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Texas is tops for Hispanic law students, as far as Hispanic Business magazine is concerned. In its current edition, the monthly puts three Lone Star State institutions on its list of top 10 law schools for Hispanic students. They are St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, No. 3; the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, No. 6; and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, No. 7. The magazine assesses traditional criteria that are important to anyone pursuing a law degree, such as academic and faculty stature, career goals and cost. But it also looks at other factors. “Hispanics typically have additional concerns, such as minority recruitment and retention — among both faculty and students — and support services such as student associations and mentoring programs,” the article says. Bill Piatt, dean of St. Mary’s law school in San Antonio, agrees with the magazine about which factors are important in picking where to get a legal education, including the diversity of faculty and student body. “We have a large Hispanic enrollment,” says Piatt, who is one of the two Hispanic deans at the approximately 180 accredited law schools in the United States. “We may award the highest number of JDs to Hispanics. Two of our three associate deans are Hispanic.” According to statistics from the 2000 spring semester, which are used by the magazine, 280 of St. Mary’s law school’s 757 students, or 37 percent, are Hispanic. Piatt also points out that 60 percent of the undergraduates at St. Mary’s are Hispanic and that San Antonio has a prominent Hispanic community. “We don’t target any particular minority or ethnic group,” he says. “We’re interested in attracting the best and the brightest from all backgrounds.” He adds that despite the 1996 Hopwood v. Texas ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which prohibits Texas colleges and universities from using race as a criterion in admissions, his school had increased minority enrollment. It’s not clear if the ruling applies to private schools, Piatt says, which might account for St. Mary’s experience. The University of Texas also has a good population of Hispanic students, but hopes to do better, says Shelli Soto, the assistant dean of admissions at the law school. She adds that the diversity of students is a big factor in the quality of education. Approximately eight percent of the 1,456 law students at the Austin school last semester were Hispanic. The number of incoming Hispanic students this year is 34, two more than enrolled last year, a development that Soto describes as a step in the right direction. The university, assisted by its alumni, is working to boost its minority enrollment, she says. Graduates talk to recruits or write encouraging them to choose the University of Texas for their legal education, she says. “That helps recruit minority students that we admit,” Soto says. Mentoring also is important, according to both school officials and the magazine. Hispanic Business cites organizations on campus that support Hispanic students, including the Chicano/ Hispanic Law Students Association and the Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy, as a factor that put the University of Texas in its top 10. Recruiting and mentoring also helped boost Thurgood Marshall School of Law onto the list. About 22 percent of the 669 students enrolled at the Houston law school last semester were Hispanic. The magazine says the school carries out intensive recruiting in areas of Texas with a high population of Hispanic students, then mentors and supports them through the Chicano Law Student Association. Dean John C. Brittain says that Hispanics in large numbers have been taking advantage of Thurgood Marshall’s mission to provide access to a legal education, which includes more open criteria for admissions than other law schools. He points out that almost 90 percent of the state’s lawyers are Anglo, but three-fourths of the students at his school are African-American or Hispanic. “Thurgood Marshall is proud to serve the role of providing access to legal education for not only racial and ethnic minorities in Texas, but also economically disadvantaged students who would not have been admitted to law school but for Texas Southern,” Brittain says. Adolfo Vasquez, president of the Student Bar Association, says he was attracted to Thurgood Marshall because of its history of educating minority students. Vasquez, a third-year student who knows many lawyers who have attended the school, says his education there prepared him for his externship with the Internal Revenue Service and enabled him to get experience in tax law. Other schools on the magazine’s list are the University of Miami School of Law, Coral Gables, Fla. (No. 1); Loyola Marymount University Law School, Los Angeles (No. 2); University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law, Gainesville (No. 4); Stanford University Law School, Palo Alto, Calif. (No. 5); Fordham University School of Law, New York (No. 8); University of Southern California Law School, Los Angeles (No. 9); and Arizona State University College of Law, Tempe (No. 10).

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