Earlier this year the esteemed U.S. News and World Report listed Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL) as the second most diverse law school in the nation. Though such a ranking would be cause for celebration for any other law school in the country, it is actually a slight demotion for the TMSL, which had held the title of most diverse law school for five straight years (from 2005-2009). Still, to be ranked among the top institutions nationally for diversity, a characteristic deemed critical to success in the global economy of the 21st century, is quite an honor, and speaks volumes to the impact the school has had and continues to have on the legal profession.
“The TMSL ranks among the top law schools in the entire country in producing Black and Hispanic lawyers,” said Dannye Holley, dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. “We produce more Black and Hispanic law school graduates and lawyers than almost any school in the country,” stated Holley who estimates that there are between 3,000-4,000 TSML graduates, with a large number of them making Houston their home.
“Our alumni include two current congressmen, federal judge Ken Hoyt, and an alumni Hall of Fame that goes on and on, with such names as Judge Zinetta Burney, Representative Senfronia Thompson, Representative Harold Dutton, and numerous Hispanic lawyers and judges, many of whom are making an incredible legal impact in the Texas Valley,” shared Holley.
Mario Palacios is a current TMSL student who is keeping the family tradition alive of matriculating at TSU’s law school.
“Here, your ethnicity is left at the door,” said Palacios, an officer in the Hispanic Law Students Association. “I don’t know what happens at other law schools, but I can honestly say that ethnic bias is not an issue at Texas Southern University.”
Palacios’ older brother Rick is a TMSL alumnus and a successful attorney. In addition, Palacios has one sister who has graduated from TMSL and another who plans to attend in the near future, along with several cousins.
Charlotte Washington, a TMSL staff member, believes the proactive recruiting initiatives of the TMSL help the school to attract a diverse student population, along with its national reputation for being an institution that welcomes and celebrates diversity.
“We go to the valley and several states, especially those with large Hispanic populations for career fairs and recruitment fairs. We generate a lot of interest at those events. Also, by virtue of being the most diverse law school in the nation, we have students from all over the country seek us out and apply,” said Washington.
Holley believes one fact that may surprise most is that the TMSL was one of the fastest law schools to receive its accreditation, a make-or-break status that legitimizes educational institutions.
“We received our accreditation in 1949; at the same accreditation meeting where the University of Houston’s Law School and others were denied,” said Holley, who attributes TMSL’s attractiveness to current and potential students to several factors.
“The fact that it has an historical start-up, with a purpose to promote diversity is one reason our school appeals to many. Also, the amazing accomplishments of our alumni and the role they have played and the role our school has played in diversifying the legal profession; that has a big impact on students’ reasons for choosing the matriculate at our school. The TMSL has done a tremendous job of increasing the number of Black, Hispanic and women lawyers. Without it, the field would still be quite monochromatic,” added Holley.
Palacios believes the success of the TMSL is a function of its caring people.
“Everybody is so helpful across the board. They really want to help everyone who comes through here succeed. Here, your professors don’t care about where you come from; they care about where they can take you,” added Palacios.