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With May marking the commemoration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I am reminded of the community’s extensive diversity. Recent U.S. Census data indicate that AAPI groups comprise more than 22 million people in the U.S., which is more than seven percent of our population. A global community with ties to multiple countries, more than 50 ethnic groups, and 100-plus languages undoubtedly adds a unique wealth of diversity to our society.

From a legal perspective, reports compiled by the American Bar Association, National Association for Law Placement and U.S. News & World Report indicate that members of the AAPI community make up 10 percent of graduates at the country’s top law schools, but less that 5 percent of our nation’s lawyers. Despite an improving presence among student bodies, it does not necessarily translate to representation in the judiciary or public office on state and federal levels, according to statistics compiled by the Reflective Democracy Campaign. Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic also saw a dramatic increase in harassment and violence aimed at the AAPI community. In matters of antiracism, diversity, and inclusion in the legal profession, it is important to be reflective of all our communities. But it is also important to celebrate the gradual progress that has been made in this space. In the area of Big Law, the National Association for Law Placement reported that AAPI representation is increasing among associates and partners. As part of the University of Houston Law Center’s core values, I am confident our institution will be a contributor to an increase in these percentages. We have a history of alumni who can serve as role models for current and future students from AAPI backgrounds.

One of those graduates is 1999 alumna Lola Lin, who has demonstrated versatility throughout two decades in practice areas that range from mergers and acquisitions, energy and corporate transactions, counsel for global sales and procurement, and now an organization that specializes in engineered metal solutions used on our interstates and in our skies. Lola currently serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for Howmet Aerospace in Pittsburgh. She previously was the General Counsel at Airgas, Inc., Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Air Liquide, and held roles at Dell, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, and Locke Lorde LLP.

This dynamic career trajectory is a proud example for Law Center students from a multitude of backgrounds. Equipped with a University of Houston law degree and her own determination, grit, and skills, Lola propelled herself to an executive leadership position where she advises on significant decisions involving cutting-edge technologies. I would like to recognize Lola for her accomplishments, and I am proud of the Law Center’s inclusion of AAPI students dating back to the first Asian-American graduate William Y. Sim, a 1969 alumnus.

Please take a moment to click through the slide show to see more AAPI alumni who have made significant strides in their respective fields and who embody the highest caliber of professionalism.

As we celebrate Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let us also consider measures that confront anti-AAPI bias and advance the further inclusion of this community and all diverse communities into the mosaic that comprise the United States.

Sincerely,

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

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