Shannon Wright

Attending the University of Houston

I am a second-career student and parent, as well as a recent graduate of the University of Houston Law Center (May 2022). I have a B.A. in history from Rice University, as well as an M.S. in curriculum & instruction from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After completing my M.S., I worked in intercollegiate athletics, first as a volunteer coach for the women's track & field team at Rice and then as an administrator at the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

My work primarily centered around research and persuasive writing, and my primary responsibility was drafting the Association's proposals for changes to the NCAA's bylaws, championships policies and playing rules to achieve the goals of our NCAA Division I, II and III member coaches in cross country and track & field. I also had a hand in the Association's awards program, including working to develop and launch the premier award for collegiate track & field athletes, The Bowerman. I spent about five years in that role before stepping back from my professional goals to care for my two small children for a few years. I later returned to the USTFCCCA in a similar capacity for several more years, until I enrolled full-time in law school.

For family reasons, I needed to remain in Houston to attend school. Fortunately for me, Houston has three law schools, so I had options in terms of where I could apply. I applied to two of those law schools and waited to decide whether to apply to the third, which had a later application deadline. Although UHLC is the highest-ranked law school in Houston and had a fantastic reputation in terms of its faculty and career outcomes for students, ultimately, as a second-career student, my decision came down to economics. The University of Houston Law Center offered me a Dean's Merit Scholarship with full tuition and fees, a significantly more generous offer than I received from my other application. That generous offer made my decision easy!

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to become an attorney. I have always loved reading and writing in particular. I can remember entering a persuasive writing competition in middle school in which we were to write a persuasive paper within a time limit on either side of a "hot button" issue (as I recall, the issue was whether school uniforms should be required). I had very strong feelings on the issue, but I wrote my paper arguing the other side.

In spite of my feelings, I thought the counter-arguments were better! In college, I took a different path for a variety of reasons, and my life proceeded in a completely different direction. A few years ago, I came out as a gay woman and essentially took my previous life apart. It was difficult and painful, but out of those ashes, I was determined to rebuild my life in the most authentic way possible. As I envisioned my future, I kept returning to those childhood dreams of becoming an attorney. I gave myself 11 weeks to study for the LSAT; I worked all day, cared for my children and then logged into the Khan Academy after they went to sleep. I took the LSAT only once because of how expensive the test was, and I applied to UH and one other law school in Houston. And the rest is history!

The Benefits of Receiving a Scholarship

I was awarded multiple scholarships during my time at UHLC, including a Dean's Merit Scholarship, the Nancy Snyder-Nepo '00 Scholarship, the Dean A.A. White Student Scholarship and the Ersie Kern Ator White Student Scholarship.

The most significant of these was the Dean's Merit Scholarship, which was a full-tuition and fees scholarship to attend UHLC. This scholarship significantly lifted much of the financial pressure placed on my family by my decision to attend law school as a second-career student. Because of this scholarship, I was able to attend as a full-time student without working during the school year, which gave me more time to focus on my studies and to engage in extracurricular activities at the University.

The other scholarships I received made a significant impact on my ability to cover other school expenses, such as my books and parking, during my time at UHLC. Without scholarship support, I could not have attended law school at all. Because of the generous scholarships I received from UHLC, I not only was able to attend but I was able to put my full effort into learning and achieving all that I could during my time as a student. 

Campus Life

I served as vice president of OUTLaw, UHLC's student affinity group for LGBTQ+ students and their allies, during the 2020–2021 school year. In that role, I helped plan virtual events for students and served as moderator for a panel discussing the state of LGBTQ+ rights in the courts and future constitutional challenges. I also joined Houston Law Review, the University of Houston's flagship law journal. I was elected as the managing editor of Board 59 of the Houston Law Review.

In that role, I managed the entirety of the editing process, from assigning member work and monitoring team progress to participating in the final comprehensive review of every piece we published over the course of five issues. I worked closely with the editor in chief (EIC) and the chief articles editor to help execute the EIC's vision for the Review and met regular day-to-day needs of the Review, including managing technology, planning training and stocking the Review's office. Both of these experiences had a deep and lasting impact on me, primarily in the lifelong friendships I made. And in particular, my experience on the Review enhanced my editing skills, helping to prepare me for the careful eye necessary to ensure proper substantiation and citation in legal writing. At the conclusion of the year, my peers on the Review voted me the Most Outstanding Editor on Board 59.

UH Experience

Perhaps the most meaningful school experience in terms of its impact on my trajectory at the Law Center and for my future career was the 2019 Blakely-Butler Moot Court competition. Through its Blakely Advocacy Institute, UHLC hosts several intramural competitions every year, giving students the opportunity to engage in legal advocacy competitions and potentially earn class credit for doing so. Blakely-Butler is a moot court competition open to all UHLC students —1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls — and students compete in teams of two to make appellate arguments in a fictional case. Coming into UHLC, because of the work I had previously done in my first career, I thought that I would be interested in a legal career doing transactional work rather than litigation. But one of my classmates during my first semester at UHLC asked if I would enter the Blakely-Butler Moot Court competition with her as her teammate.

I agreed to enter, and I found that I loved litigation work. I loved the competitive, head-to-head nature of advocacy before a judge or panel of judges. I loved the strategizing and preparation beforehand. I was bitten by the litigation bug, and it completely changed the trajectory of what I did in the remainder of my time at the Law Center and in my plans for my future career. I'm pleased that I've accepted an offer as a first-year associate in civil litigation at Jackson Walker LLP in Houston.

Career Goals

I will be starting as a first-year associate attorney in civil litigation at Jackson Walker LLP in Houston this fall, after taking the bar exam. I want to build a reputation and a career as a smart, strategic advocate for my clients — an attorney who can untangle complicated issues — and I am confident that the professors and coursework at UHLC have given me the foundational tools on which to build that career.

I am motivated by an internal drive to be the best that I can be. I think that drive helped me to achieve success in track & field, and I think it will be helpful in building ​a law practice over the coming years. I know what I'm capable of, and I know when I have given my best effort. I cannot control what others do, only what I do. At the end of the day, if I have given my best effort, then I am happy with the result.

In five years, I hope to have begun to build a client base in my practice at Jackson Walker LLP. I anticipate that it will take a little time to figure out exactly what my niche in civil litigation will be, but I expect that in five years, I will have a pretty good handle on what that is and how I can best provide value to law firm clients.

Academic Achievement

I came into law school 15 years past my undergraduate graduation. I was not sure how well I would do in the hypercompetitive world of law school, where many of my classmates were much more recently in an academic setting and where every class is graded on a curve. But, I worked very hard to figure out the language of law school and how to become successful, achieving the LEX Award for the highest grade in my 1L contracts class. I'm also very proud that I had a Note published in Volume 59 of the Houston Law Review, and that paper received the Susman Godfrey LLP Best Paper in the Area of Constitutional Law Award in 2021.

I think I'm most proud that I graduated ranked first among May 2022 graduates, even after two years of a pandemic and all of the uncertainty and additional challenges that brought, particularly around caring for and supporting my young children. The fact that I was able to put myself in that position — and the many hours of hard work and studying it took to get there — is something I am very proud of.

My greatest hope for my college experience was to learn from and form friendships with classmates who share a similar passion for the law. I have been fortunate to have spent the last three years surrounded by some of the smartest and most hardworking people you could ever hope to meet — both professors and classmates. They have challenged me to think more deeply and to develop stronger arguments. I feel like I won the lottery in coming to UHLC — I gained from this experience everything I could have hoped and then some.

Philanthropy

I would love to see UHLC continue to expand its student scholarships, and I look forward to contributing to those efforts as an alum. Scholarships made all the difference, not only in my ability to attend law school, but in my decision to attend UH.

Truly, the generosity of UHLC and its donors was life-changing for me. I would love to see that generosity continue to expand to put the power of a top-notch legal education within the reach of even more students.