houston will bear the brunt of the downturn.”
And, he adds with a wry laugh, “From a lawyer’s point of view, it offers great opportunities – all these bankruptcies!”