May 18, 2022––The 2022 University of Houston Law Center Commencement ceremony was held at the Fertitta Center on Sunday, May 15. Graduates and their families were also able to participate virtually via live stream and through a commemorative 2022 Video Wall.
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 18th Congressional District, was in attendance. She delivered a Certificate of Congressional Recognition which read in part, “I take great pride in recognizing University of Houston on the occasion of their Spring 2022 Commencement Ceremony. University of Houston’s unwavering contribution to our scholars, and community, reflects the strong pride that is the Spirit of Houston and the Great State of Texas.”
Also present were several judges, some of whom have served or currently serve as adjunct professors at the Law Center, including U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of Texas-Galveston Division Judge Andrew Edison, 281st Civil Court Judge Christine Weems, and former Professor and 387th District Court Judge Janet Heppard.
University of Houston Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Governmental Relations Jason Smith and UH Law Alumni Association President Alex Roberts ’06 were part of the platform guests.
As 2022 marks the Law Center’s 75th Anniversary, Dean Leonard M. Baynes spoke about the changes that the law school has made along the way, especially as to its student body.
“We have come a long way from our humble beginnings in converted World War II barracks with a graduating class of 28 white men,” UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes said in his opening remarks. “You were one of our most diverse classes with 54% women and 36% of students from underrepresented backgrounds.”
The UH Law Center Class of 2022 speaks at least 23 languages other than English, and many are former teachers, professors, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Several UH Law Center graduates have been an active part of the community, from political activism to social justice volunteer work.
“You brought these and many more diverse backgrounds and experiences to law school and this no doubt enhanced your overall law school experience,” said Baynes.
Baynes also spoke about the Law Center’s prominence.
“Today, we are one of the leading law schools in the nation with more than 15 centers, institutes, and programs which fuel our educational mission. And, we are consistently recognized for our diversity by PreLaw Magazine and Insight into Diversity Magazine,” Baynes said. “Our graduates are highly sought after by the top law firms and other legal employers. Our law alums have left an indelible mark in the court rooms, corporate board rooms, and in academia. You will soon join their ranks and make your mark in our shared history.”
Dianne Ralston, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of Schlumberger Limited and 1994 Law Center graduate, gave the 2022 commencement address.
While at the UH Law Center, Ralston served on Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif. She has also served as an adjunct law professor at the Law Center, where she taught international corporate compliance law. Ralston also serves on the Law Center’s Women in the Law Steering Committee and is on the University of Houston’s Energy Advisory Board.
“You should be immensely proud of reaching today’s milestone against so many unique challenges. Your agility and resilience are truly inspiring,” Ralston said. “Take pride in what you have accomplished so far and let it fuel you for the next leg of what I know will an incredible journey.”
“Your future success in a legal profession—whether in private or public service, whether in academia or the corporate arena—will require you to balance what will seem to be competing interests and priorities. While these four paradoxes are inherent to the legal profession, learning to navigating them will benefit you, no matter where your path ahead takes you,” Ralston said.
Paradox No. 1: “Smartest kid in the room” conundrum
Ralston encouraged graduates to grow in humility and compassion, which would help them connect with clients and allow them to “demystify legal concepts” more easily.
“The truly great lawyers are the ones with the confidence and the wisdom to know that showing up is more important than showing out,” she said.
Paradox No. 2: Intentionally unintentional brand
Personal branding essentially comes down to “being very conscious about what you stand for and how you want to be seen,” Ralston said.
It’s key to “be self-reflective but not self-focused,” she said.
Paradox No. 3: Baywatch paradox
Baywatch has its lessons too. In the drama series, lifeguards often need to prioritize their safety over the victim’s. It’s similar to what flight passengers are told in safety briefings: “Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”
“This concept of caring for self as a necessary pre-requisite for being able to care for others is something that we do not focus on enough as lawyers,” she said. “This balance between self and others is one of the most challenging because our unique professional responsibilities appear to tip the scales in favor of others. But keep seeking balance because, to be our best selves for our clients, we need to carve out time for the things that matter to us.”
Paradox No. 4: Remaining hopeful in the face of injustice
“The last legal paradox is the most difficult and undoubtedly the most important. It is the need to remain hopeful and collaborative in the face of injustice,” she said.
“All throughout your law school education you have been developing a crucial skill—the ability to see both sides of an issue,” Ralston said. “Hone this skill. Apart from the self-serving benefit of making you a better advocate for your side, understanding the drivers and motivation of the others is a necessary foundation—first for empathy and then for respect. Respect will help you find those allies on the other side who will collaborate with you to reach outcomes that can benefit both sides. By seeking understanding, respect, and collaboration you will keep your mind agile and your heart hopeful.”
Remembering Professor Emeritus Michael A. Olivas
A moment of silence was held in honor of Professor Emeritus Michael A. Olivas, a nationally renowned higher education and immigration law school professor who passed away in April.
“For 38 years, Olivas served as a faculty member at UH Law Center culminating in being named the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law, Director of the Institute for Higher Education and Governance, and Acting President of the UH Downtown campus,” Dean Baynes said.
“Professor Olivas left a lasting impact on generations of lawyers, and we are grateful for his lifetime service to the Law Center and its students.”
Click here to see 2022 Law Center Commencement Photo Gallery.
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