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January 27, 2010

ST. JOHN'S LAW PROF. LEONARD BAYNES WINS STATE BAR'S DIVERSITY TRAILBLAZER AWARD

Recognized for work with minorities to increase law school admissions, promote teaching opportunities and further interest in legal careers

NEW YORK-Prof. Leonard Baynes, a professor of law at St. John's University School of Law and the inaugural director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development, was honored with the Diversity Trailblazer Award from the New York State Bar Association at its Celebrating Diversity Reception on January 25 at the Hilton New York in Manhattan. Sponsored by the Committee on Minorities in the Profession, the award honors individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment to helping enhance diversity in the legal profession.

The committee honored Baynes, of Forest Hills, for his remarkable success in enhancing diversity in the legal profession through his work with the Brown Center's Summer Prep Program. As law school enrollment among students of color declines, diversity pipeline programs, such as the Summer Prep Program, provide underrepresented students with mentoring and other resources to help them get into law school and have successful legal careers. Under Baynes' leadership, the Summer Prep Program participants' LSAT scores increased on average by 10 points, and almost 90 percent of them earned placements in the nation's most competitive law schools. The national law school acceptance rate is just 66 percent.

"Leonard Baynes is an outstanding scholar who has devoted his considerable talents and resources to public service and creating a brighter future for people of color in the legal profession and  beyond," said President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "The State Bar is pleased to recognize Prof. Baynes for effectively furthering the cause of diversity, and I congratulate him for winning this prestigious award."

The award also recognized Baynes' leadership at the Brown Center in creating the RHB Research Professor Pipeline program, which provides aspiring legal academics from underrepresented groups the opportunity to teach and develop scholarship. Under Baynes, the Brown Center also coordinates a number of pipeline programs for younger students including a law day for high school students, the Legal Outreach Program (for eighth grade students), and a mock trial program for middle schools.

"As the leader of St. John's diversity efforts since 2001, Leonard Baynes' passion for increasing diversity in the legal profession is equaled only by his dedication to motivating his students to be leaders on issues of racial, economic and social justice. Many graduates credit him for opening career doors that might otherwise be locked shut," said Committee Chair Lillian M. Moy of Albany (Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY, Inc.). "It is my great privilege to honor him for his excellent work in promoting diversity in the legal profession -- one promising student at a time."

Baynes received his undergraduate degree from New York University and his J.D.-M.B.A. from Columbia Law School. He is a founding member of Northeastern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference and past chair of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Minority Law Section. As chair of the American Association of Law School's Standing Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty, Baynes analyzed disparities in tenure rates between professors of color and white professors. In addition, he has testified about the underrepresentation of people of color in the New York State Judiciary and in New York law schools.

Previous recipients of the Diversity Trailblazer Award include: Laurie N. Robinson of New York, founder and CEO of Corporate Counsel Women of Color and vice-president and assistant general counsel of CBS Broadcasting Inc.; Taa R. Grays of New York, chair of the State Bar's Committee on Women in the Law and assistant general counsel and chief of staff, MetLife; and Carol A. Robles-Román of New York, deputy mayor for legal affairs and counsel to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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