Ingrained work ethic allowed 2010 UHLC grad to juggle studies and full-time jobs
June 5, 2017 — Luke Gilman's work ethic was instilled in him at 16 when he started working as a weekend videographer at a local news station in his hometown of Presque Isle, Maine. That quality remained with the 2010 University of Houston Law Center graduate as he juggled full-time jobs throughout his undergraduate and legal education.
"I found it really useful that I naturally just wanted to work," he said, citing several of the many jobs he held over the years as a graphic designer and sales manager. "I found that it really helped focus what I was interested in at school, and gave it a depth I wouldn't have had if I wasn't working. If I had to do it over again, I would definitely do it by choice even if I didn't have to by necessity."
While pursuing a major in English and a minor in economics at the University of Houston, Gilman recalls the odd hours he would spend on campus while furthering his studies.
"I had a math class that was from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays," he said. "There's not too many professors who would be willing to schedule something that late. But it was packed and the students were all in the same position of really wanting to continue our education, but needing to work during the day and do both. One of the great things about UH is it makes it possible to do that."
Gilman's interest in law school was sparked when he took several classes related to law as an undergraduate, especially when Law Center Professor Robert Ragazzo participated in a mock law class.
"I had a law and psychology course that was done by a psychology professor and a working lawyer here in town," he said. "Professor Ragazzo came over and did a mock class and I just really enjoyed that. It solidified my thinking that I'd really like to attend law school, and that UH was a great place to do it. I would also be able to continue to work and do law school at the same time."
While attending the Law Center, Gilman participated in a number of international commercial arbitration moot court competitions that took him to Hong Kong and Paris. He also worked for the Houston Law Review and as a program manager for the Law Center's Center for Children's Law and Policy.
"My work at the Center for Children's Law & Policy gave me an opportunity to explore what it would be like to represent children in the legal system," Gilman said. "I still do a little bit of that today, and I still keep in contact with Professor Ellen Marrus. We do some projects here and there and work on some cases on a pro-bono basis. It was a great experience."
In his last year of law school, Gilman worked as a judicial intern for U.S. District Judge David Hittner, an experience that still benefits him today.
"Getting the perspective of a judge is pretty key in my practice," Gilman said. "It was significant to be able to put myself in a judge's shoes and understand what he was expecting and sometimes what he was complaining about or wasn't seeing the other side. I try to remember now never to overlook or assume that something is going to be obvious if I haven't specifically addressed it."
Gilman currently works as an associate attorney with Jackson Walker LLP's office in Houston. He primarily focuses on appellate and trial work, with extensive experience in media defamation cases.
"Those cases have been a lot of fun," Gilman said. "I've been able to work on cases for Dr. Phil, Oprah and some other media companies. In law school, I really loved the first amendment and didn't really think I would end up doing that type of work. There's a lot of defamation work out there and we end up doing quite a bit of it. You get to protect the First Amendment which I've been really interested in ever since law school."
Gilman has been recognized as a rising star by Thomson Reuters from 2015-2017 and was named a fellow by the Texas Bar Foundation in 2016. He also maintains an active presence in his community, serving on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston, the Young Professionals Board for Covenant House, and as a partner at the Grace Bible Church.
"It's really important to not only be a member of the community but to recognize that you have a unique position as a lawyer to do things other people just don't have the training or expertise to do," Gilman said. "The law pervades our entire society. You can really make a difference not just in a particular person's life but in a social impact perspective as well."