Dean, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen
Distinguished Chair, and Professor of Law
As the ninth dean of the University of Houston Law Center, Leonard M. Baynes brings a national reputation as a communications law scholar with specializations in business, media, and diversity issues. Dean Baynes has been at the helm of the Law Center since 2014 and he is responsible for more than 750 J.D. and LL.M. students, over 55 full-time faculty, 150 adjunct professors and more than 100 staff members. He oversees 15 centers, institutes, programs, and more than 10 clinical programs.
Dean Baynes is the Law Center’s first dean of African descent. He is a first-generation college student and a first generation American whose parents immigrated to the U.S from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
At UH Law Center, Dean Baynes spearheaded efforts to raise $93 million for the ultramodern John M. O’Quinn Law Building. The facility officially opened in Fall 2022 and is the newest law school building in Texas and one of the newest in the nation. The 5-story, 180,000 square foot structure has multiple modern amenities and spaces named after alumni representing their geographical, racial/ethnic, and gender diversity.
Recognizing the importance of both high academic admissions standards and diversity, under Dean Baynes’s leadership, the 2022 entering class had the highest median UGPA since 1986 at 3.7 and the highest median LSAT of 161 tied with 2011 and 2021. To recognize the academic accomplishments of students, Dean Baynes established the Dean’s List and the first-year reception for students in the top 30% of the class after the first semester.
Being very alumni and community focused, Dean Baynes hosted receptions and met with law alumni throughout the world including Atlanta, Austin, Calgary, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Rio Grande Valley, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, St. Louis, The Woodlands, and Washington, D.C. He has engaged the larger legal community by working closely with the Houston Bar Association on programs as well as giving presentations at 12 major Houston law firms and seven major New York law firms about the accomplishments at the UH Law Center. He also has engaged the larger Texas legal community with an diversity dialogue among law firm partners and corporate counsel to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion in the State. Baynes also instituted a voluntary "Community Service Program" during orientation for incoming first-year students. Through the program, students, faculty, and staff fan out across the City to work on various public service projects. He has increased opportunities for school-funded, public service internships both at home and abroad. Lastly, he revamped the "Sondock Jurist in Residence" program in which judges and others have lectured, led classroom discussions, and talked to students.
Being concerned about access to legal education, Baynes oversaw the implementation of several innovations in Law Center admissions such as the 3-3 Program with UH Honors College where students can complete their bachelor’s degree and JD in six years instead of seven. The Law Center also established the UH Law Express Program pursuant to ABA Standard 503 and Interpretation 503-3, allowing admission of up to 10% of the J.D. class from UH undergraduate students based on their SAT and undergraduate GPA, not LSAT. The Law Center also now accepts the GRE scores as an alternative to the LSAT. Lastly, students can pursue a joint J.D.-LL.M. program allowing them to receive both degrees in 3 ½ years instead of 4. Baynes also initiated the award-winning UHLC Pre-Law Pipeline Program designed to create more opportunities for first-generation, economically challenged, and under-represented college students wishing to attend law school. Students who participate in the UHLC PreLaw Pipeline Program experience, on average, LSAT score increases of 11-14 points.
During his deanship, 15 new tenure track faculty and 10 promotion-eligible non-tenure track faculty have been hired. Thirteen faculty members were published in top 30 law reviews. Also, during his deanship, the position of assistant dean for faculty development was established to provide mentorship opportunities and support for faculty. Approximately 20 faculty are members of the prestigious American Law Institute. Briefcase radio was also established. It is a weekly one-minute radio program on the local NPR affiliate station KUHF News 88.7FM, which highlights legal issues and provides a platform for faculty expertise and ideas to be promoted throughout the larger community.
Enhancing the Law Center’s global reach, Dean Baynes created the position of Executive Director of Global and Graduate Programs, filled the Center for U.S. and Mexican Law Directorship, and hired two tenure track faculty focused on international economic and human rights law. During his deanship, the Law Center entered into agreements with several foreign law programs like the Universidad Anáhuac in Mexico and Prince Mohammad University Bin Fahd in Saudi Arabia. For its efforts, in 2019, UH Law Center received recognition for Achievement in Global Legal Skills Education during the Fourteenth Global Legal Skills Conference in Arizona.
During his deanship, the University of Houston Law Center received the National Bar Association's Presidential Leadership Award and won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award ("HEED") for seven years in a row, culminating in being the only ABA law school being named a “Diversity Champion” in 2021. In addition, in 2019, the University of Houston Law Center Pre-Law Pipeline Program received Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Award for Excellence in Pipeline Diversity (ABA Council for Diversity) and in 2018 the CLEO EDGE Greater Equality Award. Dean Baynes received the John Mercer Langston Legal Education Leadership Award during the 15th Annual National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair 2019 held at Columbia Law School.
During his deanship, he was named as one of the top 100 most influential lawyers of color in the nation, and he was awarded The Houston Lawyer Association's Roberson L. King Excellence in Education Award. Dean Baynes was inducted into the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council Hall of Fame, where former FCC Commissioner and MMTC Chair Henry Rivera described Baynes as "a champion for diversity." In 2010, Baynes received the Diversity Trailblazer Award from the New York Bar Association, and in 2011, he accepted the American Bar Association Alexander Award on behalf of the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students.
Dean Baynes previously served as Professor of Law and the inaugural director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John's University School of Law. He also has served as scholar-in-residence at the Federal Communications Commission, as in-house counsel at NYNEX Corp, and as an associate at the Wall Street office of Gaston and Snow LLP. Baynes is admitted to practice in both New York State and Massachusetts.
Baynes has co-authored the case book "Telecommunications Law: Convergence and Competition" published by Wolters Kluwer and has written more than 25 law review articles and book chapters on corporate law, communications law, and diversity. Baynes also has been an expert witness at the FCC Federal Advisory Committee for Diversity in broadcast ownership.
Baynes received his B.S. from New York University, and J.D. and M.B.A. from Columbia University. Baynes was awarded the Earl Warren Scholarship and the COGME Fellowship at Columbia, where he also served as associate editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, HIPLA College Professor of Law
As Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Greg Vetter works with the Dean, other senior administrators, faculty, and students of the Law Center, on issues dealing with curriculum, course scheduling, interdisciplinary programs, accreditation, academic advising, full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and student rights and responsibilities. The Associate Dean also assists the Dean in strategic planning with respect to the Law Center, serves as liaison among the faculty and staff, serves as liaison with the University and other government entities, and acts on behalf of the Law Center with respect to emergencies that may arise until such time as the Dean is available to address them. The Associate Dean also has the following direct reports: the Assistant Dean for Faculty Development, the Director of the O'Quinn Law Library, the Director of Metropolitan Programs, and the Director of Outcomes and Assessments.
Associate Dean of Alumni and Community Relations
Sondra R. Tennessee is the Associate Dean of Alumni and Community Relations. Her areas of responsibility include the following: alumni engagement, community and business relations, admissions, career development, and scholarships. In addition, she works strategically with a broad group of offices on the University of Houston campus. Prior to assuming her current position, she served as the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Associate Dean for Student Affairs at the UH Law Center. Before joining the UH Law Center, she worked at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and Washington University School of Law.
Active in legal education nationally, Associate Dean Tennessee served on the board of the Law School Admissions Council and was the chair of the Diversity Committee. She is a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.
Graduating from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and from Washington University in St. Louis with a law degree, Associate Dean Tennessee has used her education to help others achieve their goals. She has worked with a wide range of prospective students and law students. She is excited about working with alumni whom she counseled early in their careers.
Assistant Dean of Communications and Marketing
Carrie Criado is Assistant Dean of Communications and Marketing at the University of Houston Law Center. Criado directs a comprehensive communications and marketing program and serves as primary media contact for the University of Houston Law Center and its centers and institutes.
Previously, she has served as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for USLegal, Inc. and was Communications Director for The Climate Project founded by former Vice President Al Gore. Assistant Dean Criado has also worked for KVII-TV, KEYT-TV, KUHT-TV, and The First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.
Assistant Dean Criado also has taught communications law and journalism courses at Southern Methodist University and Middle Tennessee State University.
She was a law clerk for the Federal Communications Commission and an intern at CNN's Washington, DC bureau.
Assistant Dean Criado received a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and earned her J.D. at the University of Houston Law Center.
Professor of Law, Assistant Dean for Faculty Development
Dave Fagundes joined the University of Houston Law Center faculty in fall 2016. Professor Fagundes began his teaching career at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California, where he was a professor from 2007 through 2016. Prior to entering academia, Professor Fagundes worked as a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of Jenner & Block, LLP, and a clerk to Judge David S. Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
As Assistant Dean for Faculty Development, Professor Fagundes organizes internal and external speaker workshops and conferences; helps administer research-related funding; nominates faculty for recognition for their scholarly work; coordinates with the Law Center Communications and Marketing Department to publicize Law Center faculty's scholarly accomplishments; chairs the Law Center's Faculty Scholarship and Advancement Committee; and serves as the Law Center's liaison with the University of Houston with respect to faculty research.
Assistant Dean for Admissions
Pilar Mensah is the Assistant Dean for Admissions at the University of Houston Law Center. She oversees the application and admissions process to include recruitment, admissions decisions, and the awarding of merit-based scholarships. She directs the daily activities of the Office and manages a staff of 5 admissions professionals.
Assistant Dean Mensah is dedicated to diversifying legal education and the legal profession. She is a committee member of the University of Houston Law Center's Pre-Law Pipeline Program, designed to increase diversity of law school applicants by providing law school preparatory resources to college students who are from either low-income, first-generation, or underrepresented backgrounds. She is also an active participant in the Law School Admission Council's Discover Law Months, hosting a biannual Discover Law Day for students who come from ethnically or racially diverse backgrounds.
She graduated magna cum laude from the University of San Diego with a degree in Business Administration and then went on to earn her J.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to assuming her current role, Assistant Dean Mensah practiced civil litigation in Arizona for several years before moving to Houston and joining the Office of Admissions. She has been with the University of Houston Law Center's Office of Admissions for 7 years.
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Monica, a native Houstonian, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.A. in Sociology. She earned her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. As the Assistant Dean, Monica oversees student enrollment and records, course registration, scholarships and financial aid, bar preparation, student counseling and advising, study abroad programs, and student programming and events. In addition, she works strategically with a broad group of offices on the University of Houston campus. Prior to joining the Office of Student Affairs, Monica practiced as a civil rights and employment law attorney.
Assistant Dean for Career Development
Tiffany J. Tucker is the Assistant Dean for Career Development for the University of Houston Law Center. She joined the Career Development Office after practicing transactional intellectual property and general corporate law in New York at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and is a member of the New York Bar. Assistant Dean Tucker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Psychology and Sociology from Grambling State University, a Master of Education in Counselor Education from Florida A&M University, and a Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law. A native Texan, Tiffany is a former mental health counselor and professional development specialist.
As the Assistant Dean for Career Development, Tiffany supervises the Law Center's Career Development Office (CDO), consisting of seven J.D. professionals (Director of Employer Relations and Development, Director of Internship & Externship Programs, Associate Director of Career Counseling, three Senior Career Development Specialists, and Graduate Employment Statistics Consultant) and two programming professionals (Program Manager and Program Coordinator).
The CDO equips students and graduates with the resources and skills necessary to successfully generate and take advantage of professional opportunities. Through one-on-one, tailored career advising, the CDO guides J.D. students and alumni in the use of tools and strategies for successful job searches, interviewing, salary negotiations, and on-the-job professional and career development. The CDO also hosts numerous programs and events designed to help students explore career options and develop vital job search skills, such as the Passport to Success Professional Development Series, the Mock Interview Program, Lunch/Dinner with a Lawyer, and the Upper Level Mentoring Program. The CDO also assists employers in their recruitment efforts by providing a variety of on-campus recruiting avenues to access our career-minded student and alumni populations, including Fall and Spring On-Campus Interview (OCI) Programs, Small & Midsize Firm Open House, Government and Public Interest Table Talk, Alternative Career/In-House Legal Table Talk, Apprentice Program, and Job Bank Database.
Executive Director, College Business Operations
Jessica Claiborne Haynes is the Executive Director of College Business Operations. Her educational background includes a BBA in Accounting and Finance as well as an MBA with a concentration in Accounting. As Executive Director, Jessica is responsible for managing the Law Center’s budget, overseeing the administration of human resources and payroll processes, directing procurement operations, and ensuring compliance with policy and procedure. In addition, she supervises the Facilities and Law Foundation teams. Jessica has held a variety of roles in the Law Center Business Services Office with the most recent position being College Business Administrator.
Director of Information Technology
Tommy Abraham is the Director of Information Technology for the Law Center at the University of Houston. He is responsible for the overall operations of technology including web development, media services and systems support. Abraham obtained his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Master of Business Administration from Texas Woman's University. His subject matter expertise prior to going into management was in Information Security; creating policies, procedures and auditing. With over 15 years of experience in senior IT management roles, one of his major accomplishments includes being part of a team which implemented the very first Electronic Medical Records system in Houston.
Alumnae College Professor of Law, Assistant Dean for Opportunities and Community Engagement
Professor Meredith J. Duncan is the Alumnae College Professor of Law and the Assistant Dean for Opportunities and Community Engagement at the University of Houston Law Center. Her areas of expertise include legal ethics, criminal law, and torts. Duncan oversees the Law Center’s award-winning Pre-Law Pipeline Program, a program designed to increase the law school applicant pool. Her director responsibilities also involve working with the Juvenile and Children’s Advocacy Project, a program whose mission is to reduce juvenile crime and delinquency and improve the long-term educational success rates and life outcomes for socially and economically disadvantaged juveniles.
Professor Duncan teaches Torts, Criminal Law, Professional Responsibility, and other related courses at the Law Center. She has been honored with several teaching awards, including the University of Houston’s highest teaching honor, UH’s Distinguished Leadership in Teaching Excellence Award. She is one of only 26 law professors studied nationwide in the recent Harvard University Press book What the Best Law Teachers Do, a study of the “methods, strategies, and personal traits of professors whose students achieve exceptional learning.” She has been selected numerous times by the Law Center’s Student Bar Association as the Outstanding Professor of the Year and by the graduating law students as their “hooder” at commencement. She has also been selected by the graduates as their faculty commencement speaker.
Duncan graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University and earned her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Upon graduation from the Law Center, she clerked for the Honorable Edith H. Jones, Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and was an associate at Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P. She is the co-author of Tort Law: A Contemporary Approach, published by West Academic, and Advanced Torts: A Lawyer’s Perspective, published by Carolina Academic Press. She has published articles in leading legal publications, such as the Georgia Law Review, the Wake Forest Law Review, the Brooklyn Law Review, and the American Criminal Law Review. She is a member of the prestigious American Law Institute and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Duncan is a member of the Texas Bar Association, and she sits on West Academic’s Advisory Board.
Director of Outcomes and Assessments, Professor of Law and the Larry and Joanne Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics
Professor Knake is the Director of Outcomes and Assessments. In this capacity, she leads development and implementation of the Law Center's compliance with American Bar Association (ABA) Standards 302 (Learning Outcomes), 314 (Assessment of Student Learning), and 315 (Evaluation of Program of Legal Education, Learning Outcomes, and Assessment Methods). She also works to advance the Law Center's Strategic Vision as approved by the faculty.
Prior to joining the University of Houston faculty in 2016, Professor Knake served as the Foster Swift Professor of Legal Ethics and co-director of the Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession at Michigan State University College of Law, where she taught for a decade. In 2015, she was a scholar-in-residence at Stanford Law School's Center on the Legal Profession and a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation.
Professor Knake is an internationally recognized expert on professional responsibility and legal ethics, and has been invited to speak throughout the United States and internationally in countries such as Canada, England, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. She is an author of the casebook "Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach" (West Publishing, 3rd Edition 2017) and more than 20 scholarly articles including publications in the Fordham Law Review, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Ohio State Law Journal, and Washington & Lee Law Review. Her work has been cited in briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, prestigious law reviews such as the Yale Law Journal, and a range of media including the Christian Science Monitor, CNN Money, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, the ABA Journal, Bloomberg Law, and the American Lawyer.
She has been selected for a range of leadership roles nationally and internationally. Professor Knake is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She currently is Treasurer for the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility. She was appointed as the Reporter for the American Bar Association Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services from 2014-16. She served as a delegate to the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Justice (2014-16) and Rule of Law (2013-14).
Executive Director of Global and Graduate Programs
Karen L. Jones, J.D., M.A. is the Executive Director of Global and Graduate Programs at the University of Houston Law Center (UHLC). She is also part of the adjunct faculty teaching Negotiation in Sports and is a judge and coach for mediation and negotiation competition teams at UHLC.
She was previously part of the faculty in sport management at Rice University, head of the sport law concentration, and started and edited the Rice Sport Law Review (RSLR). She also teaches sports law, ethics and sports negotiation with Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, and international and comparative sports law in an online course with John Marshall Law School Chicago. She holds several degrees and certificates including a bachelor’s degree in communications/theater arts (Columbia College Chicago), master’s in sociology (DePaul University, Chicago, IL), a juris doctorate (law degree - Southern Methodist University Law School, Dallas, TX), certificate in mediation from the Center for Conflict Resolution (Chicago, IL), certificate towards an LL.M. in International Business and Trade Law (John Marshall Law School Chicago) and certificate in Advanced Studies in European Sports Law and Policy (KU Leuven University, Belgium).
She is the former Program Coordinator for the International Sports Law Centre at T.M.C. Asser Instituut (part of University of Amsterdam) in The Hague, The Netherlands, where she developed the first ever summer program in international sports law, started a quarterly Lunch & Learn series, established academic cooperatives, a wide international network and managed and edited the International Sports Law Journal (ISLJ) moving it from an in-house publication to Springer Publishing, widely expanding its viewership.
With more than 17 years leading global fortune 500 corporations in program development/improvement, contracts negotiation, vendor management, procurement, compliance and risk management, she used her skills to establish a small consulting business, Mission2Transition LLC, offering operations management, mediation, and legal support services to clients.
She has published (author/editor) articles and book chapters on legal and management related topics as well as being an invited speaker at international conferences in countries including China, Russia, Italy (CONI), Singapore (INTERPOL), and others.
She loves live theater, is a health enthusiast, member of several professional associations, serves on boards and volunteers with service organizations.
Director of the O'Quinn Law Library, Assistant Professor of Law
Professor Watson joined the Law Center faculty as director of the O'Quinn Law Library and assistant professor of law. She supervises a staff of nine librarians and eight staff members, and oversees the O'Quinn Law Library collection of over 285,000 physical volumes and 300,000 digital volume equivalents.
Professor Watson previously served for seven years at the Tulane University School of Law library as Associate Director and adjunct associate professor since 2014.
In addition to her supervisory role at Tulane, she taught legal research, researched and applied for grant funding, provided reference services, managed servers, and advised on technological matters that arose in departments throughout the law school. She is proficient in numerous creative software applications. Professor Watson previously served as head of public library services from 2012-2014 and as access services librarian from 2010-2012. In those roles, she supervised reference, circulation, interlibrary loans, special collections, and digital initiatives. She worked from 2009-2010 at the State Law Library of Mississippi in Jackson and as manager of information services and regional law librarian from 2003-2009 for the firm of Phelps Dunbar LLP in its Jackson office.
Professor Watson has participated in library conferences and co-authored "Understanding and Utilizing Digital Authentication, in Digital Rights Management: The Librarian's Guide." She is a member of numerous associations, including the International Legal Technology Association, American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Mississippi Bar Association, New Orleans Association of Law Libraries, (president) and Southeastern Association of Law Libraries.
Professor Watson earned a B.A. from Mississippi University for Women, a J.D. from the University of Mississippi School of Law, and a Master of Information Studies from Florida State University.
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