August 15, 2014

Good Morning!

This is day one of my deanship, and I am excited to be here. This email will apprise you of what I have been doing since my confirmation by the Board of Regents and to share my vision of how the University of Houston Law Center embodies the “Power of Legal Education.”

Since the Board of Regents formally confirmed my appointment on May 7, 2014, I have been establishing and strengthening my connections to the Law Center, the City of Houston, and other deans, transitioning out of my professorship and directorship at St. John’s School of Law, and organizing and executing my move to Houston.

My activities during this transition period have included:

  • Meeting individually with my direct reports;
  • Chairing my first staff meeting;
  • Meeting with former Deans Alderman, Nimmer, and Zamora;
  • Attending the ABA “baby” deans conference in Chicago where I met other incoming ABA deans;
  • Attending the Provost’s “Advance” in Galveston where I met the University of Houston’s other deans;
  • Having lunch with the Houston Bar Association leaders where I met Dean Dannye Holley (Thurgood Marshall) and Dean Don Guter (South Texas);
  • Addressing UHLC admitted students at a welcome reception;
  • Grading St. John’s exams and organizing the Ronald H. Brown Prep Program;
  • Finding a place to live in Houston, closing my New York City apartment and saying a lot of goodbyes; and
  • Moving to Houston or as it is affectionately known in the Hip Hop community: "H-town."

The Power of Legal Education

During my deanship, I plan to focus on how the Law Center embodies the “Power of Legal Education.” The “Power of Legal Education" resonates with the Law Center’s “Strategic Vision” to deliver “excellent, affordable education,” to produce high quality legal scholarship coupled with high quality teaching, and to engage with the larger legal community.   

As legal academics, we are exemplars of the "Power of Legal Education" by fundamentally transforming each student and teaching them how to think like lawyers. Through this process, each student learns to write precisely, to analyze rigorously, to advocate persuasively, and to conform to the highest professional standards.  Our law graduates then take these tools to transform the world by representing individual clients to secure justice and providing the legal architecture of global and national social, political and economic movements, e.g., Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Marriage Equality, Immigration Reform, Tort Reform, Tax Reform and Deregulation.

The “Power of Legal Education” enables students to transform their economic circumstance and advance their social mobility. I use myself as an example. My parents were born on the island of
St. Vincent in the Caribbean Sea. It is a volcanic island, which is 150 square miles in size with about 100,000 inhabitants. The population consists of the descendants of the Island’s indigenous people (the Caribs), enslaved and marooned Africans, and a few European settlers. Like so many other immigrants, my parents (who had very limited education) came to the United States to pursue the American Dream. For me and so many others like me, legal education empowered and catapulted me into opportunities that would have been unavailable to me but for my education. This type of social mobility also demonstrates the fundamental and transformative “Power of Legal Education.”

The Law Center demonstrates the “Power of Legal Education” through its highly credentialed and well-published faculty, imparting knowledge to our students and through legal scholarship transforming the debate and discussion of globally and nationally significant issues. Our clinics and centers are exemplars of the “Power of Legal Education” by their cutting-edge work (with our students) to transform the world through their research and advocacy. Through their hard work and dedication, our staff exhibits “the Power of Legal Education” by ensuring that the Law Center runs smoothly and professionally to provide opportunities for our students and support our faculty. Our students demonstrate the “Power of Legal Education” through their extracurricular and co-curricular activities while pursuing their studies. After graduation, our alumni embody the “Power of Legal Education” through their legal practice in representing clients and advocacy of socially and economically important issues.

The near term

Orientation is scheduled for today and tomorrow. As in past years, Orientation will immerse the students into the Law Center’s academic culture and provide them with our expectations for professionalism, hard work, and dedication. For the first time, Orientation also includes a day of service where students will have the opportunity to work with our community. This will help inculcate in the students the values related to the “Power of Legal Education.” The students can serve at the Houston Food Bank or Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and  Own the Dream, which will have a clinic providing help on applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”).

As we move forward, I will call on each of you to join with me in heralding how the Law Center embodies the “Power of Legal Education” and to work together as I highlighted during my Dean Presentation on our collective vision to ensure that the Law Center is “resource rich and globally and nationally known for transforming the world through legal education.” To this end, over the next few weeks, I will meet individually with each faculty member and senior staff member to solicit her/his perspectives and advice on how to achieve this vision. You can also provide me with advice and suggestions on our website.Through these meetings and conversations, you will discover that my leadership style is down-to-earth, inclusive, consultative, deliberative, and inspirational.

Over the next few weeks, I will also have several public events to share my vision with, and meet, alumni and other Law Center stakeholders. These events are scheduled for: Houston – September 9, 2014; Austin – September 17, 2014; San Antonio – September 18, 2014; Dallas – October 1, 2014; and New York City – October 8, 2014.

I am extremely excited about the future of the University of Houston Law Center. The Law Center has a first class faculty, nationally ranked academic centers and institutes, terrific LLM programs and clinics, an enthusiastic and talented staff, great students, and a vibrant and engaged alumni base. I want to thank former Deans Ray Nimmer and Steve Zamora, and Interim Dean Richard Alderman for their Law Center legacy and leadership in advancing us to where we are today.

I need all of you to join with me in building on the Law Center’s outstanding legacy of accomplishments. I look forward to working with each of you to nurture our existing strengths and cultivate new ones as we chart a path into the future.

Warmest regards,

Leonard M. Baynes
Dean and Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center