Bob Black (pictured), former president of the State Bar of Texas, plans to give $25,000 annually over the next 10 years to an El Paso college program that sends 59 percent of its students to tier-one law schools.
Bill Weaver, co-founder and director of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Law School Preparation Institute, says he’s “utterly happy” and all the money “will go to support the students.” Weaver says, because 80 percent of graduates are Mexican-American, the program helps correct an underrepresentation of Hispanics in the legal field.
Black, who earned a history degree from UTEP in 1977, says, “This is an important issue for Hispanics but also, in my opinion, for our country, because we need to be producing good, qualified Hispanic lawyers, and LSPI is one of the most successful programs in the country on providing students into that pipeline.”
The institute offers college students a summer program that teaches critical thinking, research and writing skills; prepares them for the Law School Admissions Test; helps them apply to law schools; provides legal mentors; and connects them with internships and clerkships.
“It’s a very intensive course, and I don’t think there’s anything like it in the United States. A lot of how we get the results we get is just through intensive hard work over a relatively long period of time,” says Weaver.
Brent McCune, the assistant director of the institute, says 34 percent of the graduates from 1998 to 2010 attended top-15 law schools, and another 25 percent went to top-50 law schools.
“I always benefitted by scholarships and good counsel and guidance from others both in college and law school, and I wanted in some small way to give back to people like me who needed that helping hand up. The LSPI -- the students there are remarkable young people: They’re future lawyers, future judges, future legislators,” says Black, managing shareholder of MehaffyWeber in Beaumont.
-- Angela Morris