Houston law graduates Ieshia Champs and Shartory Brown have inspired many people with their stories surviving childhood homelessness and teenage pregnancy and then succeeding in law school while raising multiple kids.
Texas Lawyer spoke with Brown and emailed Champs for advice for other law students about juggling a strict schedule, coping with overwhelming demands, and tapping into their inner strength and resiliency. Here are their answers, edited for clarity and brevity.
Two Houston law graduates who defied tough odds to succeed in law school have inspired people across the country.
Other law students can learn about resilience and the power of priorities through the stories of May graduates Ieshia Champs of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and Shartory Brown of South Texas College of Law Houston.
Both Brown and Champs were homeless at times during their childhoods and became teenage mothers. Tragedies and heartache could have derailed their lives—yet they persevered through college and law school, all while raising multiple children. The two women share so much in common that they became good friends while interning together at the Harris County Attorney’s Office in the spring of 2018.
In 1991 when Brad Toben became dean of Baylor University School of Law, the Lone Star State was headed by Texas Gov. Ann Richards, the U.S. president was George H.W. Bush and the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War.
Now on the job for more than 26 years, Toben is the second longest-serving law dean in the whole country, according to Rosenblatt’s Deans Database, a repository of information about law deans at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. Toben’s tenure is beat only by the first longest-serving dean, John O’Brien, the 30-year dean of New England Law Boston.
Toben has far outpaced the average of four years of service that most law deans put in and also beat all other Texas law deans by a long shot. In fact, the Texas dean who comes closest is South Texas College of Law Houston dean Donald Guter, who is the 21st longest-serving law dean with nine years of service and who plans to retire next year.
Everyone knows that eating fast food, candy and sugary drinks can cause weight gain, but aside from the battle against the bulge, there’s another great reason for law graduates to strive toward more healthful eating while studying for the Texas bar exam. Science has shown that a good diet can boost brain health and mental functioning, helping good eaters to acquire knowledge, retain memories and better process mood and emotions. Even though it’s difficult to find the time, there are strategies that law students can use to change their eating habits for the better, whether they cook at home or dine out.
Texas law graduates would no longer face the Texas bar exam, and instead take a test with fewer essay questions that could qualify them for a law license in 29 states, if the Texas Supreme Court accepts a recommendation from one of its task forces.
In a report this week, the Task Force on the Texas Bar Examination, which the high court created in June 2016, said that Texas should ditch the Texas bar exam in favor of the uniform bar exam, which still includes the multistate bar exam, but supplements those tests with a new online test focusing on Texas law.
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.
PDF: prelaw pipeline program
Two recent law graduates in Houston have joined a national trend by launching a new nonprofit law firm to serve low- and middle-income clients.
Access Justice Houston, founded by 2017 University of Houston Law Center graduates MacKenzie Dunham and Doug Evans, has become the fourth Texas-based nonprofit firm—along with DiFilippo Holistic Law Center in Austin, Legal Access Texas in Dallas, and Greater Waco Legal Services in Waco—that are targeting modest-means clients in an effort to close the justice gap. The other Texas-based nonprofit firms were launched by veteran lawyers; Dunham and Evans are the first recent law graduates to take the plunge.
PDF: New Nonprofit Firm the First Founded by Baby Lawyers _ Texas Lawyer