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Judge Marcia A. Crone ‘78 reflects on career and the future of the legal profession

Judge Marcia A. Crone ’78 (left) with UH Law Dean Leonard M. Baynes and Justice Ruby Kless Sondock

Feb. 25, 2022––Judge Marcia A. Crone ‘78 outlined the options, opportunities, and objectives defining the legal profession today, encouraging Law Center students and alumni to embrace personal and professional growth, diversity, and career opportunities at this year’s Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Jurist-in-Residence Lectureship. 

Held on Feb. 11, the Jurist-in-Residence program allowed UH Law Center students, faculty, and the Houston legal community to learn in-person from a sitting judge. Crone currently serves as a federal district judge for the Eastern District of Texas where she oversees cases in the Beaumont and Lufkin divisions. 

“We want to have more UH alumni as judges, and she is a role model for so many to make sure that happen,” UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes said.

Diverse backgrounds, manifold opportunities 

“The University of Houston Law Center changed my life,” Crone said. “The opportunities afforded me here were unparalleled. The legal education I received on this campus enabled me to reach my objectives.”

As the UH Law Center “Continues to embrace diversity,” Crone encouraged listeners by detailing her own unique background.

She was raised in Dallas by her adopted parents, and only years down the road did she finally meet her birth mother and learn about her birth father. 

Crone said that the process of learning about her family’s history taught her the truth of Ella Fitzgerald’s saying that “it isn’t where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”

“We have more diverse judges, and I’ve seen a lot of litigants from all different backgrounds. I think it’s good,” Crone said. “When you have a certain background, that helps you have perspective on what your clients are going through.”

“No matter your background, obtaining a law degree offers outstanding opportunities for all,” she said.

On the bench 

“My experience has made me appreciate the American judicial system … particularly the right to a trial by jury for criminal and civil cases,” Crone said. 

One of her “most intriguing cases” involved an Eritrea-born man found guilty of attempting to supply materials to ISIS and lying to the FBI about his activities, she said.

“This case reminds me that the events that occur in Southeast Texas can have far-reaching implications,” Crone said. “Because my work as a federal judge has been affected by judicial systems beyond the United States, I’ve also come to realize that the rule of law is essential to protect the stability of society across the globe.”

Looking forward

One of the challenges facing current and aspiring lawyers today is work-life balance, Crone said. It’s a difficult balance to strike, since “you really have to get the work done to succeed,” she said, and that’s “particularly difficult for people with children.” 

Although it remains to be seen how today’s lawyers will achieve the balance they’re looking for, Crone said it’s a good thing that the idea is being talked about now. When she was starting her career, work-life balance was simply not addressed, she said, and “few firms took into consideration.”

Crone recommends that all UH Law Center alumni or students interested in a career on the bench “find out when positions are open, try to find out what the job is, and apply.” 

For instance, she applied for her first magistrate position just a few days after working over the Christmas holidays. She said she “never thought” she’d get the job.

“I was extremely surprised and thrilled when I was selected for the magistrate judge position,” Crone said, adding that this path is a “good way” to get into the federal judicial system. 

In the Q&A session, Crone answered other questions on a variety of topics, from shortcoming she’s seen in attorneys trying cases to sentencing as a district court judge and the use of genealogy in cold cases.

“The variety of cases, both criminal and civil, the wide range of litigants, the skilled and not so skilled lawyers, the law clerks, the interns … and the ever-changing legal landscape afforded me a challenging career that never has failed,” Crone said.

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