One of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career remains the time I spent in the great state of Texas working with the dedicated faculty and promising students at Houston Family Law Trial Institute at the South Texas College of Law. This fine association of legal professionals and students remains committed to providing the best representation in the important field of family law. The institute’s location at the South Texas College of Law seems especially fitting because the school itself was founded as part of the educational mission of another stalwart supporter of families, the YMCA.
Considered one of the top trial advocacy law schools in the United States, the South Texas College of Law traces its roots back to 1915. That year, taking on the mission of providing working men with the opportunity to study law while maintaining their day jobs, the Houston YMCA began offering evening law classes taught by H.D. “Guy” Burnett. Although the classes enjoyed some popularity, America’s decision to join World War I put a stop to proposals to establish a formal law school. After World War I, members of the Houston YMCA continued to serve returning soldiers, and by 1923, the YMCA Educational Committee endorsed the formation of the South Texas School of Law. Falling under the umbrella of the United YMCA Schools, the new law school opened its doors to students with classrooms in the YMCA building located at the corner of McKinney and Fannin in downtown Houston. The law school’s Advisory Council modeled its curriculum after that offered by the well-funded University of Texas School of Law, which in 1923 celebrated its 40th anniversary. In fact, classes and programs at the new South Texas School of Law were identical to those at UT Law, with the exception that the South Texas classes were held at night. Thirty-four students, including five women, enrolled for the school’s inaugural semester. Ultimately, only 11 of those students graduated from the four-year program, which cost $85 per semester.
In 1927, the Texas Supreme Court recognized the excellence of the program offered by the South Texas School of Law, as well as the positive addition that its graduates made to the fast-growing Houston legal profession. After rapid growth and a remarkable success rate among its graduates, the South Texas School of Law moved to a new building at 1600 Louisiana Street. Natives and visitors alike view that building, which still stands at the eastern edge of downtown Houston, as a prominent city landmark. Although the school’s graduating classes averaged about 33 students, the administration and alumni expected continued growth; in an effort to more solidly describe the academic rigors of the institution, the school changed its name to the South Texas College of Law in 1945. That same year, the school proved its adherence to its initial mission by creating a unique refresher course to assist men who had interrupted their legal studies to fight during World War II. That fall, the South Texas College of Law experienced an unprecedented enrollment of 99 students, which at the time exceeded the number of students at the state’s largest law school, UT Law. Although much has changed since the inception of the South Texas College of Law, the school continues to serve the needs of students who wish to study law. I feel incredibly fortunate to be associated with the South Texas College of Law.