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The beginning of a new school year started and then was interrupted by Hurricane Harvey. The Law Center re-opened; we moved forward. And it is now time to acknowledge recent Law Center accomplishments such as welcoming 227 highly qualified members of the Class of 2020 and new faces among faculty and staff. I look back with pride at the recently completed academic year, marking the three years that I have served as dean. Initiatives started during my deanship continue to thrive, including the volunteer Community Service Program, the Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Jurist-in-Residence Program, and the Pre-Law Pipeline Program. The success of these and other initiatives is attributable principally to the support and dedication of faculty, staff, alumni, and students.

Here are some of the highlights of the 2016-2017 academic year:

• Top tier rankings
The Law Center was ranked 4th best in the nation for graduate salaries as compared to student debt. Three UHLC programs — Health Law, Intellectual Property and Part-time — maintained their national Top 10 rankings while the advocacy program was ranked 21st, and environmental law program is now nationally ranked 28th. The Law Center’s overall U.S. News & World Report ranking was 54th. Two of the Law Center’s LL.M. programs in Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and Health Law were ranked in the Top 10 worldwide.

• Students
With 2,814 applicants, the Law Center continues to attract and admit top quality students; the entering students have a median UGPA of 3.55, which is the highest median UGPA since 2007. The median LSAT remained steady at 159. In addition, the 227 full- and part-time members of the class includes the second highest percentage of students from underrepresented backgrounds in recent memory —40.1 percent. Collectively the entering class speaks over 25 different languages, including Arabic, Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Farsi, French, German, Classic Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Memoni, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

The 2017 entering class of LL.M. candidates, 79 admitted in total, includes 52 foreign-trained attorneys from 24 countries and 27 domestic lawyers.

• Faculty Additions
Since 2014, the Law Center added 12 members to an already excellent faculty. Their teaching expertise and scholarship are in the areas of environmental, energy and natural resources law, corporate law, legal ethics and professional responsibility, property law, clinical training, lawyering skills and strategies, and library services. In addition, Professor Greg Vetter was appointed Associate Dean, and four new positions created-- Assistant Dean for Faculty Development held by Professor David Fagundes, Director of Metropolitan Programs held by Professor Meredith Duncan, Director of Outcomes and Assessments held by Professor Renee Knake, who is the Larry and Joanne Doherty Chair of Legal Ethics, and Director of the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law held by Alfonso Lopez de la Osa.

• Faculty Scholarship
In the most recent tally for the 2016-17 academic year, UHLC faculty produced 138 publications, including books, book chapters, and articles, an increase of 23 publications since the last academic year. Over the last two years, seven members of the faculty published in the nation’s top 30 law reviews, and faculty and staff were quoted or appeared 4,913 times in various media.

• Conferences/Speakers
The Law Center continued to host lectures, seminars, and conferences of local, national, and international significance. Topics included criminal and juvenile justice, the state of energy, environment, and natural resource law in North America, voting rights, health law, and many other legal issues.

• Trademark Defense
The Law Center’s name and brand was successfully defended in a federal trademark lawsuit. Our excellent legal team consisted of Dona Cornell, UH
Vice Chancellor and General Counsel, renowned trial attorney Tony Buzbee ’97, and intellectual property expert Al Deaver ’89. 

• Clinical Outreach
The Law Center’s Transactional Clinic was rebranded as the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. It is part of a broad University initiative to partner with the neighboring Third Ward community. The Clinic fosters business development while giving student attorneys invaluable, first-hand experience in all aspects of the start-up process.

• Briefcase Radio
The Law Center launched a weekly one-minute radio broadcast in which faculty are introduced and explain a legal topic of interest to the general public. “Briefcase” airs several times on Wednesdays on 88.7 FM KUHF.

• Awards
This past June, the Law Center was honored with the inaugural State Bar of Texas IP Section Annual Trademark Award for its defense of the school's brand. For the past two years, the Law Center received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for its efforts to create a diverse and inclusive environment. Moreover, the Law Center’s Pre-Law Pipeline Program was recognized with the Board of Regents’ Academic Excellence Award.

• Alumni Giving and Support
Alumni have generously contributed to the 100% Challenge, the Dean’s Society, and support for the annual GALA. The 41st Annual GALA raised a gross amount of almost $500,000, the highest tally in recent times. In addition, Dean’s Society and Law Fund donations have reached almost $625,000 in total annual giving, an increase of 15% from last year. The Law Center also received a $1.1 million bequest from the Faust Estate to establish the Mary Ann and Lawrence E. Faust Endowed Chair in Law.These funds are used to fund faculty research, student scholarships, and Dean’s initiatives and programs. 

• New Law School Building
University of Houston President Renu Khator has made a new Law Center building a top priority for the 2019 legislative session. The Cornerstone Club was established to raise $10 million, demonstrating to the Legislature, before the next session, the Law Center alumni’s commitment for a new building. In addition to the natural advantages of being located in Houston, the new building will be structured as a cross-disciplinary center for legal education and research.  A new
law learning environment will allow the Law Center regularly to host local and state judicial proceedings, continuing legal education programs, and conferences of global and national prominence, while expanding faculty and student connections to the practicing bar. The building’s modern technology and flexible space will enhance the educational experience for students and faculty and encourage leaders from the downtown legal community to share their expertise at the Law Center.  The building’s design will welcome the public to seek legal advice through the clinics and increase public engagement with the school’s centers and institutes, increasing student learning opportunities. For more information on the Cornerstone Club or other ways that you can support a new Law Center building, please see

Built on an extraordinary foundation, the Law Center is stronger than ever; it is exceeding its mission of providing the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure its graduates are ready to succeed in the courtroom, corporate boardroom, or wherever their degree and interest takes them. With your help, I’m looking forward to even greater success in the coming years. 

Leonard M Baynes

Leonard M. Baynes
Dean & Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center

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