Oct. 29, 2021 - Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson, the Newell H. Blakely Chair at the University of Houston Law Center, spoke at a virtual “fireside chat” recently to mark Hispanic Heritage Month. Thompson shared some personal and career highlights, along with advice for young attorneys to find their social justice “voice” at the online event hosted by New York City based law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP.
“I felt really honored to be the keynote speaker,” said Thompson. “I also felt a lot of responsibility to be a good role model to provide some kind of insights that might actually be helpful to others.” Prior to joining the UH Law faculty, Thompson served as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney's Office where she practiced both trial and appellate criminal law from 1988-1990. This event, hosted by the New York firm, represented a full circle moment for Thompson which she shared with the 60 or so attendees. “In some ways, it was something of homecoming because I started my career in New York.”
Moderator Carlos Martinez, a partner and head of the Latin American Practice Group was particularly interested in how Thompson navigated her workload and giving back to the community. In recent years, Thompson has found herself more connected to advocacy in her community, which she feels has allowed her to bring the real world into the classroom.
“I always looked at people who were involved in community work and thought this is their role,” Thompson said. “Over time I realized I belong there as well and not only can I add something within the community, but my classes become richer from those experiences.” Over the years, Thompson’s students have toured maximum security prisons, attended federal sentencings, and gone on police ride-alongs. Her students have also produced conference materials for a statewide pretrial justice conference held at the Texas Capitol. They have written and edited a published book on wrongful convictions, and they presented at a meeting of a state task force on wrongful convictions in Fort Worth.
Thompson also recognized the difficulty of a new attorney managing workload and community work. She explained that everyone can do something, but it doesn’t have to be a heavy lift every time. “It’s important for young attorneys to recognize their place of privilege and their voice,” she said. “Sometimes you can help someone without a huge amount of time by just finding small ways to give back.”
One of the small ways Thompson shared was how early in her life a friend recommended that she apply for a scholarship. This small act of kindness set
Thompson on the road to law school, and to her becoming the first Latina tenured law professor in the entire State of Texas.
The event was part of Proskauer Rose law firm’s diversity, equity, and inclusion events to honor Hispanic Heritage Month.
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