The new John M. O’Quinn Law Building is fast on track to be ready by September 2022. This modern, beautiful, state-of-the-art, and functional building will be the newest law school facility in the state of Texas. It has been a decades-long dream of our alumni, students, faculty, and staff. And it is happening!
Reflection on this monumental accomplishment inspires the question: What does the Law Center next need to propel it forward in its rightful place at the top echelon of our nation’s law schools? The answer: We need additional scholarship dollars to continue to attract the best and brightest students. Median LSAT and median undergraduate GPAs are key metrics in the U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings. The more scholarship dollars that we have the more that we can improve these metrics. But also, the more scholarship dollars that we have, the more we will be able to recruit and retain students from low income, first generation, or underrepresented backgrounds. Having a diverse student body is essential in understanding a wider perspective when tackling societal and legal challenges.
We are very thankful and grateful for the donors who over the years have provided our students with scholarship support. However, the reality is that the vast majority of the Law Center’s scholarship budget comes from state funding, and that funding has declined significantly over the past decade. Our present scholarship funding is insufficient to compete against our peer institutions to recruit and retain the students with the highest entering credentials as well as those from low-income, first generation, or underrepresented backgrounds. Our competitors outspend us several fold in their recruitment and retention efforts.
The Law Center’s history and mission have revolved around educating students of all backgrounds who develop into skillful lawyers seeking justice for their clients and economic security for their families. Our current students are no different from their historical antecedents in that they have the same ambition, determination, and desire to excel as their predecessors.
During my Deanship, I have talked about the Power of Legal Education. Through legal education, our superb faculty teach our students to think like lawyers, and upon completion of their degree, the students can write more precisely, analyze more rigorously, advocate more persuasively, and uphold the highest standards of the legal profession. At the Law Center, every day, we witness this transformation of our students from undergraduates to skillfully trained lawyers and leaders in our communities.
Financial support through scholarships empowers students from all backgrounds to follow their dreams while also improving access and equity in legal education and the legal profession. For example, after receiving notice of her scholarship as a result of exemplary first-year academic performance, second-year student Karina Sanchez wrote a thank you note saying:
“The timing could not have been more perfect. I have been tossing around the idea of quitting my job as a nurse for my 2L year. I was literally making a spreadsheet of my finances when I heard the Outlook notification. This is a tremendous help, and I think I will be able to quit midway through this upcoming semester!”
Similarly, second-year student Kirsten Hallmark, after receiving her scholarship notification upon completion of her excellent, first year academic performance, wrote:
I wanted to reach out to say thank you so much for making this scholarship a possibility! You have no idea how much this scholarship means to me… I am proud to say that I worked extremely hard and now ranked #10 in my 1L class! Again, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!!”
Scholarships matter! They make a huge difference in the quality, caliber, and backgrounds of the students who we recruit and retain. The Law Center needs your help to recruit and retain the best and brightest students but also to hold steadfast to our historical mission as an engine of transformation by recruiting students from low income, first generation, or underrepresented backgrounds.
It is with this in mind that I invite all alumni and friends to join me at the virtual Fuel the Future Launch Celebration on October 25th at 4 pm CT. The new initiative aims to raise $10 million in scholarships by 2025 and to increase annual programmatic support for the Law Fund. At the virtual event, you will hear firsthand from our students and donors about the impact scholarships have made on their lives.
Please RSVP using the link below and visit online to learn more about how we can fuel a brighter future together. I look forward to seeing you there.
Leonard M. Baynes
Dean & Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center
The University of Houston Law Center
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060