Star Jones ’86 says UH Law Center legal education served as foundation for career trajectory

Career Development

Prosecutor-turned-TV personality Star Jones, '86, second from right, joins Maddi West (far left), Associate Dean Marcilynn Burke and Dean Leonard M. Baynes during a return visit to her alma mater.

March 31, 2015 - New York prosecutor-turned-TV journalist and talk show host Star Jones, one of the University of Houston Law Center’s most prominent alumni, returned to her alma mater today to meet with faculty, staff and students and to promote diversity in the workplace.

After graduating from UH Law Center in 1986, Jones became a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and went on to become a senior district attorney for New York City. She gained fame as a legal commentator for Court TV cable network in the early 1990s and then became a legal correspondent and analyst for NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News and later co-host of the ABC woman-centric talk show “The View” for nine seasons.

Jones is now president of the Professional Diversity Network (PDN), an internet software and services company that develops and operates online networking opportunities for professionals and employers seeking to hire women, minorities, veterans, LGBT and disabled professionals.

Jones’ return to UHLC coincided with PDN’s Career Networking Fair held at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where attendees were able to interview with recruiters and HR managers from a range of sectors, including energy, retail and technology.

After meeting with Dean Leonard M. Baynes and Associate Dean Marcilynn Burke, Jones talked with a Criminal Law class taught by Professor Meredith Duncan, where she described her formative experiences as a UH law student, her work as a young New York prosecutor, and her subsequent careers in broadcasting and now as one of three African-American women to lead a publicly traded company.

Jones told the students that her favorite class at UHLC was a legal ethics course, which she often had to draw upon when making tough decisions as a prosecutor.

“I take great pride in the fact that I still have the highest conviction rate in New York State, a 98 percent conviction rate,” she said. “But I take as much pride in the fact that I would dismiss a case if I thought that a defendant’s rights had not been adhered to.”

Jones told the students that no matter what kind of law they practiced, they would someday have to make those kinds of ethical decisions.

“And I hope that you remember every single lesson that you learn in ethics class. Because no matter how tough it is, you will be able to stand up 25 years later and smile at each other, because you made the right decisions,” she said.

After talking with the class, Jones attended a crowded reception with faculty, staff, students and alumni in the Hendricks Heritage Room, where Baynes presented her with the Dean’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Along the way, she met with her former professor, Elywn Lee, now UH Vice President for Community Relations and Institutional Access.

Dean Baynes was thrilled that Star Jones returned to her alma mater. He said that Star exemplifies the “Power of Legal Education.”

“The Law Center teaches students to think like lawyers. After their graduation, they write precisely, analyze rigorously, advocate persuasively, and uphold the highest standards of the legal profession. Star’s career demonstrates that the legal career provides students with the skills to succeed in any capacity. The Law Center community is honored that it had the opportunity to celebrate Star’s career and is looking for opportunities for her to become re-involved in the Law Center community,” he said.

Jones and Baynes took the occasion to announce that they are considering ways for her to return in the near future to teach a multi-day seminar on how the media has impacted the conduct of trials in the United States.

Many times during her visit, Jones echoed the primary theme of Baynes’ administration, “the power of a legal education.”

“The legal education is absolutely the foundation of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “Over these last thirty years, it’s been so clear that I would never have been able to accomplish anything without that law degree.”

See highlight video of Star Jones visit at flipagram.com/StarJonesEsquire.

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