Daniel Henry was studying to become an engineer, but something wasn’t right.
Studying for his undergraduate engineering courses at the University of Houston was boring—a real chore—and he couldn’t see himself in the field for the rest of his life. Then an African-American studies course made him realize his true passion was fighting for justice and helping the black community.
That question lead him to enroll in an innovative, intense diversity program at the University of Houston Law Center, unprecedented among Texas law schools and rare among nationwide law schools, which has won national accolades from diversity advocates.
“I just went to learn about the legal field, and I came out knowing [and] fighting for justice as an attorney was my purpose,” Henry said.
In the past few years, some of the country’s most elite law reviews have elected students of color as editors-in-chief, a signal that yearslong diversity efforts might finally be paying off.
Historically speaking, law reviews have struggled to represent students of color and women equally among their editors—jobs that can open doors to prestigious judicial clerkships and Big Law employment. It’s been even harder for underrepresented students to win the coveted editor-in-chief role, as statistically, leadership posts at law reviews have overrepresented white male law students.
Are the times changing?
Texas legal educators are striving to recruit racially and ethnically diverse law students, but there’s one law school that’s excelling hand-over-fist compared to the others.
With 91 percent of its current students hailing from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law takes the top spot when it comes to a diverse student body.
Texas Lawyer analyzed demographic data from the 10 Texas law schools and ranked them based on the percentage of minority students. Schools submit data annually to the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which is responsible for accrediting law schools.
As general counsel of one of the country’s largest automakers, Sandra Phillips Rogers oversees very busy legal happenings every day, yet she always sets aside time for her passion: making the legal profession more diverse.
At Toyota Motor North America Inc., Rogers has already built a diverse team of lawyers in her legal department. Her quest does not end there: She requires outside law firms to staff her matters with diverse lawyers, and to influence the wider legal profession, she spends a significant amount of time speaking at conferences about her efforts at Toyota.
“As lawyers, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the profession, and I absolutely and fundamentally believe as a legal profession we have got to be diverse and inclusive for the same reasons it’s important to Toyota. I think to be the best lawyers we can be, to deliver the best legal advice we can, to be good representatives and stewards of the community, we have got to reflect the communities in which we work,” said Rogers, who also cofounded the University of Texas School of Law’s Center for Women in the Law and co-chaired the center’s 2017 Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership, an invitation-only event of very powerful female lawyers.