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This August marks the first year anniversary of my
deanship; Last year at this time, I articulated my
vision of the "Power of Legal Education." The Law
Center is emblematic of this vision because of the
excellent legal education, which affords our
alumni and students with the skills to find justice
for their clients. This power transforms our
students and alumni and ultimately society
wherein their clients get justice.

My first year has been a whirlwind of activity inside and outside the building, new faces, and new programs, all designed to harness the "Power of Legal Education" moving the Law Center into the future. One year ago, we instituted a highly successful Community Service Day before classes even began where more than 210 students, faculty and staff worked to aid our community. This community outreach continued through this summer with the first six-week session of the Pre-Law Pipeline Program giving undergraduates an introduction to the world of law.

In between, I met approximately 1,000 alumni and friends of the Law Center in a wide variety of informal and formal settings in Houston as well as in cities across the country from New York to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., McAllen to Denver. At each event, it struck me how dedicated, vital and energetic the Law Center alumni network is and its importance for the continued success of the Law Center and for the career opportunities it can offer our students and graduates. Our alumni are deeply interested in seeing their alma mater continue on its course toward greater excellence, and are remarkably willing to help the next generation of Law Center graduates succeed.

I quickly came to admire the incredible knowledge, skill, and commitment our faculty brings to the Law Center. Nationally and globally renowned scholars in their fields, they are first and foremost dedicated to making our students the best lawyers they can possibly be.

And, perhaps most of all, I was impressed with the quality of our students whose intelligence, persistence, and drive to succeed ensure a bright future for themselves, the legal profession, and the clients that they will serve.

Here are some of the highlights of my first year as Dean:

  • Community Service Day: More than 180 first-year students joined me, faculty, and staff in volunteering for the inaugural event at the Houston Food Bank and assisting immigrants at a local community center.
  • Burke Named Associate Dean: In October, I tapped Marcilynn A. Burke, a long-time professor at the Law Center who served a stint in Washington, D.C., as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of the Interior, to serve as the school's associate dean.
  • Faculty Appointments: Bret Wells, an oil and gas and tax law scholar will succeed Jacqueline Weaver as the Director of the Environmental, Energy, and Natural Resources Center. Jessica Roberts, who was recently named as a Greenwall Scholar and who is a national expert on Disability Law, has assumed the reigns of the Health Law and Policy Institute succeeding Seth Chandler who previously held that position. Allison Winnike, assistant research professor has agreed to serve as the Director of Research for the Health Law and Policy Institute succeeding Patricia Gray in that position.
  • Discussions with the Dean: I conducted sessions with both full-time and part-time students to update them on my goals, progress toward new facility, new hires, networking initiatives, and scholarships/internships. The hour-long sessions afforded students the opportunity to share my vision and goals for the Law Center.
  • Soledad O'Brien - "Black in America Tour": I served as a panelist discussing race relations when the award-winning broadcast journalist, producer, documentarian, and philanthropist, brought her "Black in America Tour" to campus.
  • Four New Faculty Hires: Assistant Professor Emily Berman joined the faculty and started in fall 2014 teaching in the areas of national security and Constitutional Law. She came to the Law Center from the Brooklyn Law School where she was a visiting assistant professor. James D. Nelson, a postdoctoral fellow in Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School, also will join the faculty as an assistant professor this fall. He previously served as a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and as a law clerk to Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. He will teach Contracts, Business Organizations, and Society and the Modern Corporation. Stephen Chen will join the health law faculty as an assistant research professor starting in September. Professor Chen has previously worked as an associate at the New York office of Sidley & Austin LLP and in the Legal Department of Goldman Sachs & Co. Daphne Robinson will also join the health law faculty in September. She currently serves as a behavioral and mental health intern in the Rapides Regional Medical Center emergency room and previously worked as an assistant district attorney in Rapides Parish, Alexandria, LA.
  • Online Education Grant: The University of Houston awarded a $100,000 grant to the Law Center for development of a pilot online education program.
  • Pre-Law Pipeline Program: In June, the Law Center welcomed 22 undergraduate students from across the country to get a head start on their legal careers.
  • SCOTUS Updates: During the summer 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court released in rapid succession a series of important decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, display of the Confederate battle flag, housing discrimination, EPA policy, and nonpartisan redistricting. Within a two-week period, Law Center faculty conducted two CLE programs in packed lecture halls and live streaming, explaining the rulings and examining the direction of the court and what it may portend for future cases.
  • Law Firm Visits: During the past two months, I have has visited several prominent Houston law firms and corporations including Porter & Hedges, LLP, Gardere Wynne Sewell, LLP, Locke Lord,LLP, Baker Botts, LLP, and Norton Rose Fulbright, LLP, and AT&T Corp.

On August 15, our entering first year class will again be engaged in the community and positively impact the lives on Community Service Day 2015. Our law students will perform service projects for the Mayor's Back-to-School Fest, the Houston Food Bank, the Herman Park Conservatory, NAACP Legal Redress, and the Houston Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

The Law Center is strong, our faculty is excellent, and our students and graduates are world class. By collaborating with dedicated faculty, staff, alumni, and students, the Law Center can achieve any goal and overcome any obstacle. With your continued support, the Law Center will move forward to even greater heights in the coming year.

Please enjoy the photo highlights of my first year as dean.

Sincerely,

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