UH Law Center Baker Award goes to Clinic Director Janet Heppard; faculty and staff honored by colleagues and students

Janet M. Heppard

Janet M. Heppard

April 17, 2019 — The executive committee of the University of Houston Law Center has voted to honor Associate Clinical Professor Janet M. Heppard with the 2019 Ethel M. Baker Faculty Award for her leadership in promoting greater interaction between the school and the community.

“I am very touched to have been chosen to receive this award,” said Heppard, director of the Law Center’s clinical program as well as the civil practice clinic. “My many years of pro bono and volunteer work in the community have been very rewarding.”

“Professor Heppard has been the unsung hero of the faculty,” said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “She provides training to ensure that faculty are practice ready while ensuring that underserved members of the Houston community received expert and well-needed legal service. For her 24 years of service, Professor Heppard is deserving of the Ethel M. Baker faculty award for clinical service. ”  

Faculty, staff and students will be recognized for their service, academic performance and other outstanding achievements tonight at the annual Dean’s Awards Ceremony in Krost Hall starting at 5 p.m.

Heppard joined the clinic faculty nearly 24 years ago, and has been director since 2008. With a civil caseload of 60 to 80 at any given time, she has taught lawyering skills to hundreds of students as they represented indigent clients in the community, primarily in the areas of family law and probate, including drafting estate-planning documents for clients.   

“Students are taught the benefits of providing pro bono representation to the local community and encouraged to continue giving back once they become lawyers,” she said. 

Heppard also participates in legal advice presentations and one-on-one advice and counsel workshops, speaks at CLE programs, and volunteers for the Law Center’s popular “People’s Law School.”

As clinic director, Heppard oversees the program’s budget, develops goals and evaluates staff, responds to requests for collaborations with outside organizations and local attorneys, and applies for grants, which help expand the clinic’s capacity to train law students and extend its reach into the community.

In her spare time, Heppard is an active volunteer with the local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, helping to improve their skills in archery, canoeing and other activities.

Heppard earned both a J.D.  at the University of Houston Law Center and an MBA from UH in 1994. She earned a B.S. in geology summa cum laude from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, in 1981 and worked as a geophysicist for eight years at Amoco Production Co. before attending law school.

Other awards given to staff by the dean are:

  • Staff Awards, chosen for their planning and fundraising efforts on the new building campaign:
  •  Magda M. Herrera, Senior Director of Development
  • Greg R. Vetter, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and HIPLA College Professor of Law

“As a new Law Center building becomes closer to reality, I can’t think of two members of my senior team who have done more to make it a reality than Associate Dean Greg R. Vetter and Senior Director of Development Magda M.  Herrera,” Baynes said.  “Their tirelessness, creativity, and ingenuity have contributed greatly to the development of programming plans and reaching our philanthropy goals. They are most deserving of this award and recognition.”

Other awards given to faculty recognized by students and awarded by the dean are:

  • Order of the Barons, Professor of the Year: James D. Nelson, Assistant Professor of Law
  • Student Bar Association, Professor of the Year:  Emily Berman, Assistant Professor of Law
  • Student Bar Association (Part-Time Program), Professor of the Year: Lauren Jansen Simpson, Clinical Assistant Professor, Lawyering Skills & Strategies
  • Student Bar Association (Part-Time Program), Professor of the Year: D. Theodore Rave,  Associate Professor of Law, George A. Butler Research Professor

“The Law Center has excellent faculty. They are excellent scholars,” Baynes said. “Twenty-one are members of the American Law Institute, which is the most prestigious organization of law faculty, judges and attorneys. During the past there years, 12 faculty members have been published in top 30 law reviews. They are also outstanding teachers training the next generation of lawyers. The faculty, who are being recognized at the awards ceremony, are terrific, but are a small portion of an overall group of scholars and teachers.”  

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