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FACULTY FOCUS

LAURA OREN (Continued from page 5)

more diverse now, she added. The percentage of       specialized civil rights statutes enacted since the    adjuncts who practice in Houston and we wouldn’t
women has fluctuated over the years, but stands      mid-’60s, she said. “Lawyers have to practice          have access to those people anywhere else. There
at just under 50 percent of current 1Ls. “There      strategically,” she said, weighing Constitutional      are also ways that we could give back, become more
are more people with different backgrounds, and      case law and the ever-changing, myriad of state and    integrated in the community. We could see what it’s
that is different from a teacher’s point of view,”   federal statutory laws.                                like to be a really good urban law school.”
she said. “The more experiences that people bring
into the classroom, the more interesting the             Despite well-documented challenges facing law          As to her own immediate future, Oren plans
conversation is in the classroom. I enjoy that very  schools, Oren is optimistic about the Law Center’s     to finish a book examining Constitutional Law in
much. Constitutional law is very argumentative,      future under the direction of its new dean, Leonard    relation to race and gender as it evolved through
open to a lot of interpretation. It’s much more      M. Baynes. “He comes from New York as I do. In         specific historical periods. She also volunteers at
interesting to explore with people who have          fact, his former school (St. John’s University School  a legal aid office and is auditing various classes
different viewpoints.” The law itself has undergone  of Law in Queens) is a few miles from where I grew     at UH-Clear Lake with her husband, and fellow
great changes with the sheer number of sweeping,     up. He knows what it’s like to be a school in a big    historian, Bruce Palmer, retired dean of Human
                                                     city. We benefit greatly from the expertise of our     Sciences and Humanities at the school.

ROBERT SCHUWERK

    Robert Schuwerk seemed destined for a            his young family and that it wouldn’t change if            Today, law schools and the legal profession
career in law. His grandfather, father, uncles,      he continued in that type of work. He says he          itself are facing challenges with rising
and cousins were lawyers, two of them judges.        always thought he would enjoy teaching law, and        tuition costs, declining enrollments, a tighter
They all felt he would make a good lawyer as well    joined the faculty of the University of Houston        marketplace, and the public’s poor perception of
and urged him to join the family profession. He      Bates College of Law in 1982. He taught courses        lawyers.
wasn’t so sure, and felt a bit intimidated by the    in criminal law and procedure and became a
legal footsteps he was being urged to follow. He     nationally recognized authority on professional            Schuwerk believes the profession’s
majored in mathematics and taught in Chicago         responsibility and malpractice.                        reputation might improve for the next generation
area high schools instead. “But in time I came                                                              of lawyers if law schools placed a greater
around to their point of view,” he says. “I started      During his years in the classroom, Schuwerk        emphasis on developing a sense of collegiality
law school at age 27; did well; loved it, and never  developed several ways of helping students             and collaboration in the practice of law, and
looked back.”                                        deal with the stress and competitiveness of law        engendered what he terms “ ‘temperamental
                                                     school as well as issues of ethics, professional       competence:’ the ability to weather the emotional
    After earning his J.D. at the University of      responsibility, and “burnout” that may arise in the    and psychological ups and downs of the practice
Chicago School of Law in 1972, he clerked            practice of law.                                       of law and to exercise good judgment under fire.”
for a federal judge in Louisiana, worked as
staff counsel for the Illinois Law Enforcement           “I initiated a “law firm” approach in all              He urges schools to place a greater emphasis
Commission, and handled complex civil litigation     of my classes, in which the students were              on integrating legal doctrine with practical
as an associate for a small Chicago law firm. After  allowed to form small firms which I would then         skills and to make a concerted effort to serve the
several years, it seemed he was being consumed       call on rather than individuals,” he explains.         un-met needs of lower-income people. To do
by a demanding practice, “primarily because          “This created a dynamic of collaboration and           that, he proposes creation of a new professional
I bought into the ‘only acceptable number of         teamwork — help your friends look good, have           position, a “lawyer’s assistant” similar to a
mistakes is zero’ mentality,” he said. He felt his   one another’s back — as opposed to the more            “physician’s assistant,” trained in general law to
“life was out of balance,” to the detriment of       traditional hierarchical professor/student             provide routine legal services at reasonable rates.
                                                     interaction with forced responses from unwilling       While conceding the plan would face numerous
                                                     or unprepared students.” He also has advocated         hurdles – winning bar approval, setting up
                                                     doing away with the curve grading system which         licensing procedures and standards, developing
                                                     he feels would eliminate cutthroat competition         curriculum – Schuwerk believes the proposal
                                                     to win the scarce “A” and “result in higher student    would be attractive to many students and help
                                                     morale and a surge in collaborative learning.”         ease enrollment shortfalls at many law schools.
                                                                                                            “What I am suggesting could leapfrog the Law
                                                         Schuwerk also developed a course, “Personal        Center over most other schools in providing
                                                     and Professional Responsibility,” that dealt           decent legal representation to that under-served
                                                     with the pressures of both law school and the          market,” he says.
                                                     profession and how they can distort moral
                                                     judgments and lead students and practitioners              Schuwerk’s future in “retirement” is more
                                                     astray. He invited psychologists who spoke about       certain: “I will continue to consult in the legal
                                                     lawyer-clients and the stresses they faced as          ethics field, keep up my portion of the ethics
                                                     well as practicing attorneys and even disbarred        treatise, (“The Handbook of Texas Lawyer and
                                                     lawyers who described how they lost their ethical      Judicial Ethics,” which he has co-authored for
                                                     way. Students examined their personal moral            many years), enjoy the blessings of my wife and
                                                     compasses and frailties and discussed how they         our children and grandchildren to the fullest,
                                                     would react if confronted by ethical dilemmas in       and help out at the Law Center if, as, and when
                                                     their future practice.                                 needed.”

6 Briefcase 2015
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