Sept. 2, 2020 - The first online-only classes in the University of Houston Law Center Pre-Law Pipeline Program recently celebrated their introduction to the study of law during a reception event held via Zoom.
Speakers included Dean Leonard M. Baynes, Luke Gilman '10, a partner at Jackson & Walker, General Counsel at Southwest Water Company Joseph Park and Dianne Ralston '04, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary at TechnipFMC.
In his opening remarks, Baynes emphasized the need to demonstrate perseverance to reach professional success.
"There will be people who tell you that you can't do something," Baynes said. "They may be telling you that law, finishing your Bachelor’s degree, becoming a judge, prosecutor or corporate attorney is not for you. The bottom line is - if you want it, do it. It doesn't mean automatically you'll reach your goals tomorrow, but it's so important to be resilient."
Gilman reflected on diversity, inclusion and pipeline programs as it relates to law firms. He also discussed that it is the responsibility of legal professionals to point out wrongs and to create positive change.
"A lot of times the discussion is just diversity," Gilman said. "If it's just described as diversity it's an amorphous goal if it doesn't include the ideas of inclusion or a pipeline of people coming into the profession. Over the last 10 or so years, the conversation has moved to something that we expect and that we don't have to wait for any longer.
"As you enter your legal careers, I want to suggest and empower you to raise your hand and point out things that can be improved. You're not criticizing - you're helping the community that you're a part of become something better."
Park congratulated the pipeline graduates for taking the trajectory of their careers into their own hands.
"You have taken some major steps to where you want to be," he said. "It's great to see the impact the Pipeline Program has on people's lives and the impact it's having on the legal profession as a whole. We have come a long way, but we have a lot more to do. You are that next generation, and it's critically important for you to succeed."
As the final speaker, Ralston commended students for making an investment in their future through their participation in the program.
"It's a really interesting and dynamic time to be thinking about being a lawyer when we think of the legal implications of our current environment," Ralston said. "Those of you coming into the legal practice will have the ability to help influence very important issues for our society.
"In these times when perhaps things seem stagnant in the world around us, and the times seem uncertain and unsettling it is inspirational to know that there are student like yourselves who are thoughtful and hopeful about the future.”
More than 21 universities from across the country were represented in the 2020 class, the sixth year of the program. The program has been honored by numerous organizations and publications, including the American Bar Association, the Law School Admission Council, the AccessLex Institute and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine (HEED Award).
Among sponsors for the 2020 class were the University of Houston's Office of the Provost, alumnus Kirk L. Dobbins '93, Jackson Walker, Dillard University, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice the John Jay College of Criminal Justice's Office of the Provost Yi Li and its Ellen Hartigan, the school's Interim Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student affairs, the CUNY BMI, SouthWest Water Company and Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The program was established by Baynes and Program Director Kristen Guiseppi. Professor Meredith J. Duncan, director of Metropolitan Programs and the George Butler Research Professor of Law, oversees the program. The initiative is designed to increase diversity among law school applicants and to provide students from low-income, first generation, and underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to seriously consider a legal education.