May 29, 2020 - Graduates of the University of Houston Law Center gathered last week via Zoom for a networking gathering entitled, "Black Law Alumni Virtual Event on Professional Success During Pandemic.” The Black Law Alumni organization is a new affinity group that is part of the Law Alumni Association.
Speakers included Sheshe Evans '97, a partner at the HFW law firm, Hon. Jarvis V. Hollingsworth '93, general counsel at Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors and Scott Lemond '94, general counsel of the Harris County Housing Authority.
"We wanted to establish the Black Law Alumni affinity group for networking, to increase engagement and to help open up professional opportunities," said UH Law Alumni Association President Victor Wright ‘98. "This is a well-needed group because we need to be engaged with each other now more than ever as we are navigating this global pandemic."
"Given these trying times, we realize our members could be other places and doing other things, and I want to thank all of the alums for participating," added Hon. Derrick Mitchell '97. "It was an amazing event."
The panel was moderated by Dean Leonard M. Baynes. The first topic that panelists were asked to discuss was how they adjusted their leadership styles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott Lemond discussed the importance of maintaining email etiquette while interacting with co-workers in a remote environment.
"It's difficult to maintain relations with your co-workers, to supervise people who are looking for work or guidance," he said. "One of the things I've had to do is think about the way I'm communicating with them especially over email and text messages, or something other than a face-to-face conversation or even a telephone conversation. There is a way to get the point across that something is important without exclamation points and red letters."
Hollingsworth added the importance of being cognizant of the current environment, and that teammates may be going through personal issues that they have not shared.
"Many people's lives have been turned upside down, and we need to be compassionate and empathetic," Hollingsworth said. "It's good to start an email with 'good morning' before launching into a topic."
Evans discussed how her practice has not changed, but she has had to think outside the box at times to be a versatile advocate for her clients.
"My practice is the same, but I have to be more creative and nimble in the way I service my client's needs," she said. "That is foremost in my mind. Some things I may have preferred to do
face-to-face, problems that I might have wanted to solve in a different way, I just have to be more creative about it. That is the primary change and challenge so far."
Among other topics discussed were how to find a mentor while social distancing.
"Identify people who you think you have a connection with, and who you can be of service to," Evans said. "It's not just about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. If you identify those people, reach out via email or call. Everyone wants to help and understand that if you reach out and ask for help you probably are going to get it."
"You have to stay engaged and be proactive. This is your career and it's not going to happen without your involvement," Scott Lemond added.
Hollingsworth also highlighted the importance of keeping an active online presence as organizations adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It can be easy to disappear virtually," Hollingsworth added. "This is not the time. Firms are still going to measure everyone at the end of this year. I encourage you to stay actively engaged with associates and partners at your firm, even more so now."
The event was attended from alumni around the country. One of its participants was Jim Lemond '70, the first black graduate of the Law Center.
"I was absolutely thrilled about having the opportunity to attend the virtual panel discussion about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the practice's of three of the Law Center's most distinguished graduates, all of whom are African-American," he said. "I express my sincere gratitude to Dean Baynes for his leadership and guidance in causing this organization to become established at the Law Center."