Dean Stephen Rispoli earned his political science degree from Baylor University in 2009, his J.D. from Baylor Law in 2012, and his LL.M. from the University of Texas School of Law in 2018. Dean Rispoli serves as Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives and as the Director of Innovation and Scholarship for the school’s Executive LL.M. in Litigation Management.
Prior to attending law school, Dean Rispoli worked as a District Director for former Texas State Representative Carol Kent. His time working in the 81st Legislature fostered his interest in the law and fueled his desire to become a lawyer and a leader. During law school, he was active in student organizations, serving as the Executive President for the Student Bar Association, and Justice for the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity. He interned for Federal Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske, learning and applying federal procedure, evidence, and the judicial process.
Upon graduation from Baylor Law, Dean Rispoli began working with Associate Dean Leah Teague to create and implement an innovate Leadership Development Program for law students. Together, they created the Leadership Engagement and Development Course, which they have been teaching since 2012. In 2020, Professor Patricia Wilson joined the team and the three co-taught the class. When Dean Teague endeavored to create a Section on Leadership for the Association of American Law Schools with legendary Stanford Law Professor Deborah Rhode, Dean Rispoli joined the effort by becoming a newsletter editor for the Section and helping grow membership and interest in the Section. Last year, Dean Rispoli, Dean Teague, and Professor Elizabeth Fraley teamed up to write Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, a textbook aimed at encouraging all law students and lawyers to use their time, talent, and training to make a positive difference in the world, no matter their position or title.
As Dean Rispoli was wrapping up his time at the University of Texas School of Law and earning his Master of Laws, Professor Jim Wren and Professor Fraley were about to launch the Baylor Law Executive LL.M. in Litigation Management. They asked Dean Rispoli to join the LL.M. team and help with the research and writing aspect of the program, as well as co-teach the Applying Technology to Litigation Management course with Professor Fraley. In time, as the program developed, Dean Rispoli began also teaching Ethical Issues in Litigation Management. In furthering the goals of the LL.M. program, Dean Rispoli speaks and writes on litigation management topics, always focusing upon effective, efficient, and ethical processes to best serve lawyers’ clients and their communities.
Service has always been an integral part of the law school’s mission, and Dean Rispoli dedicates much of his time to service in the university and the community. Early in his career at Baylor Law, he worked with Professor Bridget Fuselier to create programs to provide legal services to veterans, as well as assisting her with the creation and expansion of the Baylor Law Veterans Clinic. As the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Dean Rispoli oversees the Public Service and Pro Bono Program, which fosters pro bono service opportunities at Baylor Law. Pro bono work at Baylor provides a great learning experience for the students and much-needed legal help for the community. Dean Rispoli also has an interest in the effects of pro bono, and strives to learn more about the access to justice gap our nation faces as well as how legal education can address this gap. Dean Rispoli is also the former chair of the AALS Pro Bono Section which promotes pro bono service in the field of legal education. Dean Rispoli also hopes to shape the future of pro bono service, speaking and writing regularly on the topics of access to justice and the importance (and benefits) of lawyers giving back to the community. During Dean Rispoli’s tenure, the program has received significant state and national recognition for the Baylor Law family's pro bono efforts, and Dean Rispoli has received a few awards himself along the way.
Fundamental to Baylor Law’s mission is to prepare all students to be competent, ethical lawyers at graduation and beyond. As Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Rispoli seeks new ways to accomplish this mission and help law students succeed at Baylor Law and in their future careers. Although Dean Rispoli believes that law school should be a challenging learning experience, he also believes that health and wellness are essential components of preparing to enter the practice of law. His goal is for the law school to help students develop lifelong habits that help address the stresses of the practice of law. In addition, he provides guidance and support to student organizations, working with them to achieve their goals and enhance the law school experience.
Dean Rispoli assisted Professor Jeremy Counseller in developing the Academy of the Advocate in St Andrews, and continues to be involved as Associate Director of the program. Every summer, the Academy brings law students from around the country to St. Andrews, Scotland and immerses them in the art of trial and appellate advocacy. In an effort to keep his own advocacy skills sharp, Dean Rispoli also assists with the development of the case packet for each year’s Top Gun competition, Baylor Law's innovative, invitation-only national mock trial competition. Dean Rispoli especially enjoys the creative process of creating an interesting, balanced packet and the challenge of incorporating thorny evidence issues for the competitors to navigate.
Dean Rispoli’s wife, Jeanine, is a family lawyer who started her own law firm, Rispoli Law Firm, PLLC, and is the current President-Elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, making him the future first gentleman of TYLA. In his free time, Dean Rispoli enjoys spending time with his wife and Khaleesi (their black lab), reading, ranching, sustainable hunting, fishing, and traveling.
Responsibilities & Recognitions:
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs
Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives
Baylor Law Executive LL.M. in Litigation Management
Baylor Academy of the Advocate at St. Andrews
Book: Leah W. Teague, Elizabeth M. Fraley, and Stephen L. Rispoli, Fundamentals of Lawyer Leadership, Wolters Kluwer (2021).