Baylor Law Students Inspired to <i>Make a Difference</i> at this year's LEAD Counsel Conference

February 15, 2018

Baylor Law Students Inspired to Make a Difference at this year's LEAD Counsel Conference

A classroom full of attentive students at Baylor Law School
A full house listens intently to Associate Dean and Professor Jim Gash of Pepperdine Law School.

WACO, Texas -

"Passion for Justice: Using Your Law Degree to Pursue Your Passion and Serve Those in Your Community," was the theme of this special one-day conference.

The Honorable Nathan Hecht, teaching class
Hon. Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas, answers questions.
Baylor Law Professor Laura Hernandez is pictured on a panel with other participants
Baylor Law's Professor Laura Hernández (L) moderates panel with Shannon Sedgwick Davis (C) and Kirsta Melton (R).
A conference room is full of students at Making a Difference
Making a Difference Conference attendees hear about human trafficking in Texas and worldwide.

Baylor Law's Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) Counsel held the second annual Making a Difference Conference, "Passion for Justice," on Friday, February 9, 2018. At the free, public event students, attorneys and other community leaders learned about how they can make a positive impact on their communities through engagement, policy, and legislation.

The first session was a 'view from the bench' by Hon. Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. In Chief Justice Hecht's address, he spoke on access to justice in Texas, and noted that the lawyer's obligation to serve is part of our history, and part of who we are as lawyers. Chief Justice Hecht also took questions from Stephen Rispoli, Baylor Law's assistant dean of student affairs and pro bono programs. The questions ranged from access to justice to mandatory pro bono requirements.

Following Chief Justice Hecht's remarks was a panel discussion focused on combating human trafficking. Baylor Law Professor Laura Hernández moderated questions to experts in anti-trafficking work: Shannon Sedgwick Davis, JD '00, CEO of the Bridgeway Foundation, and Kirsta Melton, Deputy Criminal Chief of the Office of the Texas Attorney General's Human Trafficking and Transactional Organized Crime section. LEAD Counsel is planning additional opportunities for Baylor Law students to access information on anti-human trafficking training.

"The human trafficking panel was wonderfully probative and inspiring. I thought the content of the conference was terrific!"
-Chase LaLouette, 7Q

The keynote speaker, Jim Gash, associate dean for strategic planning and external relations of Pepperdine Law School, gave an emotionally powerful talk on global justice and his work with the Sudreau Global Justice Program helping imprisoned juveniles and adults secure access to representation in the Ugandan justice system. He was invited by the Chief Justice of Uganda in 2012 to become a Specialist Advisor to the Ugandan High Court. Professor Gash was introduced by Baylor Law Professor Brian Serr who shared about his work with Professor Gash and a pilot program that he is working on to expand access to justice in Zambia with volunteer students from Baylor Law.

Professor Gash's presentation, including a videoconference call with Tumusiime Henry, one of the unjustly accused juvenile defendants assisted by Professor Gash and the Sudreau Global Justice Program, is available below.
The extraordinary line-up of speakers provided for an exceptional conference. The students and attorneys in attendance gained invaluable insight to access to justice issues and left fueled with a desire to pursue their passion for justice," said Dean Brad Toben.

"I am grateful for the speakers, LEAD Counsel students, faculty and staff colleagues and attendees who made the 2nd annual Making a Difference Conference a success," Dean Toben continued.

LEAD Counsel is a student-run group at Baylor Law whose mission is to equip and inspire law students to make an impact in their communities both now and in the future. "This conference is a great way to educate law students and inspire them to think about ways they can impact their communities," Ali Mosser, the conference coordinator, said. "I wanted to be an integral part of helping law students think about that question." Morgan Blair, LEAD Counsel President, added, "We're really hoping that people in the community want to get involved […] we're really hoping that people leave inspired to do something, to take action."

Professor Jim Gash lectures from the front of a full classroom
Professor Jim Gash addresses the Making a Difference Conference about his work in Uganda.

The Honorable Nathan Hecht, speaking with students
Hon. Nathan Hecht converses with student Ali Mosser (L), Deans Leah Teague & Brad Toben and Baylor Law's Stephen Rispoli (R) after the conference.

Additional Resources

Group Photo of LEAD Counsel
Baylor Law's LEAD Counsel, from left to right: Daniel Basham, Morgan Blair, Taylor McConnell, Ellie Fossier, Cassie Patterson, Daniel Krchnavek, Brenda Carrillo, Courtney Haggett, Bray Bergstrom, Elisa Forestier, Drew Beatty, Sarah Brown, Jess Gambrell, Kimberly Trimble, Claire Mosley, Emily Long, Christina Grey, Ali Mosser.

Click below for additional photos of the 2018 LEAD Counsel Making a Difference Conference

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PHOTOS: Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law

Established in 1857, Baylor Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #3 in the nation. Baylor Law is also ranked #51 in the magazine's 2018 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at

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