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  to do everything we can to demonstrate our commitment to that enduring principle.”
The event’s opening speaker was U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of the 18th Congressional District of Texas. Her introduction was provided by Michael F. Barry, President and Dean of the South Texas College of Law Houston. Jackson Lee said that to ensure more equality in the legal profession, there must be consistency, persistence and understanding.
“Knowledge is power,” Jackson Lee said. “If you want to see a sizably recognized increase of African Americans in law firms across the country and state, there has to be an appreciation for the history from which they came from. It is a high calling to be a lawyer and the defenders of the Constitution. This conference can be a great opportunity for expanding the horizons of young Black lawyers and young Black law students.”
The Bracewell LLP Distinguished Lecture in Racial and Social Justice Keynote Speaker was David B. Wilkins. Wilkins serves as the Lester Kissel Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry. He was introduced by Bradley J.B. Toben, the Dean & M.C. Mattie Caston Professor of Law at Baylor Law School.
In his presentation, Wilkins drew a parallel between the COVID-19 pandemic and recent renewed calls for racial equality in recent months, following a string of incidents involving police brutality.
“This conference breathes much-needed life into the
effort to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to the legal profession,” Wilkins said. “To demonstrate legitimacy, the legal profession must address its own diversity problem. The forces pushing for change are urgent. COVID has underscored the interdependence and fragility of our society. The pandemic and protests make clear that interdependence and fragility is fundamentally linked to race and social justice.
“We need to recognize that to meet institutional challenges, we need institutional responses. We need to re-think recruiting. We need to develop rigorous metrics for identifying a full range of qualities that predict success.”
The first panel discussion, “Increasing Black Enrollment in Law Schools,” highlighted a number of programs across the country that make the legal profession more accessible for young minorities. It was moderated by Patricia Roberts, Dean and Charles E. Cantu Distinguished Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law and Jack Wade Nowlin, Texas Tech School of Law Dean and W. Frank Newton Professor of Law.
Increasing Black Enrollment in Law Schools Panel
Speakers included:
• Meredith Duncan, Law Center Professor and Assistant Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Metropolitan Programs, who discussed the success of the Pre-Law Pipeline Program. From 2015-2020, the Pipeline Program has graduated 198 students, with 69 who have been accepted into graduate schools and 66 who matriculated into law school.
• Rebecca R. McMahon, CEO Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, discussed extensive pipeline measures that she said, “extend from a single-minded commitment to be intentionally and consciously inclusive.”
• Michael Meyerson, Piper Professor of Law and Director of University of Baltimore Law School, Fannie Angelos Program for Academic Excellence. He said part of the program’s mission is to, “overcome the toxic voices that say students don’t belong.”
• James O’Neal, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Legal Outreach, who described the organization not just as a pipeline to diversity non-profit, but also a college prep non- profit.
• “We work at the high school level,” O’Neal said. “Our
primary objective is to do our part to level the educational and professional playing field for underserved and minority youth by closing the outlook gap, achievement gap and college matching gap – all three of which can literally prevent students of color from having a realistic and legitimate shot at acquiring their fair share of the American dream.”
• Bill Weaver, Director of UTEP’s Law School Preparation Institute explained the initiative that takes place over two summers and gives students a preview of first-year law school classes.
The following panel explained “The Role of Historically Black Law Schools,” with A. Felecia Epps, Dean and Professor of Law at UNT Dallas College of Law moderating the discussion.

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