Feb. 1, 2021 - Throughout his academic and professional career, Cody West has demonstrated a knack for making contacts. The 2020 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center said he likes to take an authentic approach when creating connections and forming new relationships.
“I don't look at networking as something to only gain an advantage, but as a way to actually learn about the other person,” West said. “It's not some superficial activity that you have to do in order to gain an opportunity or advantage. Whenever I meet people, I genuinely want to form a relationship and get to know people.”
While attending a private equity event in Beverly Hills, Calif., West shared his interest in public policy and was encouraged to pursue a two-year fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the American Petroleum Institute. After accepting the offer for the fellowship, West now works on the staff of Rep. Marc Veasey, and spends his time examining policy proposals and meeting with constituents, business executives and lobbyists.
“That exposure has been rewarding,” West said. “I feel very lucky because the work is exciting. This two-year fellowship gives me an opportunity to pursue many endeavors once it ends. Working on Capitol Hill, you meet so many different people and I will be able to decide what direction I Want to take with the experiences and connections I've made."
West said the prospect of relocating to Washington D.C. to begin his legal career places him in unique circumstances that can allow him to help create change.
“Going into this fellowship, at this time in our history, what I hope to do is shape policy in the direction of helping people who are struggling right now because of the unprecedented times we're currently dealing with," West said. “I want to walk away from the fellowship saying I helped make an impact in our country during such a divided time.
“We need unity, and my hope is that I can tell my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I played a role in bringing our country back together.”
West's experience from his time as a Law Center student include internships with the City of Houston and Harris County Attorney's Office, working as a summer analyst for Merill Lynch and a clerkship with the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was also a student attorney at the Law Center's Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic.
West is a part of the Terry Foundation, a program that provides undergraduate scholarships. His motivation to pursue a legal education came from attending an annual event where he heard a speech from a graduating college student preparing for law school. West’s willingness to ask questions and seek out advice again came into play.
“The speaker had big ambitions, and I was inspired by the speech,” West said. “At that time I was a junior in college, and I told myself, ‘This guy is in the same foundation as me and he has a vision that massive. Why can't I have a vision and goal just as big?'
“After he gave his speech, I spoke to him and asked if he could explain to me what it is that I need to do in order to go to law school. What steps should I take right now? He was willing to help. He allowed me to use his LSAT books and I used those to study for the LSAT. The rest is history.”
West said some of his favorite aspects of attending the Law Center was learning from Clinical Associate Professor Christopher Heard, Director of the Entrepreneurship & Community Clinic; Beirne, Maynard & Parsons, L.L.P. Professor of Law Douglass Moll, and Law Foundation Professor of Law Bret Wells.
“All of the professors at the Law Center are bright,” he said. “Professor Wells is extremely intelligent and a very caring person. He has been very helpful, and no matter what question a student may have, he's always willing to answer it. Professor Christopher Heard helped me understand what it takes to practice law, and ways to think through difficult problems you may come across when helping clients.
“Professor Moll's teaching method is very important and useful. Being able to intertwine humor with difficult subject matter makes it easier to understand. I really appreciated having a professor who can make people laugh.”