Leonard M. Baynes
Dean 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. At the same time, the Law Center achieved the most racially/ethnically and gender diverse entering class in the Law Center’s history with almost 48% of the first-year class from underrepresented racial minority groups, almost 57% are women, almost 14% LGBTQ+, and almost 20% first generation college students. 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 invitation-only 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.
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.
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