July 9, 2015—University of Houston Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes recently participated in a two-city symposium, “The State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession,” presented by the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.
The event brought together speakers from across the spectrum of the legal profession to address its longstanding struggles with becoming more diverse and inclusive of people of differing races, genders, and sexual identities, among other characteristics.
The symposium was held in conjunction with the release of “IILP Review 2014,” a 288-page compendium of articles on the subject. Baynes’s contribution is titled “The Pipeline to Law School: Uplifting Students of Color from the Negativity Surrounding Racial Identity, Racial Diversity, and LSAT Scores.”
In the article and during presentations at the Houston offices of Baker Botts LLP and the AT&T Center in Dallas, Baynes described the challenges faced by law schools, such as UHLC, that reside in minority-majority states or regions (such as Texas) where there is often a “disconnect” between the number of applicants from minority backgrounds and those who are accepted, based largely on median LSAT scores.
Baynes described how he and the Law Center are addressing this challenge with a new Pre-Law Pipeline Program, an initiative to bring undergraduate students from minority or economically challenged backgrounds to UHLC for a six-week program designed to introduce them to the rigors of law school and prepare them to take the LSAT. The program, modeled after one Baynes created at St. John’s University Law School in New York, is about to complete its inaugural class.
Other presenters included: Jennifer Zimmerman of Morgan Stanley, who discussed the inclusion of women in the legal profession; Dolores S. Atencio, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Denver, who discussed the status of Latinas in the profession; Steve John, a principal with Korn/Ferry International, who discussed career management considerations for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) lawyers; attorney Jen C. Won, who discussed lawyering in a non-native language; and attorney Emmanuel U. Obi, who discussed the issue of isolation often felt by minority associates in law firms.